Castor Nut: The Awesome, The Not-So-Hot and the Downright Deadly

Castor NutCastor Oil is an incredible substance that is obtained by pressing the seeds of the castor plant, Ricinus communis (Euphorbiaceae). It is a clear oil that has been used for medicinal use in Ancient Egypt, China, Persia, Africa, Greece, Rome, and in 17th Century Europe and the Americas. Centuries ago, the plant was referred to as “Palma Christe” because the leaves were said to resemble the hand of Christ. This association likely arose out of people’s reverence for the plant’s healing abilities.

Castor oil is now widely used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, machinery and industry. Even Castrol motor oil for machinery is derived from castor oil….must be good for the joints?

 The Awesome:  Always start with the positives!

One of the more compelling health benefits is castor oil’s ability to support the immune system. This healing property does not require you ingest the oil, rather apply it externally. Castor oil “packs” can be an economical and efficient method of infusing the ricinoleic acid and other healing components of castor oil directly into your tissues.

Popularized by psychic and intuitive healer, Edgar Cayce in the 1930s and 1940s, Castor Oil packs became widely utilized. Some say Edgar Cayce was the father of the New Age Movement. His work with castor oil was later researched and proven by primary care physician William McGarey amongst others.


Even Ancient Yogis and modern day yogis of the Ashtanga tradition follow a Saturday ritual of a castor oil bath. This helps reduce any inflammation in the joints while providing a ritual during the day off from training. In this tradition castor oil is applied liberally while the practitioner lays in corpse pose (shivasina) for 10-15 minutes. Afterwards wash the castor oil off in the shower.

Castor oil packs applied topically can:

  • Stimulate and support the immune system
  • Drain the lymphatic system
  • Increase lymphocyte production
  • Increase circulation
  • Have an antiinflamitory effect
  • Have an antiviral effect
  • Have an antifungal  effect
  • Improve painful conditions and swelling

Some conditions treated are GI complaints, ovarian cysts, menstrual issues, irregular menses, painful menses, fibroids, acne, arthritis, lymph edema and chronic infections.

 Topical Application: You can rub castor oil into the skin but if you truly want the most therapeutic effect try a “CASTOR OIL PACK”.  Packs are the most common and effective way to apply topical castor oil.

In order to make a Castor Oil Pack You will need the following supplies:

  • High quality cold-pressed castor oil
  • Hot water bottle or heating pad
  • Plastic wrap
  • Two or three one-foot square pieces of wool or cotton flannel
  • One large old bath towel

Fold flannel three layers thick so it is still large enough to fit over your entire upper abdomen and liver. You can also treat over a local area, like swollen lymph nodes on the neck, ankles, knees…anywhere that needs additional love. Soak flannel with the oil so that it is completely saturated. The oil should be at room temperature. Place the flannel pack directly onto your abdomen; cover oiled flannel with the sheet of plastic, and place the hot water bottle on top of the plastic.

I recommend wearing old pajamas as the oil stains and is difficult to remove. Leave pack on for 45 to 60 minutes. This is a great time to do meditational breathing, reading or just relax.  You can reuse the pack several times, each time adding more oil as needed to keep the pack saturated.

The “Not-so-Pretty” but effective Internal Uses of Castor Oil:

spanky castor oil

Castor oil has been an internal remedy for thousands of years. Remember Spanky from The Little Rascals being spoon fed castor oil?  Castor oil can even be seen on Tom and Jerry as a way to harass Tom. Centuries of ingesting Castor oil by myriads of cultures have shown us that castor oil is a formidable laxative.

Castor oil has been proven to stimulate the intestines and the uterus and is often recommended to stimulate labor. I however do not recommend  castor oil for labor induction unless in very specific conditions as castor oil as it can cause violent vomiting and diarrhea which can really be tough on a laboring woman.

The”Downright Deadly” but infrequently seen use of the Castor nut:

Unless you go into the business of manufacturing castor oil you will not come into contact with Ricin. Ricin is a highly toxic, naturally occurring protein and even a dose the size of a few grains of table salt can kill an adult human. Heating during the oil extraction process denatures and inactivates the protein rendering castor oil harmless.

In a few occurrences since the late 1970’s ricin has been utilized as a biological toxic weapon.  As a matter of fact even this year,  an envelope addressed to President Obama tested positive for ricin.  All that being said, castor oil has been deemed safe and effective by the FDA so do not worry.

 Castor Oil is an ancient and effective way to improve your health. Give it a try for yourself.

