Castor Oil Packs for Detoxification, Allergies, and Liver Health

Castor Oil Packs for Detoxification, Allergies, and Liver Health

Once upon a time, I found a magic remedy that was easy for anyone to do and made me look like a superhero healer. It also made me feel like a million bucks and got rid of my dark under eye circles.

Though nobody with a chronic illness lives happily ever after with a single remedy, castor oil packs are still a super star to add to your toolbox.

Castor Oil Packs

Castor oil packs are one of my favorite remedies for clearing liver congestion, improving digestion, and boosting the immune system.

Note: Those with serious liver conditions or detoxification dysfunction should be monitored by a qualified holistic practitioner and given additional support. I also suggest avoiding them during pregnancy (should not overheat the abdomen) and breastfeeding (toxins are released into breast milk).

Liver congestion causes many symptoms that many of us deal with on a daily basis – allergies, acne, under eye circles and puffiness, histamine overload, and endocrine dysfunction (thyroid, adrenal, female or male sex hormones, etc.) to name a few -.

A Little Background

The castor bush (Recinus communis) grows in warm climates, and its oil is extracted from the spiky seed pods.

Part of what makes castor oil so unique is its fatty acid make-up. Ricinoleic acid makes up 90% of its composition.

Ricineoleic acid contains strong analgesic (pain relieving) and anti-inflammatory compounds. It’s a great addition to any chronic pain protocol.

Some uses of castor oil —

  • acne
  • ringworm
  • wrinkle prevention
  • skin conditions
  • headaches
  • hair conditioner
  • laxative* (to be used with caution)

* This unsaturated hydroxy fatty acid, when ingested, binds to very specific receptors in the intestines and uterus, causing contractions and movement.

The Aztecs used it to treat hemorrhoids. The Chinese used it to induce childbirth and to expel the placenta. The beans were even found in Egyptian tombs.

Modern witch doctors can be sure this remedy is well steeped in history.

 The Origin of Caster Oil Packs

So, how did castor oil packs for the liver start?

All roads seem to lead to a psychic, Edgar Cayce. He channeled the idea. Um, hmm.

If I hadn’t used them myself, I would have been a lot more skeptical. I had no idea until I started researching for this post.

A double-blind study published in The Journal of Naturopathic Medicine found that castor oil is an anti-toxin and enhances immunological function.

That one’s a little more up my alley.

Though I believe in psychic ability, I don’t use it as a scientific basis for healing remedies.

Using Cayce’s readings and through his own clinical studies, Dr. William McGrarey then wrote a book on the health benefits of castor oil, The Oil that Heals. (Amazon affiliate link)

That helped to spark today’s popularity with this remedy.

How Do Castor Oil Packs Work?

The idea is that these compresses, when used over the abdominal area and liver, help to rebuild and improve the function of the Peyer’s patches in the small intestine.

They also seem to directly clear liver congestion and have even been reported to dissolve gall stones.

The Peyer’s patches are lymphoid tissue located on the mucosal membrane. Very important in healing digestion and immune function.

When Dr. McGrarey performed case studies, the packs were found to be effective for illnesses that ranged from local infections to gall bladder issues and headaches.

Great, but how does it work?

It seems that nobody has been able to figure out exactly how castor oil packs work, but the current science focuses on the sedative effects and the action on the lymphatic system.

The oil allows the nervous system to switch into parasympathetic mode.

Once the switch from the sympathetic “fight or flight” system to the parasympathetic “rest and digest” system is made, something glorious happens: healing.

When the lymphatic tissue is congested (and that happens quite easily when we’re not well hydrated or moving frequently enough), it causes inflammation.

Chronic Inflammation = Disease

Castor oil packs also increase lymphocyte production and activity in the body and act as an important immune booster.

Lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, help the body fight off viruses, fungal infections, bacteria, and even cancer.

Because we have lymphocytes in the epidermis, topical application can be very effective in stimulating the entire immune system.

Focusing again to the Peyer’s patches, Cayce believed they were responsible for the health of the complete nervous system.

He thought that the patches, when stimulated and functioning well, allow the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems to effectively communicate.

The abdomen was the focus of Cayce’s castor oil packs. It, particularly the solar plexus, has the largest concentration of autonomic nerve cells in the lower body.

The liver also contains one-third to one-half of the body’s lymph.


