Health Guide

Castor oil

What is it?

Castor Oil is an herbal medicine used to treat constipation (hard time passing a bowel movement) and to cause vomiting (throwing up).

Other names for castor oil include: Oil of Palma Christi, Ricinus Oil, and Castor Bean Oil.

Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you need more information about this medicine or if any information in this leaflet concerns you.

Before Using:

Tell your doctor if you

  • are taking medicine or are allergic to any medicine (prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) or dietary supplement)
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medicine
  • are breastfeeding
  • have other health problems, such as high blood pressure or heart or blood vessel disease


Talk with your caregiver about how much castor oil you should take. The amount depends on the strength of the medicine and the reason you are taking castor oil. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the medicine bottle. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to.

To store this medicine:

Keep all medicine locked up and away from children. Store medicine away from heat and direct light. Do not store your medicine in the bathroom, near the kitchen sink, or in other damp places. Heat or moisture may cause the medicine to break down and not work the way it should work. Throw away medicine that is out of date or that you do not need. Never share your medicine with others.

Drug and Food Interactions:

Do not take castor oil without talking to your doctor first if you are taking:

  • Droperidol (Inapsine) (8)
  • Levomethadyl (Orlaam) (9)


  • Before taking castor oil, tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Do not take castor oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding (1,3)
  • Do not take castor oil if you have stomach pain and do not know why (3)
  • Do not take castor oil if you have an intestinal (bowel) blockage (obstruction) (3)
  • Do not take castor oil if you have appendicitis or bloody bowel movements (1)
  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluids (like water) daily while taking castor oil (1)
  • Using castor oil too often can cause dehydration (loss of body fluid) (1)

Side Effects:

Call your doctor right away if you have any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hand, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing, or rash.

Other Side Effects:

You may have the following side effects, but this medicine may also cause other side effects. Tell your doctor if you have side effects that you think are caused by this medicine.

  • Blistering, irritation, itching, or reddening of skin (with use of skin products that contain castor oil such as cosmetics and moisturizers) (10,11)
  • Fainting (passing out) and dizziness (4)
  • Nausea (upset stomach), vomiting (throwing up), and belly pain (1,4)


1. Fetrow CW & Avila JR: Complementary and Alternative Medicines. Springhouse Co, Springhouse, PA; 1999.

2. Product Information: Fleet Flavored Castor Oil(R), castor oil. Fleet, Lynchbury, VA; 1991.

3. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R et al (eds): American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL; 1997.

4. Dodds WJ, Scanlon GT, Shaw DK et al: An evaluation of colon cleansing regimens. AJR 1977; 128:57-59.

5. Fleischer N, Brown H, Graham DY et al: Chronic laxative-induced hyperaldosteronism and hypokalemia simulating Bartter's syndrome. Ann Intern Med 1969; 70:791-798.

6. Benitz WE & Tatro DS: The Pediatric Drug Handbook, 2nd ed. Year Book Medical Publishers, Chicago, IL; 1988.

7. Curry CE Jr & Tatum-Butler D: Laxative products. In: Feldmann EG (ed): Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs, 9th ed. American Pharmaceutical Association, Washington, DC; 1990.

8. Product Information: Inapsine(R), droperidol. Akorn, Inc., Decatur, IL, 12/2001.

9. Product Information: Orlaam(R), levomethadyl. Roxane Laboratories, Inc., Columbus, Ohio, 5/2001.

10. Fisher AA: Allergic cheilitis due to castor oil in lipsticks. Cutis 1991; 47:389-390.

11. Fisher LB & Berman B: Contact allergy to sulfonated castor oil. Contact Dermatitis 1981; 7(6):339-340.

Last Updated: 7/4/2018
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