Castor Oil

Castor oil is great.

It is a safe aperient and works quickly. If you don’t know what aperient means, go and buy some castor oil and drink the whole bottle. It will then become apparent what aperient means.

According to my Victorian book it will “cleanse the bowels without leaving any tendency to constipation”. In the same way that drain cleaner won’t make your drains block.

To most, Castor oil is “disagreeable”. It tastes hideous. So the Victorians disguised it by mixing it with… well anything. Put two tablespoons of castor oil in any drink or meal.

If you are brave, simply eat some orange or lemon peel just before you drink the castor oil. If you are really brave, just swig away.

French Victorians (or should we call them Napolean-the-third-ians – abbrev. Nt3s) used to disguise castor oil and feed it to their children by heating some in a pan and then breaking an egg into it. Give it a stir and then add some salt or sugar. Then mix in some currant jelly and feed to the sick child. It’s a bit like not knowing whether you fancy an egg sandwich or a jam sandwich and then deciding to have both at the same time – mixed with castor oil.

A quick wiki search will tell you that castor oil is used in soaps, lubricants, hydraulic and brake fluids, paints, dyes, coatings, inks, cold resistant plastics, waxes and polishes, nylon, pharmaceuticals and perfumes.

The castor bean (from which the oil comes) also contains ricin, which is great for killing people.

Castor oil, though, is perfectly safe.

As we first read, castor oil is good for cleaning out bowels. When your bowels are blocked it is called costiveness (more commonly known as constipation). The reason for its appearance can be described as thus: the sparse use of foods which promote the action of the bowels.

Before turning to castor oil, water is the best remedy for costiveness. If you had been drinking enough water in the first place you probably wouldn’t have become costive. The Victorians felt that exercise, fluids and a good diet were the best preventative medicine for costiveness – and they still are.

Here is a sentence (from my Victorian book) you might struggle to understand if the context was not known:

“If a stool is desired, the patient must earnestly practise the necessary gymnastic.”

In a bar, this might mean something different. In the context of a costive remedy, it means exercise, you couch potato, because your bowels work better if you move.

If you don’t want to drink water or castor oil and like sitting still all day, the Victorians recommend injecting half a pint of warm water up your anus to help dilute the faeces (be careful when researching this on the Internet. Using the words “injecting”, “anus” and “faeces” on Google may bring surprising results – statistically, at least 25%* of you will go and type these in to Google just to see what comes up).

Other remedies for costiveness are the dyspeptic pill (which you can make yourself) and one or two of the following:

Powdered aloes, jalap, extract of gentian, mandrake, cayenne pepper, castille soap, oil of peppermint. Apparently, sulphur is good if you have a tendency for piles. Be careful with the mandrakes though.

Castor oil is not looking quite so bad now.

* I made this statistic up.

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About Jasen Quick

Author, historian, tutor.
This entry was posted in Victorian Instruction Manual and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Castor Oil

  1. Castor oil has been suggested as a lubricant for bicycle pumps because it does not degrade natural rubber seals.

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