How to Do a Castor Oil Pack

Gather the supplies you’ll need:

  • Large piece of cotton or cotton flannel that will fit over the right side of your rib cage, under the pectoral muscle, from front to back (approx. 12 inches x 24 inches)
  • Castor Oil
  • Hot Water Bottle or Heating Pad
  • Timer – clock, phone, microwave, etc.
  • Parchment Paper
  • Second Towel


  1. Place cloth in a non-reactive bowl (I use a ceramic baking dish) and pour enough castor oil on to saturate it completely. Let it sit for 5 minutes to soak through the cloth’s fibers.
  2. Squeeze out excess oil (be sure it’s saturated, just not dripping) and place the cloth over the entire right side of rib cage from front to back (see image below). Lie on your left side. It should be close to touching your solar plexus in the front and spine in the back. It should also go down to at least the bottom of your rib cage and reach almost to the belly button.
  3.  Add the parchment paper over the cloth and layer the second towel on top. It will help seal in the heat and prevent the oil from getting on the water bottle or heating pad.
  4. Lay a hot water bottle or comfortably warm heating pad over the compress and set your timer for 20 minutes. You can do the compress for a minimum of 20 minutes or up to overnight. I usually do between 1-1.5 hours, and leave it on until I start getting antsy and it doesn’t feel as good.
  5. When finished, wipe any excess oil off your torso. I recommend doing castor oil packs before bed and not washing the area until morning. The benefits seem to increase if left on while your body cleanses during sleep.

Where to Apply Castor Oil Pack

Testimonial from my practice:

I’ve known about castor oil all my life. I’m from Haiti where the plant grows absolutely everywhere with some of them looking more like trees than bushes.

The seeds make a popping sound when they ripen and explode.

The oil is used extensively for all skin issues and as a scalp massaging conditioner.

“Lwil maskriti”, as it’s known in Kreyol, is almost always around in a household.

Castor oil packs were new to me. I first learned about them from Susun Weed, master herbalist, and I used them for congested breast tissue with great results.

I’ve been using the castor oil packs for my liver now for about a month.

I LOVE them.

I have had chronic insomnia and horrible systemic inflammation because of my fibromyalgia.

I’ve, of course, removed the allergens from my diet through Jennifer’s guidance and have added the packs as a daily therapy.

The packs are part of my bedtime ritual. The heating of the water, the pouring into my hot water bottle, the application of the oil to the flannel cloth…it’s a grounding, relaxing process in itself.

When I settle into bed, lying on my left side and snuggle up with the castor oiled flannel and feel the heat start to penetrate my skin, I feel so cozy!

Within about 5-10 minutes, I can feel my liver warming up and there’s almost a ‘pop’ as the oil penetrates. Then, I feel my digestion kick in. Then, I get…..sleepy…oh, yippee, SLEEPY!

That’s the one thing I wasn’t really expecting was how much these packs would improve my sleep.

I’ve gone from sleeping 2-3 hours a night to averaging 11. (Yeah, I know…it’s decadent.)

The muscle and joint pain have almost completely disappeared.

Castor oil liver packs for the win!


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Castor Oil Packs for Detoxification, Allergies, and Liver Health


Klotter, Jule. “Castor oil. (Shorts).” Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients Feb.-Mar. 2003: 26. General OneFile. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.

Weed, Susun. “Down There: Sexual and Reproductive Health“. 2011. Ash Tree Publishing.  Woodstock, NY   (affiliate link)


Jennifer Nervo is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Reiki Master Practitioner & teacher, and Aromatherapist. Her focus is on digestive, nervous, and immune system dysfunction and the fields of functional nutrition & psychoneuroimmunology. She works with all conditions and diseases including environmental and food allergies, autoimmune diseases, multiple chemical sensitivity, diabetes, eczema, anxiety, weight loss as a symptom of dis-ease, and gut-brain disorders like autism.

When she’s not herding her small troupe of monkeys or seeing clients, her free time is packed with researching and perfecting new wellness techniques (her not-so-secret passion). Jennifer is currently a group leader for the newest class of Nutritional Therapy Practitioners out of Ann Arbor, MI, studying for the national board exam in holistic nutrition, and running a combined distance and brick and mortar practice in metro Detroit. She’s also a homeschooling suburbanite, foodie, and mama to two littles and a schnoodle.

53 thoughts on “Castor Oil Packs for Detoxification, Allergies, and Liver Health”

  • How do you clean the towel with castor oil in it? Do you reuse and throw away or does it rinse well and go into your regular laundry?

