The use of castor oil as a laxative has a long history going back thousands of years. It is still used today despite the plethora of more modern laxatives on the market, as it is known to be very effective. Castor oil is a stimulant laxative which means it increases the movement in the intestines which aids in the removal of the stool. There are side effects related mostly to castor oil overdose so the dosage must be carefully measured.
There are several different types of laxatives which work in different ways. Some are bulk-forming, others work by softening the stool by drawing water from body tissue. Lubricants coat the bowel and stool with a waterproof film which then makes the passing of waste easier. Furthermore, it cleanses the colon and intestines, making it useful as a laxative before surgery or a bowel examination.
When used in proper dosages and within a certain time frame, castor oil is considered a safe and effective laxative. It is often used as a self-treatment but should always be used carefully and by following the directions. Using castor oil as a laxative over too long a period of time may lead to side effects such as fluid and electrolyte loss which if chronic, could lead to kidney problems. It is not advisable to use a castor oil laxative for more than seven to ten days. If too much is taken, then side effects include abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
Pregnant women who are not ready to give birth are advised against using castor oil as a laxative as it can cause uterine contractions. It may actually be used to induce labor in some cases. Some people prefer to take castor oil before they go to sleep at night, while others prefer to take it early in the morning as the laxative effect is not always predictable. It may take a few hours to to a day or two be effective. It can be taken by itself, but because of its bitter taste, it can also be mixed with honey or juice. Using castor oil as a laxative is more effective when taken on an empty stomach which is another reason why many people prefer to take it in the morning.