Can Castor Oil Help You Lose Weight? The Answer Is Messy

Castor oil is a hot topic on TikTok. Made from castor beans, the vegetable oil is commonly used in the creation of lubricants, soaps, and other skincare products (per Lipid Insights). Yet some TikTokers claim that castor oil can alternatively help with weight loss, with some content creators stating they've seen significant results through topical application of the oil on their stomach (via TikTok).

This idea may have partially been born from the fact that castor oil is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a laxative that can be particularly beneficial for those with chronic idiopathic constipation, according to 2022 updated research published in StatPearls. Experts at MD Anderson Cancer Center say that the ricinoleic in castor oil helps alleviate constipation by activating nerves and boosting secretions within the gastrointestinal tract. This is one viral trend you'll want to skip, however. Not only is there no scientific evidence suggesting castor oil promotes weight loss, but some experts say using it in this way can have harmful outcomes. "I'll be honest: In all my years of practice, I've never recommended it to anyone," family medicine physician Dr. Kevin Hopkins told the Cleveland Clinic.

What are the risks of consuming or applying castor oil to the body?

While castor oil may be suggested as a short-term treatment method for some patients with constipation, it comes with a number of side effects (via StatPearls). For this reason, the majority of doctors now opt for newer laxative medications. While olive oil or avocado oil are considered edible oils, castor oil does not fall into this category. Cleveland Clinic experts explain that consuming castor oil can make a person susceptible to severe dehydration, as the vegetable oil may prompt bloating, vomiting, extreme intestinal cramps, or explosive diarrhea. Yeah, we weren't joking when we said the answer was messy ...

Topical application of castor oil may sound like a safer bet, but this, too, can come with risks. Whether rubbing it directly onto your abdomen or securing a castor-oil soaked cloth on your stomach (called a castor oil pack), both methods can lead to rashes, skin irritation, or allergic reactions including contact dermatitis. Despite what TikTok may say, you don't want to use castor oil as a means to promote weight loss or as a DIY treatment for any other health ailments. Rather, it should only be used if recommended by your doctor.

Consult with your doctor about safe weight loss strategies

Rather than turning to castor oil — or any other social media hacks promising overnight results — consult with a doctor or registered dietitian to develop a personalized treatment plan for overweight or obesity that is safe and best supports your unique needs. Mayo Clinic experts suggest establishing a support system prior to making any significant life changes. This may consist of friends, healthcare providers, or a support group.

When implemented most days of the week, sustained aerobic exercise, such as a 30-minute brisk walk, can be effective for weight loss. If taking a lap or two around your neighborhood on a regular basis sounds like something you'd be interested in trying, here are some mistakes to avoid when starting a walking routine. In addition to getting regular physical activity, reducing one's sugar intake, opting for low-fat dairy products, and aiming for four or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day are a few healthy eating habits that can further support your weight loss objectives. When it comes to the specific targets you're setting, try to avoid resolutions that are solely results-oriented. Aiming to walk 1 mile each day is an ambition that can better set a person up for long-term success rather than setting a goal weight to reach.