    • The oil soaked cloth can be used multiple times and either thrown out or washed by hand. Oil (especially in large amounts) isn’t recommended in the washer or dryer due to fire hazard.

  • Very informative post. Can’t wait to try this out. Does the water bottle go on top of everything, so flannel cloth, parchment, towel then water bottle?

    • The liver is on the right side of our body, so I don’t believe so. Our pancreas and spleen (located on the left side of the body) are not detoxification organs.

      • They are not detoxification organs, but you can use castor oil packs over any organ or gland. The benefits of using castor over these other organs is increased blood circulation, which is always good thing. Castor oil packs can give sluggish organ a boost, or a complete jump start. The spleen, though it is not a filtration organ, does fight pathogens and a person who is overcome with illness could certainly benefit from using a pack over it.

      • Castor oil packs over the entire abdomen is highly beneficial. I recommend my patients cut a piece of cloth large enough to go rib to rib, and hipbone to hipbone. One of the primary benefits of castor oil packs is that castor oil is a lymphagogue – that is, it stimulates lymphatic circulation. About 70% of your body’s lymph glands are in your abdomen, and circulating lymph (which is one of the ways your body delivers toxins and metabolic waste to the primary organs of elimination) is one of the primary benefits of castor oil packs. Thanks for sharing – this is a great post!

  • Do you know what was meant by “congested breast tissue”? I have very fibrous breasts, and if that is what she was referring to, I would be interested in trying this both on the breasts and the liver.

  • Jennifer – i love this! so thorough and great that you are sharing this. I often add an essential oil, like the Vibrant Blue Oils Liver Support, that helps us shed the anger we so often to store in the liver and positive intention to my castor oil practice. Love the info graphic!

  • Are there any contra-indications for performing Castor Oil Packs? I have several health issues and am steroid dependent on daily Prednisone 20mg. I’ve been on the steroids for 26 years and want to get off of them. I’m trying holistic therapies and like the idea of the castor oil liver detox. I have joint issues and fibromyalgia as well as migraines and severe asthma. Are there any reasons you think this would not be a good therapy for me?

      • Thanks for your reply Jennifer, I’ve been following a Paleo diet for over a month. I’ve also been trying to be sugar, soy, dairy and gluten free. I’ve had some sugar and dairy (organic creamer and sugar in coffee). I’ve also had cheese but didn’t notice any problems. Wheat seems to be an issue when I ate it but not other gluten which I thought strange since the test for gluten and wheat were both negative. I had blood tests (RAST) to check for food allergies and none showed up but I do feel better on the Paleo. Would I still need to do the AIP? or just add bone/meat broths? I’m trying to find a butcher that has grass fed bones available to purchase. I’m concerned with trying the raw portion you mentioned in your Blog, a raw liver, even if grass fed, because I feel I’m already toxic from heavy metals. Even if liver, egg yolks and fish eggs are easily digestible, the liver stores toxins and heavy metals so eating a raw liver seems counter productive. I could make liver capsules or swallow it in small chunks if I had to. I can’t stand the smell of it cooking but at least raw it wouldn’t have that smell haha

        I think that there has to be a way to get off the prednisone. I’ve been searching and I know I’ll find it. I’ve done so many things from supplements to holistic, alternative therapies (acupuncture, chiropractic, cupping, Gerson protocol coffee enemas, dry brushing, Oil pulling, juicing, etc. I thought the castor oil packs could help too. I am an organic, fragrance free (due to multiple chemical sensitivities) 47 year old female. I don’t color my hair (I used to Henna but stopped that over a year ago) or use any chemicals on my body. I use natural fluoride free toothpaste, organic coconut oil on my skin, fragrance free shampoo and conditioner, and mineral salt deodorant. I currently weigh 267 lbs and can not seem to loose weight even doing this Paleo diet. The only thing that helps me loose is a lower daily dose of prednisone. At 10mg a day or less, I loose weight easily and I think doing these therapies have helped me get to the 20mg a day dose. I haven’t been at this dose in over 2-1/2 years. I was on 25mg or more per day until 3 weeks ago.

        I’m sharing all that to see if this additional background information would be helpful or change your recommendation.

        Have you heard of a Hair Analysis test? It’s done by Analytical Research Labs. it tests for multiple deficiencies. What do you think?

        Thanks for your insight!


