by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under:Immune Health
Last Reviewed 06/30/2015
Learn why this folk remedy is more than a rapid solution for constipation
I can remember my dad telling me about his mother’s devotion to castor oil when he was growing up. At the first sign of illness in one child, she would immediately give all the children an oral dose of castor oil. There’s no doubt it provided a rapid solution for constipation and it must have stimulated his memory too, because he never forgot the taste and effect of castor oil!
Castor oil is a unique substance, which folk healers worldwide have used to treat a wide variety of health conditions. Its effectiveness may be due in part to its unusual chemical composition. Castor oil is a triglyceride of fatty acids—almost 90 percent of its fatty acid content consists of ricinoleic acid—and, to my knowledge, ricinoleic acid is not found in any substance other than castor oil. The high concentration of this unusual, unsaturated fatty acid is thought to be responsible for castor oil’s remarkable healing abilities.
Ricinoleic acid is effective in preventing the growth of numerous species of viruses, bacteria, yeasts, and molds. This would explain its high degree of success in topical use for such ailments as ringworm, keratoses, skin inflammation, abrasions, fungal-infections in finger- and toenails, acne, and chronic pruritus (itching). The treatment for these conditions is to wrap the affected area each night in a cloth soaked with castor oil.
The most effective use of castor oil is castor oil packs or poultices, which increase topical absorption. When used properly, castor oil packs improve the function of the thymus gland and other immune system functions. Patients who used abdominal castor oil packs had significant increases in the production of lymphocytes compared with patients using placebo packs.
Your Other Circulatory System
Lymphocytes are the disease-fighting cells of the immune system, which are produced and housed mainly in lymphatic tissue, including the thymus gland, spleen, lymph nodes, and the lymphatic tissue lining the small intestine (called Peyer’s patches, or more commonly, aggregated lymphatic follicles). Strangely, other than knowing it produces the body’s white blood cells, most doctors are not very knowledgeable about the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is an amazingly complex structure. It works hand in hand with both the blood circulatory system and the digestive system.
In the circulatory system, newly oxygenated blood from the lungs moves from the heart along smaller and smaller arteries until it reaches the smallest vessels called capillaries. It is in these microscopic tubules that the blood exchanges oxygen and nutrients for cellular waste products with surrounding body cells. The capillaries then gradually become larger and form veins through which the unoxygenated, waste-carrying blood returns back to the lungs and then to the heart to be recirculated time and time again.
Much of the fluid accompanying the blood and large protein molecules leak from these capillaries. Additional fluids and waste products are expelled from every cell in the body. These fluids accumulate in the small spaces between the cells. If all of this material weren’t somehow removed we would begin to swell like a toad and die within a matter of 24 hours.
Fortunately, the lymphatic system is able to absorb and remove these fluids, proteins and waste materials. With the exception of the brain, where these proteins and fluids flow directly into the fluid that surrounds them, the extensive lymphatic network has hundreds of miles of tubules that cover the entire body. Through these tubules all of this material is returned to the blood so it can be utilized or eliminated from the body. (There is no pathway, other than the lymphatic system, that excess protein molecules can use to return to the circulatory system.)
Also, along these lymphatic tubules you’ll find bulb-shaped masses called lymph nodes, which act as filters and produce antibodies when foreign proteins are encountered. I’m sure you’ve experienced the tenderness and swelling of an inflamed lymph node at one time or another. It is usually a result of antibodies fighting an infection either in the node itself or somewhere in the draining area of that particular lymph chain.
In addition to returning leaking fluid from the circulation system and creating antibodies for the immune system, the lymphatic system also performs another very important function.
Here is where those Peyer’s patches I mentioned above come into play. These clumps of lymphatic tissue spread throughout the small intestine absorb fat molecules that are generally too large to be absorbed directly from the intestine. Instead, they are absorbed by these patches and transported along the lymphatic system and then released into the blood stream where they can be carried throughout the body. Between 80 to 90 percent of all the fat absorbed from the gut requires the help of the lymphatic system.
Don’t Wait for Edema to Start Taking Care of Your Lymphatic System
When it comes to treating the majority of health problems, the status of your lymphatic system is rarely given any consideration whatsoever. Medical students are taught that a failure of the lymphatic system is obvious to detect because it is accompanied by “pitting” edema (the accumulation of fluid in the tissues, i.e. swelling, usually in the feet, ankles or hands).
The test for “pitting” edema is rather simple. A finger is pressed into the skin at the area of the swelling and then quickly removed. The skin stays depressed, forming a small “pit,” which remains until the fluid outside the cells has time to return to the area (this can take anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds). Unfortunately, research studies have shown that “pitting” edema and other signs of fluid retention can’t be observed until fluid levels outside the cells reach 30 percent above normal. In other words, you can have a serious lymphatic drainage problem long before it can be detected.
Several problems occur when the lymph drainage slows and fluids begin to accumulate around the cells.
First, the individual cells are forced further and further away from the capillaries. The amount of oxygen and nourishment they receive is decreased. Under exertion or stress some cells may die. Additionally, cells are forced to survive in their own waste and toxic byproducts. This situation can eventually lead to the degeneration and destruction of organs. For example, poor lymphatic drainage of the heart can lead to tissue damage and even heart failure. Similar problems occur in the liver, the kidneys and other organs.
A good analogy would be if you confined yourself to one room of your house. Someone could bring you food and water, but not remove any of your waste products. Eventually you would have difficulty remaining healthy in such an environment. As your waste accumulated, not only would you become sick, those around you would begin to experience the same fate. Just like it is for each cell, in addition to nourishment and oxygen, the removal of waste products is essential for continued health of the entire body.
Fluid accumulation outside the cells also stretches the tissue in the area. The more it stretches and the longer it remains that way, the harder it becomes to correct the problem.
Regardless of the health problem, most doctors generally assume the lymphatic system is working adequately. This assumption is made at the peril of the patient. Research has shown that as we age, certain organs begin to degenerate. The thymus gland is a key component of the immune system. It is initially responsible for the proper development of the lymphatic system and is practically absent in older individuals. Peyer’s patches begin to get smaller with age and are often destroyed by certain diseases like typhoid fever.
Topical Application of Castor Oil
Efforts should be taken to improve the function of the lymphatic system in every health problem. No drug exists that has the ability to improve lymphatic flow; however, the job can easily be handled through the topical application of castor oil.
When castor oil is absorbed through the skin, several positive events take place:
- The lymphocyte count of the blood increases.
- Lymph flow improves throughout the body, speeding the removal of cellular-related toxins and reducing swollen lymph nodes.
- As toxicity is reduced and health improves, the pH of the saliva becomes less acidic, and the Peyer’s patches in the small intestine become more efficient at fat absorption, which is essential for the formation of hormones and other components necessary for growth and repair.
- There is a general overall improvement in organ function and a lessening of fatigue and depression.
The bottom line is that the removal of cellular waste products is essential for the continued health of the entire body. In the face of any health problem, make an effort to improve the function of the lymphatic system using the topical application of castor oil, oil packs, and massage. Any oil you consume or apply to your skin needs to be of the highest quality, including castor oil. Check your local health food store for cold-pressed castor oil.
Centuries ago, the castor bean plant was referred to as the “Palma Christe” because the shape of the plant’s leaves was thought to resemble the palm of Christ. The name may be a very accurate description. You’ll be more than satisfied when you experience the amazing results that can be achieved with the simple oil of the castor bean.
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