Power of Propolis

Bee-PropolisMy family of Bee Keepers recently paid a visit in NYC and I was so excited to chat with them extensively about the power of Bees and their extraordinary products. My cousin Gustav is a third generation of beekeeper and I have fond memories meeting his Grandfather (my great, great Uncle) in Sweden when I was eight. I have an image in my head of my Great Uncle in his bee suit and huge drums of creamy honey in the basement. Maybe that started my deep love for honey?

Gustav had a lot of information to share. Sadly a lot of the discussion was about the disappearance of bees. He has been working extremely hard over the past ten years developing ways to keep his beehives healthy.

There were so many fascinating medicinal facts and bee products that I was inspired to write a 4-Part Piece on Bee products including Honey, Propolis, Bee Pollen and Royal Jelly. I’ll start with Propolis.

The Power of Propolis

Gustav called Propolis “the anti” because of  its antiinflamitory, antibacterial, antiviral, antitumor and antiseptic properties. Honey bees are “propolis harvesters”. Bees collect resins from treebuds and mix the resins with a little honey, wax and enzymes to create propolis. Propolis essentially contains resins, balsams, essential oils, flavonoids, vitamins, minerals and pollen. Analysis shows that bees don’t significantly change the resins they collect which makes propolis an herbal medicine similar to other medicinal gums and resins such as boswellia and myrrh.

Propolis is a Greek word that translates to “before the city” and is used by bees in the hives to line the hive to keep the hive clean. Propolis also acts as an adhesive as it assists in gluing the hive together and protect the hive from inclement weather. Bees not only line their hive with Propolis but leave Propolis as a “doormat” at the entrance. Gustav mentioned that bees step their feet in the Propolis before entering the hive to “clean” their feet before entering. Additionally Bees embalm invaders. Ancient Egyptians followed the bees knowledge and used propolis to embalming agents for their mummies. If a pest were to enter the hive and die the bees cover the dead animal in Propolis to keep the hive and the Queen Bee protected from germs.

Even The Gracie Diet, a diet created by Grandmaster Carlos Gracie, the forefather of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who lived and trained into his 90’s, listed Propolis as one of the 10 foods that should be eaten daily. Following the Hippocratean maxim “Let your food be your remedy”, Grandmaster Carlos Gracie aimed at founding a system that would primarily prevent illness on days of competition.The basic principle of the Gracie Diet is to keep blood pH level neutral by consuming only compatible nutrients at each meal.

A study on PubMed reported that “More than 15 Greek and Roman authors report on the preparation and application of the so-called third natural product of the bees (besides honey and wax). Aristoteles described the fundamental issues of its biology in his ‘Historia Animalium’ correctly.” Propolis has been utilized since ancient times as a topical antiseptic used for open wounds. It is said that Propolis is the most natural antibiotic man has ever discovered. The remarkable thing about this statement is the fact that this discovery took place some 2000 years ago.”

Integrate Propolis into your daily regimen:

In cell culture tests Propolis extracts have been shown to significantly inhibit the growth in the Klebsiella pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, Staphyloccocus, clostridium, corynebacterium diptheriae and some streptococcus species.

Propolis Salve:
Treating open wounds it is superior to use a blend of propolis as a topical salve rather than a single antibiotic in petroleum jelly. Antibiotics are overused and their overuse are creating a rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria. The complex bend of compounds in propolis is superior to the single antibiotic in petroleum jelly. Gladiators know how to treat wounds!

Propolis as mouth wash:
Propolis mouth wash inhibits the growth of common human oral bacteria which helps the body heal after surgery, prevent bad breath, gingivitis, tooth decay and gum disease.

Upper respiratory conditions:

Propolis can be added to saline for a sinus irrigation. In many Eastern European countries widespread use of antibiotics is less common than beekeeping. Washing, gargling and irrigating the sinuses with propolis rinses are more commonly used.

Promote heart health. Propolis has been demonstrated to be an antiinflammatory.

Emollient: Studies also indicate that Propolis may be effective in treating skin burns.

Immune Support: Propolis exhibits immunostimulant effects in numerous clinical trials.

Propolis is available in powder, lozenges, tincture, capsules and pills.

As my family was heading back home they were eager to hug and kiss everyone of us before boarding the plane. Gustav waved a hearty goodbye as he popped some Propolis in his mouth.

Stay tuned for Bee Pollen!!

Vitex Agnus Castus, Chasteberry


Vitex Agnus Castus or Chasteberry is a magical herb for women. In Western herbalism Vitex is used for a myriad of conditions surrounding the female reproductive system including luteal phase insufficiency (which often results in miscarriage or infertility), infertility, PCOS, amenorrhea, PMS and menopausal symptoms. Many herbs show properties of phyto-estrogens very few have phyto-progestin properties. However, Vitex is one of them.