        • Barbara, the liver, while being a filtration organ, is not actually storage receptacle for toxins. Filters are not storage devices. Either way, though, if you are consuming liver from organic grass fed/pasture raised animals, they would not be full of the heavy metals you are speaking of. The late Dr. Gerson, famous for his successful holistic cancer treatment, had great success having people consume raw liver juice. Source your liver wisely, and you have nothing to fear. Cheers.

        • I’ve done An htma and it was the best thing I’ve ever done for my health. Fabulous, spot on information. Keep in mind that it is only going to be as good as the person who interprets it for you. I have multiple recommendations if you are interested.

  • Jennifer, I am new to your site. Thank you for this information on Castor oil packs. I have heard of them and mulled over the idea for years. You shared that it was a gentle detox and you experienced no side effects. My issue is low iron, weak liver, extreme tiredness etc. I finally bought some good quality castor oil and followed your instructions. (I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to wash off the oil afterwards or just go to sleep).

    I did not have the lovely experience I was hoping for. My night was fraught with disturbing dreams and I tossed and turned and woke up as tired as I was when I went to sleep 8 hours earlier. (This is usual for me – though only over the last three months – before that my sleeping was fine). After the third night of doing the castor oil packs I developed a sore throat and now am coping with the sore throat and am beyond tired, despite 8 hour night time sleeping and a three hour nap. I was hoping for more I confess and feel like the castor oil pack did nothing – or, if it did anything, it stirred up stuff and made me sick.

    Has anyone else had a reaction like this? Should I put castor oil on my throat?

    Thank you for sharing your story and your tips.

    • Rachel,

      I did have that issue (bad dreams and nightmares, as well as constant waking) one night as well. It was the 2nd or third night of doing them. I took a 3 day break, and the next time I did them, I was fine. I also use the liver vitality that was recommended from Vibrant Blue Essential oils.

      Hope that helps!

      • Thank you for sharing Shannon. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one. I took a break after 4 nights of the castor oil packs. I noticed a few days ago that it had been over a week since I’d had a dizzy/unbalanced spell. I’d been having them daily (up to 4 times each day). I wonder if the castor oil pack had anything to do with them going away? Then today I had a dizzy spell for the first time since before the packs. SO I am going to do another 3 days of liver cleansing castor oil packs and see what happen.

        • These are classic detox symptoms. Try two days of castor oil packs, and two days of rest. Repeat for a few weeks. Also, try doing a day now and then where you use the castor oil packs over your kidneys. Detoxing can be hard on them too, so give them a good nudge while you are doing your cleanse.

    • I had a similar reaction when I tried the castor oil pack two nights ago. I was so excited about a wonderful nights sleep. That did not happen. My mind was going 100 miles an hour all night long. I finally fell asleep at 6 am. I will say I am kind of scared to try it again since I was so miserable. But I am also now concerned that I have way more detoxing to do than I realized. So I feel like I should keep pursuing it. Any suggestions? Start slower? Did you continue and if so how did you do on subsequent times?

  • Have you found a castor oil supplier with sustainable, safe harvesting practices? You had mentioned in an OCM post that the toxic harvesting of the seeds was preventing you from promoting its use.

    • I haven’t yet. My assistant is currently hard at work looking to find one. I debated on writing a post on using castor oil therapeutically, but I decided not sharing the information was akin to telling people not to eat fruits and vegetables that are conventionally grown. The man-made chemicals used are also highly toxic and can cause severe illness in farmers and field workers. With castor oil, the amount used in an occasional or short-term therapy is much less impactful than a day’s worth of produce.

    • The processed oil is not toxic: “Ricin is removed during processing, so the oil we use is deemed safe.” We are currently researching a safely harvested source.

  • This is great, Jennifer. My daughter and I have been to acupuncture to help with our liver congestion. We have a lot of wood element to us….anger and frustrate easily! I’ve been wanting to try these packs before, but this is the first blog I’ve read that really explained it all the best. Do you think it would be safe to use on my 8 year old? We actually use melatonin for her to sleep (which I don’t love but we needed a quick fix to help her get rest). I think this, along with essential oils could replace the melatonin for sure!

    • For children under 12, I would do no more than rub a think layer of castor oil over her liver twice a week. I think regular detox baths are the most effective detox aid for children.

      I love that you have found a solution to replace the melatonin! Lately, lavender and German chamomile have been out favorite sleep combination. I call it my new crack. 🙂

  • Last night I tried a castor oil pack for the first time for a case of tendinitis of the ankle. Followed all the instructions, left the pack on for an hour or so. Washed afterwards & fell asleep. About 5 hours later was woken by a very sudden & violent case of diarrhea. This persisted for about an hour. Is there a good chance this is related to the castor oil?

