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03.06.21

Palm oil gets all the fanfare when it comes to environmentally and ethically problematic ingredients. This reputation is well deserved – however there are many other ingredients that should be avoided that fly under the radar.

Today lets talk about castor oil, the “golden nectar of nausea”.

Castor oil has a long history as an ingredient in soap, skincare and industrial products. While in search of luxury ingredients for OOliva, there was something off putting about castor oil as it conjures images of punished children or stomach upset. Little did I know of the horrors of its use and the ethical and environmental dilemma of its manufacturing.

Italian fascists used castor oil to publicly humiliate their political opponents. The victims were held down and forced to drink large quantities of oil, which caused violent digestive trauma and severe dehydration. I’ll leave you to look up the details. Roberto Farinacci who was called “the castor oil man”, referred to castor oil as the “golden nectar of nausea”, and was particularly dedicated to the effects of this horrific torture.

Castor oil is in high demand because it has unique chemical properties that can be used in many industries but its most attractive quality is it its very low cost. Because of demand the castor seed plant is commonly genetically modified in order to increase the yield of desirable fatty acids. Genetically modified plants weaken ecosystems and deplete soils.

But Gina I use certified organic, non-GMO castor oil!

All castor beans contain a toxin called ricin. A few grains can kill an adult human and there is no antidote. Ricin is removed during the processing of castor oil but what happens to it? Castor beans are processed in parts of the world that lack strict environmental safety standards so the toxic waste ends up in water and landfills. As if that is not enough there are compounds on the surface of the plant that can cause nerve damage, putting the people that work to harvest the beans at great risk. Although the finished product is not harmful to your body, the means to get it to you are surely enough reason to avoid this it. There are many other oils with very similar qualities that should take its place in your skincare routine.

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