Castor Oil

From London's Ghost Acres

Used in soap-making.

Database name: Oil Castor, Castor

Castor oil is a vegetable oil that has been pressed out of the seeds of the castor oil plant, and can be used as a replacement for Castor/Castoreum (the scent gland of beavers). Castor oil is used in the manufacturing of soaps, lubricants, paints, dyes, inks, waxes, pharmaceuticals, and perfumes. (

Castor oil is a purgative that was favoured by the Compendium because of its consistent success when administered. It was a common purgative to be given to children during the onset of diseases such as cow pox, or hooping-cough.

British Pharmacopoeia 1867

Castor is the genus name for Beaver, and the common name for Castoreum. It is not the same as Castor oil, but the two will be recorded here because I have to figure this out. Most likely, items that do not specify that they are “Castor oil” are actually made from the beaver Castor(eum).

Castor is a scent gland in beavers, and tinctures of castor are used in medicine, food, and perfumes.

Castor Castoreum

“The dried preputial follicles and their secretion, obtained from the Beaver, Castor Fiber…, and separated from the somewhat shorter amd smaller oilsacs which are frequently attached to them. From the Hudson’s Bay Territory.”[1]

Characteristics “Follicles in pairs, about three inches long, figshaped, firm, and heavy, brown or greyish-black; containing a dry resinous reddish-brown or brown highly odourous secretion, in great part soluble in rectified spirit, and in ether.” It is often given in the dose of 5-10 grains and used in the preparations of:[2]

  • Tinctura Castorei

Preparations of Castor and Castor Oil

Felxible Collodion / Collodium Flexile [3]

  • Collodion (6 fl oz), Canada Balsam (120 grains), and castor oil (1 fl drachm) mixed together

Compound Liniment of Mustard / Linimentum Sinapis Compositum [4]

  • Oil of mustard (1 fl drachm), ethereal extract of mezereon (40 grains), camphor (120 grains), castor oil (5 fl drachms), rectified spirit (4 fl oz)

Compound Pill pf Subchloride of Mercury / Pilula Hydrargyri Subchloridi Composita [5]

  • syn: pilula calomelanos composite, 1864
  • subchloride of mercury (1 oz), sulphurate of antimony (1 oz), guaiacum resin, in powder (2 oz), castor oil (1 fl ozish)
  • given in dosage of 5-10 grains

Tincture of Castor / Tinctura Castorei [6]

  • castor in coarse powder (1 oz), and rectified spirit (1 pint)
  • dose: ½ - 1 fl drachm

A Compendium of Domestic Medicine, 1865

Castor Oil can be used to treat patients suffering from painter’s colic, the Devonshire colic, dry belly-ache (it is more effective in this disease when combined with opium or other narcotics, without altering castor oil’s purgative properties), removing calculus or stones, and sometimes tape worms. The use of castor oil can sometimes induce vomiting, but Savory indicates that the inclusion of an aromatic can help prevent this. [7]

“Upon the whole, castor oil is a purgative of great value, and one whose operation, as it is in daily use, should be well understood.” [8]

Castor oil is to be administered as part of the treatment of poisoning from preparations of lead [9]

Remedies Containing or to be used with Castor Oil

  • Assafoetida: Tincture of castor is included in an anti-hysteric mixture [10]
  • Castor Oil: aperient, used to evacuate the bowels, and causes little discomfort in patients suffering from inflammation or spasms.[11] It is especially suited for children, women (during pregnancy), and infants. Castor oil is included in a draught used as an example by Savory [12]
  • Ether, Rectified: ether is given as part of an enema to a patient suffering from worms, after the enema is administered, the patient takes a dose of castor oil. “The worms are thus first destroyed, and afterwards expelled.”[13]
  • Kousso: Castor oil can be used after Kousso has been given to treat tapeworm to encourage the operation of the medication and of the bowels.[14] Castor oil is also used in preparing for the treatment [15]
  • Manna: combined with castor oil. Manna is a safe and mild purgative on its own, but it often combined with other purgatives like castor oil to cover their taste[16]
  • Pomegranate Bark: castor oil is used in a treatment for tape worm. After a decoction of pomegranate bark is taken, and has yet to be effective, a dose of castor oil is given to assist in expelling the worm[17]
  • Spirit of Turpentine: castor oil is used in the treatment for tape-worm. Castor oil is only given if the first to dosages of spirit of turpentine do not dislodge the worm.[18]
  • Syrup of Violets: occasionally combined with castor oil to provide better relief. Syrup of violets is used as a laxative for infants, although Savory indicates that its use is not common in England (perhaps more favoured on Continent?)[19]
  • Tincture of Castor: made from the same plant/beans as castor oil? Used as a stimulant and antispasmodic, often used in cases of hysteria. Tincture of castor is included in a Castor Draught.[20]
  • Water, Cordial Peppermint: can be used to cover the taste of castor oil. On its own peppermint can also be used to treat stomach ailments due to its “carminative and antispasmodic qualities”[21]

