In this article:
You’ve probably heard that liver health is crucial for thyroid health. The liver’s role in the body is to filter blood, store glucose for energy, and produce and secrete bile for fat digestion, it essentially helping with the removal of toxins, and it is necessary for converting T4 to the active hormone T3. But what happens when the liver is taxed and needs tender love and care? Can using castor oil packs help support both the liver and the thyroid?
The liver has two detoxification phases - phase 1 and phase 2. In phase 1, fat-soluble toxins undergo a process where they metabolize into smaller substances, making them easier to process. These include antibiotics, steroid hormones, and pharmaceuticals. In phase 2, those substances then undergo processes to “detoxify” and make them water soluble, making them able to be excreted via stool, sweat, or urine.
Sometimes, however, the liver can become overwhelmed by the influx of these additional toxins, and that is when it begins to affect its functionality (liver detoxification). Instead of it being properly excreted, it becomes stored in our fat, and that is where various symptoms begin to present themselves:
- Yellowish skin and eyes
- Abdominal pain
- Swelling in the abdomen, legs, and ankles
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine color
- Pale stool color
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Tendency to bruise easily
Because of how closely the liver and thyroid work together, if you’re experiencing symptoms of excess load on the liver, or a sluggish liver, then chances are your thyroid is also being impacted. If you suspect your liver might need attention, perhaps consider using a castor oil pack.
Castor oil has been used since the 16th century. The beans are believed to be 4,000 years old and originally found in Egyptian tombs. Castor oil has been used medicinally, most commonly as a cathartic treatment for constipation, in Egypt, India, China, Persia, Africa, Greece, Rome, and Southern Europe.
But what is organic castor oil? Castor oil is a cold-pressed liquid excreted from the bean of the Ricinus communis plant. The oil contains ricinoleic acid, which makes up 80–90% of total fatty acids. The topical use of castor oil has been shown to modulate white blood cell count, positively affecting liver function.
In a small study of participants experiencing fatigue, they used castor oil packs over the liver for 1.5 hours five days a week, over two weeks. During these two weeks, the average total lymphocyte count normalized and was lower than at the beginning of the study. An additional study from 1987 concluded that after using castor oil pack therapy, the immune systems of each volunteer showed an increase in lymphocyte count.
Supporting its use for constipation, which can tax the liver, a week-long study in Turkey in two elderly homes examined the effect of using castor oil packs to reduce the occurrence of constipation. While castor oil packs did not affect the number of bowel movements, they did help decrease the strain and difficulty in eliminating, decreased the feces consistency, and relieved feelings of complete evacuation after a bowel movement, thus decreasing symptoms of constipation.
Overall, it seems that with history on its side, castor oil has beneficial properties and benefits when used consistently.
Now that you know the why, here is the how. We recommend doing the packs at night, as it is quite relaxing.
- Castor Oil
- An old t-shirt or towel (something that you don’t mind getting stained)
- A heating pad or hot water bottle
1) Pour castor oil on the shirt/towel and place it over the liver (upper right stomach)
2) Place a heating pad or hot water bottle on top for up to an hour
3) Watch a movie, read a book, and rest while you’re wearing the pack
4) Afterward, wipe any excess oil off of your skin with a towel, and if you’re not going to bed right away, you can cleanse it gently with water and soap
You can reuse the same piece of clothing/towel. Start with once a week and slowly move up to 3-5 days a week, especially if you’re symptomatic.
While castor oil packs won’t be the end-all cure to symptoms you might be experiencing, they do make a wonderful addition to your overall wellness rituals. Remember that nutrition, sleep, stress management, community building, and time in nature all help to support your thyroid health.
If you feel your symptoms are not improving after consistently using a castor oil pack, reach out to a healthcare professional and work with them to find answers. We at Paloma Health utilize Eastern and Western medicine modalities to support our thyroid health patients. Schedule a session with one of our medical team members today to get started on your wellness journey.