Doctors warn against putting castor oil in eyes – NBC Dallas (39)

Castor oil has long been considered an all-purpose home remedy, used as a laxative, moisturizer, and to relieve lung congestion. Now, some people on TikTok claim they use castor oil to treat vision problems.

Doctors warn it’s a way to damage the eyes.

Dozens of videos with millions of views show people rubbing castor oil on the lids, eyelashes and under the eyes to help with dryness, floaters, cataracts, poor vision and even glaucoma.

Castor oil is a vegetable oil obtained by pressing the seeds of the plant. It has been used in traditional and popular medicine for thousands of years to treat everything from bronchitis to skin infections.

It is considered a safe laxative, but castor oil is no longer widely used due to its potentially serious side effects, such as vomiting and dizziness.

But that hasn’t stopped TikTokers from promoting it. One woman insisted that after using it for two weeks, she no longer needed to wear reading glasses as often because the castor oil helped her vision. Another claim that it helps prevent eye infections and combat floaters, the gel-like fluid that casts shadows on the retina.

Castor oil’s moisturizing properties have made it a common ingredient in over-the-counter eye drops. However, doctors say these products are specifically formulated and tested to treat dry eye. The castor oil bottles on store shelves are not intended for use in the eyes and may contain preservatives, dyes, fragrances, or other ingredients that may cause irritation or infection.

Limited research suggests that eye drops formulated with a low-concentration castor oil blend help fight dry eyes and blepharitis, or inflammation of the eyelids. But experts say the studies were of low quality, with small sample sizes and no control groups.

“We can’t make recommendations on something that lacks evidence,” said Dr. Ashley Brissett, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and an assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. “Castor oil is not a panacea. If you’re concerned about your eye, you should see an ophthalmologist.”

What Castor Oil Does and Can’t Do for Eye Health

Castor oil has no effect on cataracts, an age-related condition that causes cloudy vision, floaters or glaucoma, which occurs when fluid builds up and damages the optic nerve, says Vicki Chan, MD, a practicing ophthalmologist in Los Angeles.

“These things happen inside the eyeball,” Chen explains, “so even if you put a drop of castor oil in the eye, it won’t penetrate, dissolve, or repair anything.”

However, according to Brissett, castor oil is a great moisturizer. It contains ricinoleic acid (a fatty acid that prevents moisture loss from the skin), which is why soaps, cosmetics, and lotions contain ricinoleic acid.

So if castor oil gets into the eyes, this hydration may explain why some people find it improves vision, Brissett says.

“The eyes need to be hydrated to see clearly, and one of the biggest symptoms of dry eye is blurred or fluctuating vision,” says Brissett.

Castor oil is also claimed to promote the growth of eyelashes and eyebrows, but so far no studies have proven this theory.

Castor oil is safe for topical use on the skin. Dr. Chantal Cousineau-Krieger, an ophthalmologist at the National Eye Institute, warns that applying unsterilized castor oil directly to the eyes could lead to infection.

Other ocular risks include irritation, allergic reactions, adverse interactions with ophthalmic medications, discomfort and inflammation.

Don’t expect castor oil to replace medications and other treatments in the hope that it will “cure” your condition more naturally, says Brissett.

For example, ignoring glaucoma medication may lead to permanent vision loss. Or waiting to see if castor oil improves cataracts rather than opting for immediate surgery could make cataracts more difficult to remove and increase the risk of surgical complications, Brissett said.

How to keep your eyes healthy

There are a few ways to protect your eyes.

Cousineau-Krieger recommends following the 20-20-20 rule: For example, when your eyes are glued to a book or computer for long periods of time, take a 20-second break every 20 minutes to look 20 feet or more away. This will reduce fatigue and eye strain.

Brissett says to wash her lids every night with a “formulated eyelid cleanser.” This helps remove dust, bacteria and other pollutants that build up on eyelids and eyelashes throughout the day.

Other ways to protect your eyes that experts recommend include:

  • Follow a balanced diet rich in green leafy vegetables.
  • Remove makeup before going to bed.
  • Wear appropriate safety glasses during tasks such as grinding and sanding, or during sports such as squash or paintball.
  • Wear sunglasses outdoors.
  • Get regular eye exams.

This article was originally published in English by Katie Camero for our sister network For more information on NBC News, visit here.

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