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Castor Oil for Eczema Relief: Is It Effective?

Medically reviewed by Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D.
Written by Sarah Winfrey
Posted on June 7, 2021

What Is It? | Research | Potential Risks | Members' Opinions | How To Use | Get Support

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) can be a difficult skin condition to live with because there is no cure, although there have been recent advances in its treatment. This autoimmune disease causes burning and itching sensations, dry skin, and swelling. There are many treatment options, and some people swear by natural remedies and treatments to help manage their eczema. Castor oil is one such remedy that may be used with your prescribed eczema treatments to alleviate your symptoms.

Here’s an evaluation of the research on castor oil, so you can decide whether you want to try this remedy. Talk to your dermatologist or other health care provider before you try any new treatments — even natural remedies.

What Is Castor Oil?

Castor oil is a vegetable oil made from the castor bean plant (Ricinus communis). Castor oil is composed mostly of its active ingredient — a fatty acid called ricinoleic acid — but also contains oleic acid and linoleic acid. This oil has been used since ancient times and continues to be used as a home remedy for a variety of conditions, both in supplements and through topical application.

Research on Castor Oil for Eczema

There isn’t much clear evidence about how castor oil works. Much evidence of its effectiveness can be traced back to folk or alternative medicine and word of mouth. However, some studies have suggested that castor oil may work on the immune system to reduce inflammation.

In animal studies, the ricinoleic acid in castor oil has been found to have analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory properties when applied topically. Because eczema is a condition involving inflammation, these properties could explain some of the reported benefits of castor oil in relieving eczema symptoms and limiting eczema flare-ups.

Castor oil may also be antimicrobial and help heal wounds. Other research suggests castor oil is antifungal and antibacterial. For those who have open wounds because of their eczema and scratching, castor oil may help. It may make the wounds heal faster. It may also help keep away infections that can set in any time there is an open wound, particularly one that persists for a long time.

It is important to note that some research suggests that castor oil may not be effectively absorbed through the skin when used topically. In other words, topical castor oil may not be effective for you, or you may have to apply more castor oil than you otherwise would for it to be effective. These findings may also mean that castor oil can help skin issues, but that the oil will not aid any underlying inflammation below the skin. Castor oil may be most helpful when combined with other treatments that affect the overactivation of the immune system.

Ultimately, it is not well understood how or if castor oil may benefit people with different health conditions, including eczema.

Potential Risks of Castor Oil for Eczema

Castor oil is generally safe to use topically — it is commonly used as an additive in cosmetic products. Human studies have determined that castor oil has few side effects and is not a significant skin irritant. However, allergic reactions and skin irritation can happen, especially if you have sensitive skin or severe eczema.

As always, you should talk to a doctor before introducing castor oil into your eczema skin care routine. They will be able to advise you on any potential risks of using castor oil with eczema.

MyEczemaTeam Members on Castor Oil for Eczema

Many MyEczemaTeam members love to use castor oil as part of their eczema skin care routine. As one member shared, this ingredient may be just one in the products you use: “My skin is clearing a little because I purchased some ‘homemade’ cream from a small business owner. It has shea butter, calendula oil, avocado oil, Jamaican castor oil, arrowroot, chamomile, and beeswax. She added some lavender for scent, and it feels so good.”

Some members use castor oil with eczema treatments prescribed by their dermatologists. One member explained, “I now use all Vanicream products along with Eucrisa, which can be prescribed by a dermatologist. I also use Jamaican castor oil for moisture.” Because moisture directly affects itchiness, it makes sense that castor oil helps some people with eczema alleviate dryness and its associated discomfort.

Still others find success using castor oil alone. One member shared, “I tried almost everything, but now I am trying this very inexpensive oil, which is working very well. It is castor oil for only $3. I would suggest you try it.”

How To Use Castor Oil for Eczema

Castor oil can be found over the counter at your local drugstore, likely close to laxative medications and supplements. There are several ways that castor oil can be used as a topical remedy. Because it doesn’t absorb completely into the skin like a moisturizing or hydrating lotion, you may want to give it ample time to sit on the surface of your skin.

To keep the castor oil on the surface of your skin for a long time, you may want to apply a thick layer of oil, then put on a pair of cotton gloves or socks over the oil. These will absorb some of the oil and will also help keep it up against your skin for a longer time. If you have eczema on your arms or legs, you can cut the toe out of a sock and slide it over the affected area and the castor oil.

You may also want to mix castor oil with other types of oils for maximal effectiveness. Mixing ingredients may be helpful if you want something that will rub completely into your skin and that won’t have to sit on the surface for a while. You can follow the lead of the member above who shared the ingredients in the homemade cream they purchased. You don’t have to include all of those ingredients, in particular, but mixing a number of them could produce a moisturizer that hydrates your skin.

Before you try castor oil for eczema, be sure to get medical advice from a professional. They can help you decide if castor oil is the right solution for you. If it is, they can help you decide how to use it for maximal effectiveness.

Find Eczema Support Today

If you’ve been diagnosed with eczema, you know what it’s like to journey through life with the condition. You probably also know that people who don’t live with eczema don’t know what it’s like. MyEczemaTeam is the social network designed to connect people living with eczema. More than 43,000 members come together to ask questions, join in ongoing conversations, or share their own experiences of life with eczema.

Have you tried castor oil to manage your eczema symptoms? Share your thoughts in the comments below or by posting on MyEczemaTeam.

Posted on June 7, 2021
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Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D. is a dermatologist at the Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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