Jamaican Black Castor Oil: what is it and why is it so special?
What is Jamaican black castor oil (AKA JBCO) and how is it different than other castor oils? Is it more potent like many people say?
JBCO is made from the beans or seeds of the castor plant (Ricinus communis), just like all other kinds of castor oil. The difference is in the processing method. While clear castor oil is pressed from fresh seeds, Jamaican black is made by first roasting those seeds and then pressing them (there’s a more detailed account of that below).
This might not seem like too big of a difference. However, it actually is on a few levels. First, the roasting process creates a small amount of ash. The ash tends to be more alkaline (higher) in pH- like lye but not to a caustic point. This higher pH can help to clarify the scalp and remove anything that may be clogging the pores.
Alkaline substances also open the cuticles, allowing the oil to get in and do its work. This is great for times when your hair might not be as thick as you’d like it to be.
The other level at play here is energetic. In general, castor oil is heavy, moist and neutral. JBCO is slightly warmer than clear castor oil and so is better suited for cold conditions, which tend to also be dry in nature. So, Jamaican black castor oil is more appropriate for:
- Dry skin
- Dry scalp with flaking
- To thicken hair
- To exfoliate scalp which helps to let the hair grow
Though the types of castor oil could be used interchangeably in a pinch, the two really do have specific indications based upon the processing method. Mostly people, including myself, use clear castor oil for Edgar Cayce-inspired medicinal packs and JBCO for hair treatments (how to do a castor oil hair treatment is at the end of this article).
There are three different ways to produce castor oil and they are listed below. This should help to clarify the differences between the JBCO and clear castor oil.
Three ways to extract the oil:
1) Cold pressed
2) Roasted and pressed
3) Solvent extraction
Jamaican black castor oil is made by a complex process of parching, beating and boiling the seeds before pressing for the oil whereas cold pressed is the pressing of the fresh, unroasted seeds. Solvent extracted castor oil uses hexane to extract the oil from the beans and should not be used for cosmetic or medicinal purposes. This is the castor oil used for industrial purposes only.
Three types of Castor Oil:
1) 100% Extra Virgin, Cold-Pressed
This castor oil is as pure as it gets. The seeds are pressed fresh as they have been since ancient times. The fixed oil is almost colorless when pure.
This castor oil has been pressed fresh and is then taken through the refinement process. Depending upon the brand, this could involve chemicals. Mountain Rose Herbs offers a refined castor oil that is processed without chemicals. Always be sure the brand is free from hexane, a chemical solvent commonly used to extract the oil from the beans. Refined might be used for a cosmetic preparation, like a cream, where the consistency is more suited. For medicinal uses, I go with unrefined.
3) Jamaican Black Castor Oil
JBCO is made in a traditional, hand-processed way where the seed is roasted, beaten with a mortar, boiled and then pressed. The roasting produces the black color and a richer, earthier aroma. If the castor oil is too dark, it has been over-roasted and is burnt. Burnt castor oil is more irritating and should be avoided. I like Tropical Isle Living’s Jamaican black castor oil.
Personally, I find the smell delightful! It is rich and earthy and I love that! Some people (probably more used to synthetic scents) seem put off by it but I invite you to embrace your wild self and see what you really think about it :)
To Use Castor Oil for Hair Growth and Conditioning…
This should be applied before bedtime twice per week and washed out in the morning. Either pure or Jamaican black castor oil can be used. Applied to the hair it reduces itchiness and supports growth.
- Warm castor oil slightly if desired to make it a thinner consistency that is easier to apply.
- Pour some castor oil into palm of hand and with other hand, apply throughout the scalp, focusing particularly on parts where hair is thin.
- Part hair in many ways to make sure the scalp is thoroughly coated. Castor oil can also be applied to hair, focusing on tips particularly.
- Cover head with shower cap and leave on overnight or for at least four hours.
- Wash out with a gentle soap-based shampoo unless your hair is really dry then you may not need the soap!
Here’s a really quick video where you can see what JBCO looks like:
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