Diseases Treated with Castor Oil

General Diseases

  • Asthma: if the bowels are “confined” during a fit of asthma, Savory recommends the use of castor oil or other purgatives to relieve the patient.[22]
  • Costiveness, or Constipation: mild purgatives like castor oil or manna are recommended to treat costiveness, along with the adoption of a diet that contains foods that have laxative qualities.[23]
  • Gravel and stone: laxative medications like castor oil should be given during a fit of gravel [24]
  • Piles, or Haemorrhoids: castor oil can be one of the laxatives administered to alleviate piles/haemorrhoids that result from constipation.[25]
  • Rheumatism: castor oil can be used (along with other laxatives) to evacuate the bowels when treating acute rheumatism. Once to bowels have been cleared, treatment focused on the relief of rheumatic pain can begin.[26]

Infantile Diseases

  • Apthous Ulceration, or Thrush: “when the bowels are merely costive, a dose of castor oil will be sufficient for this purpose.”[27]
  • Infantile Costiveness: “The most proper cathartic medicine for children is castor oil or magnesia.”[28]
  • Cow Pox: Once the pock marks begin to heal, castor oil (or other mild purgatives) will need to be administered. Savory does indicate why this is necessary.[29]
  • Diarrhoea: Castor oil should be given if diarrhoea is a result of overeating, worms, teething, eating unripe fruit, drinking sour or acidic drinks, or cutaneous eruptions (rash).[30]
  • Hooping or Chincough: at the beginning of the disease, castor oil should be given occasionally, to ensure the bowels are opened daily.[31]
  • Weaning (306/285): castor oil and other mild laxatives may be given to an infant that has stomach issues arising from weaning and not properly digesting foods.[32]

Prescriptions Containing Castor Oil

Aperients and Cathartics

  • Aperient Draught: tincture or castor, used in treating colic from lead.[33]
  • Aperient Oil Draught: castor oil[34]


  • Note from N. B.: “anthelminics should be given on empty stomach, and should be followed up, after the interval of an hour, by a full dose of castor oil.”[35]


  • Anti-Hysteric Draught: tincture of castor[36]
  • Antispasmodic Draught for Spasm of the Stomach arising from Flatulence (Another): tincture of castor[37]


  • Stomach Mixture (Another): tincture of castor[38]


  • Emmenagogue and Antispasmodic mixture: tincture of castor[39]


  1. General Medical Council of Great Britain, British Pharmacopeia, (London: Spottiswoode & Co.,1867), 73
  2. GMCGB, 73
  3. GMCGB, 86
  4. GMCGB, 175
  5. GMCGB, 238
  6. GMCGB, 325
  7. Savory, John. A Compendium of Domestic Medicine (London: John Churchill and Sons, 1865), 42.
  8. Savory, 42-43
  9. Savory, 178
  10. Savory, 23
  11. Savory, 42
  12. Savory, 43
  13. Savory, 59
  14. Savory, 90
  15. Savory, 91
  16. Savory, 101
  17. Savory, 120
  18. Savory, 143
  19. Savory, 150
  20. Savory, 157
  21. Savory, 168
  22. Savory, 208
  23. Savory, 225
  24. Savory, 236
  25. Savory, 248
  26. Savory, 251
  27. Savory, 266
  28. Savory, 269
  29. Savory, 270
  30. Savory, 271
  31. Savory, 274
  32. Savory, 285
  33. Savory, 312
  34. Savory, 32312
  35. Savory, 316
  36. Savory, 316
  37. Savory, 317
  38. Savory, 469
  39. Savory, 328

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