||Meridian Institute News
RESEARCHING THE SPIRIT-MIND-BODY CONNECTION
The standard (although somewhat outdated) medical role
of castor oil is that of a powerful laxative administered by mouth to cleanse
the intestinal tract prior to medical procedures. Citing the severity
of this application, Edgar Cayce seldom recommended the ingestion of castor
oil. However, the Cayce readings often prescribed hot abdominal castor
oil packs for a variety of conditions to improve eliminations and break
up abdominal adhesions.
With the current high level of interest in transdermal
patches to deliver drugs across the skin, the concept of external applications
for delivery of medicinal substances is becoming widely accepted. With
this in mind, Meridian Institute has begun a program to investigate how
castor oil packs work and whether a more modern (i.e., less messy) mode
of application is practical.
To this end, we have sought to identify a physiologic
mechanism by which externally applied castor oil has a therapeutic effect.
At a practical level, understanding how castor oil is metabolized in the
body could help provide guidelines for basic parameters such as optimal
heat, ideal session length, etc.
The study that we conducted to investigate the transdermal
application of castor oil produced some puzzling results, as described
Although researchers have developed techniques for
measuring the amount of castor oil absorbed into the system when it is
taken orally, we have found no studies that have quantified the absorption
levels for externally applied castor oil. Thus, we believe our study
is the first attempt to measure the absorption of castor oil administered
through the skin.
A previous study done by Hagenfeldt et al. (Clinica
Chimica Acta, Vol. 161, 1986) provided a conceptual framework for our research
design. In the Hagenfeldt et al. study, castor oil was administered
orally to three healthy volunteers. Urine was collected for several
hours and analyzed using capillary gas chromatography. The spectral
analysis revealed elevated levels of the products of breakdown of castor
oil by the liver (specific epoxydicarboxylic acids that are normally found
in urine in very small amounts). Thus, the presence of high levels
of these acids is evidence for absorption and metabolism of orally administered
Using the data and conceptual model from the Hagenfeldt
et al. study, we designed a study that included both oral and external
(abdominal pack) administration of castor oil. By comparing the levels
of the epoxydicarboxylic acids in the urine following external and oral
applications, we hoped to be able to reliably quantify the level of absorption
of the oil through the skin.
Three Meridian Institute volunteers collected urine
samples before, during, and after a three-day series of abdominal castor
oil packs. The next week the procedure was repeated. During
a one-week wash out period, urine samples were collected to determine a
clearance rate for the acids. One of the subjects used only the castor
oil pack (no heat), one subject used medium heat, and one subject used
high heat. We hypothesized that the increase in heat would result
in greater absorption and metabolism of the castor oil.
The second stage of the project involved oral administration
of castor oil for comparison with the external application. Before
and after urine samples were collected for oral administration of 2.5 cc
of castor oil. A week later the procedure was repeated using 15 cc
of castor oil.
For the oral administration of castor oil in either
of the two amounts, there was a high level of excretion of the epoxydicarboxylic
acids in all the subjects. These results were similar to the Hagenfeldt
et al. study.
In contrast, the level of urinary epoxydicarboxylic
acids in the external application (abdominal pack) sessions did not vary
greatly from the relatively low levels of these molecules normally present
at baseline. The amount of heat used did not affect the outcome.
If the castor oil was absorbed through the skin and metabolized in the
system, it did not have the effect of increasing the excretion of the specific
epoxydicarboxylic acids that we measured.
To confirm our findings, we repeated the study with
some refinements. We used a different lab to assure that the results
were not due to analytic techniques. The highest level heating pads
were used for all sessions with the idea that this would increase absorption
of the castor oil. Prior to and during the sessions, subjects avoided
ingesting oils (such as olive oil) that might affect the endogenous level
of urinary epoxydicarboxylic acids.