Numerous studies have found that the berries of the plant act on the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands by increasing LH (lutenizing hormone) and mildly inhibiting the release of FSH (Follicle stimulating hormone). High levels of prolactin are also found with corpus luteum insufficiency and Vitex can also be used to regulate those levels.

The following article is from Tori Hudson’s site on the use of Vitex to Reduce PMS

Chinese women suffering from moderate to severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) were studied in a prospective, double-blind, placebo controlled, parallel-group, multi-center clinical trial. A Vitex agnus castus extract, contained 4.0 mg of dried ethanolic (70%).

The mean total Premenstrual Syndrome Diary (PMSD) score decreased from 29.23 at baseline to 6.41 at the end of the third cycle for the Vitex group and from 28.14 at baseline to 12.64 at the end of the third cycle for the placebo group. The difference in the PMSD score from baseline to the third cycle was significantly lower in the treatment group than in the placebo group. The Premenstrual Tension Syndrome Self-Rating Scale (PMTS) decreased from 26.17 at baseline to 9.92 for the treatment group and from 27.10 to 14.59 for the placebo group; similar positive results to the PMSD scores.

Comments: I’ve long used Vitex for the treatment of PMS and in my opinion, it is the single most important plant for the treatment of PMS. The effect of Vitex is on the hypothalamus-hypophysis axis and results in an increased secretion of luteinizing hormone which then favors a progesterone effect. Several other placebo controlled studies have found that Vitex reduced a variety of PMS symptoms. The current study adds to the clinical relevance of this plant in the treatment of moderate to severe symptoms of PMS.


He Z, Chen R, Zhou Y, et al. Treatment for premenstrual syndrome with Vitex agnus castus: A prospective, randomized, multi-center placebo controlled study in China. Maturitas 2009; 63:99-103

Earaches, Tinnitus and Home Remedies


Hearing loss can be sudden or gradual and can be caused by infection, trauma, changes in atmospheric pressure, earwax buildup or impaction.

Two types of hearing loss:
Conductive hearing loss: passage of sound waves in impeded in the external or middle ear. This can be due to:

a. Earwax buildup
b. Middle ear infection
c. Inflammation
d. Excessive rigidity of the tiny bones in the middle ear that convey information to the inner ear

Sensorineural Hearing loss: damage to the structures of the middle ear
a. damage to the 8th cranial nerve or the acoustic nerve
b. can be present from birth or can be caused by certain drugs, illnesses, exposure to loud noises, smoking or trauma

Infection or inflammation after a respiratory tract infection
Trauma (often from cotton swabs)
Microorganisms from swimming or bathing

Hearing loss with ear pain may be associated with:
1. Eardrum damage
2. strain or perforation
3. an infected cyst in the eardrum or middle ear
4. Mastoiditis

Tinnitus is the continuous buzzing or ringing in the ears with no obvious cause. It may occur by itself or as a symptom of another issue/

Otitis media
or middle ear infection is the most common cause for hearing loss for children. Otitis media is usually a temporary issue but chronic ear infections can cause permanent damage.

Hearing loss in babies can be detected by:

A failure to startle or blink at loud noises
Failure to babble, coo, squeel, monotonal babbling
Ability to sleep through loud noises consistently

: failure to speak clearly by age two
Showing no interest in being read to
Habitual yelling & shrieking when playing or communicating

Suggestions for helping ear issues:
Coenzyme Q10: 30 mg. daily. Powerful antioxidant that boosts immunity and increases circulation to the ears.

Manganese: 10 mg. daily
Essential fatty acids to reduce earwax buildup
Vit E: 600 IU daily, antioxodant, increase circulation
Vit D: 400 IU daily
Zinc lozenges 50mg daily: quickens immune response

Echinacea helps poor equilibrium and reduces congestion as well as helping the body to fight infection.

Eucalyptus, hyssop, mullein and thyme have decongestant properties, which may alleviate ringing in the ears.

Gingko biloba helps reduce dizziness and increase blood flow to the head.

Mullein oil can be used as ear drops to help soothe infection.

Eat fresh pineapple to reduce inflammation. Include garlic, kelp and sea vegetables to your diet.

For ear wax buildup:

Use 1 part vinegar and one part warm water, place a dropper full in the ear and let it settle then drain. You can also use hydrogen peroxide. Repeat in the other ear and do 2-3x a day. If the wax is hard apply warm garlic oil to the ears instead for a few days. Make sure to flush out the ear with warm water.

For ear infection use a few drops of warm garlic oil to the ear.

Any hearing loss that does not resolve on its own in two weeks should be evaluated by an ENT.