How Castor Oil Can Help your Menstrual Cramps

It is estimated that 80% of women will experience some form of period pain in their lifetime. For some the pain is episodic and manageable while for an estimated 5-10% of women, the pain becomes debilitating and interferes with their daily life. So today, I thought I’d share an ancient medical practice that continues to be extremely powerful for patients suffering from menstrual cramps. 

 Castor oil, although recently popularized for it’s benefits on stimulating hair growth, castor oil was originally used for it’s antispasmodic effects. In fact, in the 1970s, castor oil was even used to help induce labor; however, women quickly discovered that although castor oil could stimulate labor, it would also come with the lovely side effect of explosive diarrhea, which is not exactly the labor and delivery experience most women are looking for. This is why castor oil is no longer used to induce labor and safer alternatives including acupuncture are used to help induce labor, naturally.  After the 1970s, we learned that castor oil had such powerful anti-spasmodic activity that simply placing it on the surface of the skin would have immense internal benefit, without the explosive diarrhea, which was a plus. 

Applied topically castor oil can reduce inflammation, stimulate blood and lymph fluid and reduce menstrual cramps and has been a huge hit for many of my patients suffering from menstrual cramps, especially those suffering from endometriosis since a castor oil pack can be placed along the entirety of the abdomen. 

Benefits of Castor Oil 

  1. Stimulates Blood Flow- Bringing fresh, oxygen rich and nutrient dense blood to the uterus helps create a supportive endometrium lining. Although this may sound counter intuitive, stimulating a healthy lining helps the endometrium to shed more easily, lessening your menstrual cramps. 

  2. Stimulates the Pelvic Floor - Castor oil is helpful in stimulating healthy venous blood and lymphatic fluid which helps reduce congestion in the pelvic floor and reduces metabolic waste. 

  3. Invigorates the Lymphatic System- The lymphatic system is a network of vessels through which toxins and metabolic waste are drained from your vital organs into the surrounding tissues and furthermore moved out into the blood. A healthy lymphatic system is critical for optimal immune function. Castor oil used topically can not only help stimulate lymphatic circulation but has been shown to increase T-cell production in the lymph fluid. T-cells are a particularly important part of your immune system as these cells are directly responsible for killing foreign invaders, like bacteria and viruses.. Stimulating proper lymphatic circulation is growing even more important due to our modern, often sedentary lifestyle. We have a variety of essential lymph nodes in our groin that help protect our most vital organs so stimulating proper circulation is imperative for a high functioning immune system. 

  4. Supports Liver Function - Our liver is a critical organ that is involved in blood sugar regulation, metabolism and synthesis of fats, storage of vitamins and minerals and helps us metabolize medications as well as process hormones. The liver is an essential part of optimal hormone balance since it helps regulate estrogen metabolism and can be a major cause of menstrual cramps. Not only is a healthy liver necessary to combat menstrual cramps and endometriosis but, it helps balance and orchestrate healthy hormone balance necessary for optimal fertility. A castor oil pack over the abdomen can help de-congest the liver to support optimal function and hormonal balance.

Supplies Needed for Castor Oil Pack for Menstrual Cramps: 

Although castor oil packs can be extremely beneficial for relieving menstrual cramps, castor oil is slightly staining so I always suggest making sure to use a towel as well as an old t-shirt just in case you spill the castor oil on your clothes. You will also need a cotton flannel, castor oil, plastic gallon food bag and plastic saran wrap, as well as heating pad (optional). 

How to Prepare Your Castor Oil Pack 

Step 1)  Fold the wool cloth/cotton flannel into 2-4 layers, and a suitable size to cover the lower abdomen.

Step 2) Soak the pack in castor oil initially in a small glass or plastic container and wring it out so it is not dripping excessively. You want the flannel to be evenly covered with castor oil. 

Step 3) Apply the pack to the lower abdomen.

Step 4) Place a closed food gallon bag (preferably a thick one like Ziplock) over the pack.

Step 5) Then use the saran wrap to wrap around your body at least one full time to cover the pack. This will help decrease the amount of oil that could potentially stain clothes or linens. Wearing an old tightly fitted tank-top or t-shirt can also be helpful.

Step 6) Once the pack is on your body, place a heating pad on top of the pack and turn the heating pad on to medium, or high if tolerable. Never fall asleep with the heating pad. 

Step 7) Treatment should continue for an average of 15 minutes. Longer treatments are not generally harmful, though it is not advised to fall asleep with the heating pad on. (this may also cause loose stools, so be careful). Again, always consult with your doctor before starting castor oil packs since although most people tolerate castor oil packs well, it may not be indicated in your particular case, depending on other health conditions or medications you may be taking. Some people will not use the heating pad but instead keep the castor oil pack  on overnight. Again, please remember castor oil can be staining so you may need to sleep with a towel rather than your day to day sheets, if you choose this option. 

Step 8) After the application time is complete, remove the plastic wrap and pack. Then fold the castor oil saturated cloth upward on itself within the storage bag. You can wrap the plastic wrap around it and reuse it a few times, however I usually recommend using a new piece of saran wrap with each application. You can reuse your castor oil pack for  5-7 days.  The pack can be stored in the refrigerator in a container or another plastic bag if necessary. The cotton flannel  can be washed, dry-cleaned or replaced. Make sure to wash it separately from all other clothing. 

Step 9) Cleanse your skin with a thick paper towel. However, if you’re greasy, use water with soap or baking soda. (1 teaspoon baking soda to 1 pint of water).

Usage of Castor Oil Packs 

  • Although the frequency of castor oils can very depending on the severity of your menstrual cramps, generally most patients use castor oil packs 1-3 times per day during their period. 

About the Author: Meet Dr. ZenAlissia Zenhausern- Pfeiffer, NMD, FABNE, (commonly known by her patients as Dr. Zen), is a licensed naturopathic doctor board certified in naturopathic endocrinology and the founder of NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, a premier naturopathic medical practice that focuses on helping women to take a proactive approach to their hormone and fertility health. Dr. Zen has been featured as a lead expert in Forbes, Shape Magazine, and Instyle and is deeply passionate about bridging the gap between traditional and natural medicine in the world of fertility. She works with a variety of hormone related issues including PCOS, endometriosis and unexplained infertility. Her goal is to help more women get back into the driver’s seat of their own health to make lasting transformational changes to their health to bring more cute and adorable babies into this world. Read More About Dr. Zen...