The findings of the repeated study were essentially
the same as the first study. Castor oil taken orally significantly
elevates the levels of urinary epoxydicarboxylic acids. External
application has no noticeable effects on the urinary excretion of these
Considering how permeable the skin is to a wide range
of substances, it would be truly amazing if no significant amounts of castor
oil were absorbed after an hour and a half of contact with high heat. Yet
we were unable to show this based on measuring the specific chemicals produced
in the liver and excreted in the urine, which are very evident when castor
oil is taken orally.
To help clarify our findings and give us clues as
to how to proceed with the next phase of investigation, we contacted the
International Castor Oil Association and several of its members requesting
data or insights into the possible transdermal properties of castor oil.
So far we have not received any useful suggestions for the further exploration
of how castor oil is absorbed through the skin and metabolized in the system.
One possibility for further inquiry is to see if
ricinoleic acid, the major component of castor oil, is found in the blood
immediately after the application of a castor oil pack. If it is not, then
apparently the castor oil does not cross the skin barrier.
If it is found in the blood, but the breakdown products
are not found in the urine in appreciable amounts (as we have already determined),
then it may be metabolized in a way not yet understood. This could offer
significant opportunities for further research on the metabolism of castor
oil and its relation to healing.
Dr. William McGarey has provided an alternative explanation for how
castor oil is assimilated from an abdominal pack. In his book The
Oil That Heals, McGarey rhetorically asks, "Is it really vibration, then,
that carries the healing nature of castor oil into the body ...?" If this
is the case, the question naturally arises as to how one measures the vibratory
effects of a castor oil pack.
A formal report of the methods and data of the castor
oil study discussed in this article can be found on the Meridian Institute
Researchers at the Weizmann Institute in New York
have discovered a special protein (importin beta) that could be the key
to understanding peripheral nerve regeneration. Peripheral nerves,
which are found outside the brain and spinal cord, are capable of regeneration,
albeit slowly and poorly. The findings, published in the journal
Neuron (Vol 40, 1095-1104), may lead to effective treatment of nerve damage
that is currently irreversible in both the peripheral and central nervous
The importin beta protein is usually found near the
nerve cell nucleus rather than along the long axon fiber that is especially
vulnerable to injury. Importin beta and its sister molecule importin
alpha facilitate the entry of chemicals into the nucleus.
This study is the first to recognize that importin
beta is produced at the site of axon damage where it binds with importin
alpha (which is commonly found along the axon) and other proteins.
The protein complex moves along the axon fiber to the cell nucleus.
The protein complex easily penetrates the nucleus membrane (due to the
presence of importin alpha and beta). When the researchers blocked
the entry of the protein complex into the nucleus, nerve cell regeneration
Understanding how the body transfers substances within the peripheral
nervous system could lead to future technologies that can introduce therapeutic
agents into the brain and spinal cord. Perhaps this sort of process
is facilitated by the energy medicine devices recommended in the Cayce
FOR DIABETIC NEUROPATHY
Edgar Cayce's therapeutic recommendations often relied
on physiotherapy devices utilizing vibration and various types of energy
(including infrared light). Two new appliances based on similar technology
have attracted attention for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy.
As diabetes progresses, nerve degeneration in the
feet is a common complication that can lead to foot ulceration and, in
severe cases, amputation. Two recent studies published in the journal
Diabetes Care propose novel devices for addressing this serious problem.
The December 2003 issue featured an article titled
"Enhancing Sensation in Diabetic Neuropathic Foot With Mechanical Noise."
The study of 20 people with diabetes-related nerve damage, found that exposing
patients' bare feet to specially designed vibrating insoles improved sensation
in the sole of the foot.
The January 2004 issue includes a study documenting
the efficacy of Anodyne Therapy System (ATS), a form of mild infrared therapy.
The article titled "Restoration of Sensation, Reduced Pain, and Improved
Balance in Subjects With Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy" is based on results
involving 27 diabetes patients who experienced restored sensation, reduced
pain, and improved balance. The ATS is thought to increase blood flow by
dilating blood vessels.