    • It’s a possibility. Castor oil is a laxative internally but is not considered one when applied to the skin, especially on an ankle. If it is related, my best guess is that it was detoxifying enough that whatever your liver processed and dumped into your intestines was not well tolerated or bad enough that your body wanted it to make a quick exit.

      If you feel lighter overall, have more energy or are feeling heavy and a bit fatigued (could go either way), and if you have circles under your eyes that are a bit lighter, then I would attribute it to the castor oil detoxifying your body. If there is no change, then it is less likely that they are related.

  • Last night, I tried the castor oil pack and woke up with extreme headache. I drank some water and got rid of the headache. But, I wasn’t able to fall back to sleep. Did the headaches show
    effective detox of the liver? Also, I didn’t wash the oil off afterwards. Is it safe to just leave it on overnight? Thanks very much

    • Headaches indicate that the liver is cleansing but the toxins are not leaving your system as efficiently as they should. You may want to take a step back and instead start with a gut healing program and detox baths for gentle whole body detoxification and healing. If you still want to do the liver packs, be sure to take a detox bath and follow with 16 oz of water.

      If it doesn’t help, you may want to back off of liver packs until you go through a more gentle detox and get some liver support foods and/or supplements.

      I don’t see a need to wash the castor oil off, so you should be fine to let it soak in overnight.

      Best of luck!

  • Hey, on my way to the store right now for castor oil and a heating pad…and thought I’d thank you for this. I wake up every hour on the hour and walk around, urinate, and fret, sometimes only get 4 hours of actual sleep. This has gone on for years off and on with no diagnosis…until recently my accupuncturist found kidney and intestinal parasites and a stressed liver. After a month of herbs and needles we’re on to castor packs. I’ll let you know how it pans out, but I am suddenly feeling very optimistic.

    • I’ve done castor packs three nights in a row now, 90 minutes in duration….and I can’t say I’ve enjoyed much effect at al. I am up from 3-5 am, with a lot of anger and unpleasant thoughts. I was so hoping to get a rested feeling out of this and better nights sleep. I would almost think I am doin something wrong, as I can’t feel any sort of change happening. Any ideas?

      • Those are all symptoms of the liver being overburdened. If you’d like to try the packs again, start very slowly. 1-2 castor oil packs per week for 10-15 minutes in duration only. 90 minutes is a very long time when you have compromised detoxificaiton pathways. Be sure you are not eating processed foods on the days that you are doing the packs (and preferably not at all), and take a detox bath after your castor oil pack and the following day to help lighten the burden.

        Essential oils and flower essences can greatly help with the additional stress and the emotions that come with organ/gland dysfunction. Anger is associated with the liver in Chinese medicine, and the liver cleanses/regenerates it’s qi from 1-3 am. Your symptoms show that you need additional support.

        Hopefully, those general suggestions can help you further your wellness journey. Best of luck! It can be a long road, but, with the right tools, the days ahead will get brighter and brighter.

      • It takes ‘at least’ 2 positives to overcome one negative. Think colonic irrigations, raw vegetable juices, walking every day at least 20 minutes. Hops, lobelia inflata, passionflower, comfrey..taken an hour before bed will help sleep also

  • Do you know why when after ti’m done with castor oil pack i have scratch marks on my abdomen. Probe form me scratching it, but i thought someone told me before the if you scratch yourself and it’s stays red for a period of time it’s histamine.
    Do you know why this would seemingly cause this to happen?

    • Raised, white skin around the scratches would be more likely show an overproduction of histamine by the body. Red scratches could be from the pressure or damage from nails if you’re scratching hard or even increased circulation close to the skin caused by the castor oil or heat.

  • Very interesting article, and comments; thanks to everyone.

    I want to try these on my adult child who has both autism and epilepsy. But I’ll give them a whirl first. In the meantime, does anyone have any first-hand experience with using COPs on an autistic/epileptic? Anyone with general thoughts about using COPs on an autistic/epileptic?

    • apart from the castor oil packs, you might also consider the John Hopkins Uni hospitals nutritional programme for seizure disorders. I know that all patients (even those on multiple seizure meds) have excellent result with this programme. Over 90% are able to eliminate the meds totally. If you contact the center they will be able to give you more information. Best regards

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