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Experts say castor oil could be deadly

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Claim: A Facebook user, Nomthandazo Mokoena, shared a reel that castor oil is deadly. 

Experts say castor oil could be deadly

Verdict: Mostly True. Available medical studies revealed that castor oil could be deadly depending on the individual immunity system. However, it could be medicinal for skin care as well.

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Castor oil is a thick, odourless oil made from the seeds of the castor plant. It is obtained by pressing the seeds of the castor oil plant (Ricinus communis L), mainly cultivated in Africa, South America, and India. Its use dates back to ancient Egypt, where it was likely used as fuel for lamps and other medicinal and beauty purposes. Today, most is produced in India.

A Facebook user, Nomthandazo Mokoena, shared a one-minute reel claiming castor oil is deadly. As of the time of verifying on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2024, the post had garnered 583k views, 1.5k reactions, and 257 comments on the reel. Some users appear to believe the assertion  with commentator Gobusamang Kenneth, saying: “I will never in my life.”

However, another user, Willie Erving, said, ‘’Two spoons of Castor oil in hot tea or coffee was to get rid of a cold. It really works.’’

In his own opinion, a Facebook user, Maina Gakuru, recommended a tablespoon every 8 hours for three days. “Over and above, that can really upset your stomach.”

The nature of the assertion and its potential to negatively impact public health made DUBAWA verify it.


Castor oil could be considered deadly when consumed in large amounts due to toxicity and allergic reactions that can occur. According to MD Anderson Cancer Centre, ingesting large amounts of castor oil can lead to adverse effects such as diarrhoea, cramping and dehydration. Furthermore, topical application of castor oil may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals.

The Cancer Centre submitted that castor oil works as a laxative by stimulating nerves in the gastrointestinal tract and increasing intestinal secretions. This allows food to pass through the intestines more quickly while it can help relieve constipation. Castor oil should only be used for short-term relief under medical supervision.

Similarly, a Literature review by WebMD stated that castor oil is unhealthy for human consumption and may be deadly. However, some of the usefulness of castor oil is also highlighted in hair growth. Some people use castor oil as a hair conditioner or treatment to promote hair growth and thickness. Massaging castor oil into the scalp may improve hair health for some individuals.

Despite the benefits, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional before using castor oil for medicinal purposes.

Experts Opinions

DUBAWA researcher spoke to Dr Olutoyin Olajide of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to confirm if castor oil is deadly.

Dr Olajide said due to the strong component of the oil, it is not safe; it is deadly when used in large quantities. She said that when used excessively on the skin, it could result in nausea and rash.

‘’Yes, it is not good for intake. Its adverse effect is enormous; I don’t recommend it for intake,” Dr Olajide said.

Similarly, a public health physician at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife, Dr Mercy Adeyemi, explained that she can not recommend castor oil intake as it could be dangerous and deadly considering the oil component.         

Dr Adeyemi highlighted that although the natural plant helps moisturise the skin and boost the immune system, it must be taken on the instruction of medical personnel.


Medical professionals say castor oil intake may lead to death, depending on an individual’s immunity, excessive usage, and allergies.

The researcher produced this fact-check for the DUBAWA 2024 Kwame KariKari Fellowship, in partnership with Olufisoye Adenitan, FRCN positive fm Akure Ondo state Nigeria, to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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