TikTok Craze for Castor Oil Is Dangerous, Eye Experts Say

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Aug. 7, 2023 – Cleopatra used castor oil to keep her hair shiny, and its medicinal laxative properties are well documented. But eye health experts are speaking out to debunk the latest TikTok claims that castor oil can cure eye ailments.

The hashtag #castoroilforeyesight has accumulated 3.7 million views on TikTok. Videos depict people rubbing the oil on their eyelids and around their eyes. Claims include vision improvement, such as no longer needing eyeglasses, curing glaucoma, or eliminating floaters, which are spots or stringy appearances in eyesight.

“We just can’t make a recommendation for something that has very little evidence behind it,” Ashley Brissette, MD, MSc, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, told NBC News. “Castor oil is not a cure-all. If you have concerns about your eyes, you need to see an ophthalmologist.”

Castor oil made a comeback in the beauty arena back in 2019 amid a lot of interest in oils used for beauty and in the diet, according to The Washington Post. Actress Charlize Theron used it on her eyebrows and her hair, the Post reported at the time.

Castor oil has been used for more than 1,000 years in applications ranging from industrial to medicinal to beauty. It comes from the seeds of the castor oil plant, which is native to India but is now grown commercially and ornamentally in other parts of the world, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison horticulture department. The seeds contain pure castor oil, which is used in products ranging from motor oil and soap to ink and plastic. Separate from the oil, the castor plant seeds also contain ricin, one of the deadliest natural poisons in the world.

Some over-the-counter eye drops contain castor oil, NBC News reported, but experts said those products are specifically made to be used in the eye and have limited research showing the oil helps with dry eyes or inflammation. Many of the claims are impossible to achieve by using a topical oil, experts said. Directly applying castor oil that may contain preservatives, dyes or fragrances could instead cause eye problems like irritation or infection.