By Sarah Bradley, Mar 12, 2024

Castor oil is a vegetable oil made from a plant called Ricinus communis. It might be most well-known for its laxative effects; in fact, its only US Food and Drug Administration-approved use is as a stimulant laxative to treat constipation. Castor oil has several other possible medicinal uses, however, says Kecia Gaither, MD, maternal-fetal medicine director at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln in the Bronx and associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine. They include easing joint pain and inflammation and soothing irritated skin. It’s also often used as an additive in foods, skin-care products, and other manufactured goods like plastics and paint, she says.

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