ScarWork at Home… Castor Oil Packs
My ScarWork clients often ask me: ‘Is there anything I can do at home between sessions to boost my results?’ I love this question because it signals an active commitment to healing and because the answer is ‘YES!’
Several pieces of self-care ‘homework’ are easy to complete on your own that augment the therapeutic impact of ScarWork. They not only assist me in applying the specific techniques of ScarWork during your sessions by helping to soften the tissues we’re working on but can also create a release, healing and spaciousness for you between appointments.
One of the most useful and therapeutic self-care tools I recommend is castor oil packs. Some people have terrible memories of spoonfuls of weird, smelly, viscous castor oil given to them as children to ‘help their bowels’. Indeed, it works internally as a strong, purgative laxative. Women who’ve had children may have been advised by their midwife or doula to take a dose of castor oil to stimulate labour, a traditional ‘old wives’ tale’ that does hold strong, even if there’s no formal evidence to support its continued use.
But applied topically to the skin using specific techniques, like a ‘pack’, castor oil can work gentle magic over time, helping to soften scar tissue and ‘break up’ and detach adhesions by penetrating below the skin’s surface and having what appears to be significant wound healing, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. A castor oil pack can also be a mindful, nurturing health care ritual that provides warmth, comfort, and relief. It’s a great opportunity to chill out, focus on your healing and cosy up with your favourite book, film or TV series, a wonderful ‘me time’ activity that adds a new dimension to your scar healing. You can even listen to a guided meditation or affirmation track while you’re ‘packing’.
Only good things can be said for the castor oil pack!
The active component of castor oil that seems to be responsible for its anti-inflammatory pain-relieving and scar tissue softening effects is ricinoleic acid, a unique omega 9 fatty acid. It’s often extracted and concentrated from castor oil in specific scar softening products in the cosmetic industry.
Specific to soften and release scars, applying a castor oil pack 3 or more times per week for at least an hour is ideal. There are a few different methods for applying these packs, some involving cloths or flannels saturated in the oil, but I have found these methods messy and wasteful, also learning the hard way that castor oil stains! I prefer the method below, which uses far less castor oil and incorporates some self-massage:
- Castor oil (preferably organic and hexane-free), which you can purchase at my studio or online HERE
- A large woollen or cotton flannel cloth, which you can purchase at my studio or online HERE
- Kitchen wrap (e.g. Glad Wrap)
- A hot water bottle and cover OR an electric heat pad
- Old clothes (that you don’t mind staining!)
1. Set up your ‘pack’ space – where you can lie back and relax for at least an hour. Remember that castor oil stains, so you will want to drape your couch, bed or floor in old, soft towels to catch any spills or drips.
2. Wearing old, comfy, loose clothes that are OK to stain, take 1-2 tablespoons of castor oil and apply it to and around your scar or adhesion area with warm hands. Take the time to gently work the oil into your skin, using a little more if you find it absorbs too quickly. You want a thin layer of oil coating the area before applying the flannel.
3. Cover the area with your flannel and smooth it out across your skin.
4. Using the kitchen wrap, secure the flannel to your body using several rounds of the wrap.
5. Lie back, relax and apply your heat source (hot water bottle or heating pad) to your pack, which will help the oil penetrate the skin and do its work on the deeper layers of scar tissue.
6. After at least an hour, remove the pack and wipe your skin dry with an old towel. You may even like to follow your pack with a warm bath or shower if you have the time.
7. You can store your oily flannel in a zip lock bag and reuse it up to 30 times before you’ll need to wash it.
I’ve found that clients who incorporate castor oil packs into their scar healing regime tend to develop a softening and pliability to their scar tissue, which enables ScarWork sessions to shift and work with the tissue more effectively, creating faster and more complete results.
If you have any questions about castor or oil packs or need help sourcing supplies for them, please don’t hesitate to reach out.