Whenever I visit the family in Jamaica, before I leave my mom knows she has to take me to get two things; a bottle of honey and a rum flask of castor oil.
If you are privileged enough to have your Island link supply you with your stash, you know you’ve got the good stuff when the only thing they can find to put it in is an old white rum bottle, which holds considerably more than the popular brands you find on Amazon.
You will also more than likely be able to spot the difference between that and the clear versions sold at CVS or beauty supply stores.
Many swear by the potency of the dark colored version. Not only is it good for promoting hair growth. Jamaicans will tell you that it has many other uses including, rubbing your joints if you suffer from arthritis, to induce labor and it is believed to prevent cysts and lumps if you massage it into the affected region such as underarm or your breasts.
In addition, wisdom of the elders insists that if you use castor oil on your skin you can prevent eczema, psoriasis, pimples, limit warts, skin tags and other skin ailments.
Now given all the proposed benefits, you might be wondering what the difference is between the Jamaican Black Castor Oil also known as JBCO and the clear versions. Will the clear version do the same thing? Well the answer is… it depends. Yes I know that is delightfully vague.
Castor oil is originally from Africa. As it is with many other things, slaves brought the seeds over to Jamaica where the oil was extracted and used for a variety of purposes.
Raw unadulterated castor oil* is very rare but is still being made in some areas of the island today, and is not black in color, it is actually yellowish. Commercially squeezing the seed at high pressure to extract the oil is called cold pressing, and when it is done in this manner it allows the beneficial properties of the oil to remain intact.
Another method of extracting the oil uses heat or chemicals which degrades it. Thinking of it this way you would imagine that the version that is extracted without heat would be better. After all, if the inherent properties are not compromised by heat and it seems to be the obvious choice right?
Aha, but the black version is slightly different still and heat is in fact part of the extraction process. The seeds or castor beans are first roasted and the ash from the roasting process is incorporated into the final product giving it the dark tinge. Some brands hold to the authenticity of the process by mirroring it in modern JBCO production. And now due to the surge in ecommerce, some Jamaican vendors have been offering the authentic stuff and shipping directly from Jamaica.
If you’ve ever used JBCO, you will know that not only is the color distinct but the smell is very distinctive too. It literally smells like charred seeds which isn’t the best smell in the world if I’m being completely honest, but the smell in my experience dissipates quickly. You can also get versions of JBCO that have been enhanced with essential oils which not only mask the unique natural smell of the oil but also boost the hair growth credentials associated with castor oil* use.
The clear castor oils on the other hand have been processed in such a way as it eliminates the smell, which is more convenient to some people. Basically, the clearer the castor oil the lower the iodine content. This is because the oil has been filtered. Generally however, cold pressed castor oil will tend to be yellowish in color.
From a marketing perspective, the clearer the oil the purer it is considered to be but this is not necessarily better. Some of these oils may be more processed than the authentic JBCO and certainly more processed than raw cold pressed castor oil. Another thing to note is that in many instances super clear castor oils tend to have other oils added to bulk up the product and cut costs. Adding other oils of course dilutes the potency of the castor oil itself.
You will find added ingredients like synthetic fragrances, mineral oil*, vegetable oils and parabens. Clearly, this strays entirely away from the authenticity of JBCO but it serves as a good reason to always check the ingredients before you purchase a product!
So, which is better JBCO or cold pressed castor oil?
In all honesty, determining if Jamaican black castor oil* with the ash is better than regular castor oil really boils down to a matter of preference. You might argue that the oil with ash is not the purest because the ash is added to the oil from the roasting process and not extracted from the seed itself. On the other hand, the ash is a bi-product of the seed so having it in the oil is not such a bad thing, and actually makes the product seem more “whole”. It is the closest to the seed you are going to get.
But there is the fact that heat is used to extract JBCO contrary to the cold pressed castor oil which is… well… cold pressed. Hey, for any other oil, most would quickly exault the cold pressed version as the best version. Think cold pressed olive oil* or coconut oil*. The oil has not been heated so it hasn’t oxidized and will still have most of its beneficial compounds intact.
Also, unless you are accustomed to the smell of authentic JBCO, regular castor oil might be easier on the nose especially if you use it daily for simple things like sealing your ends or mixed into your creams and butters*.
In terms of hair growth benefit anecdotally speaking both oils are even in positive reviews found online although in recent years JBCO has had the larger backing, mostly because of it’s popularity in the black community.
Depending on who you ask JBCO might not be as practical for everyday use but it can be great added to your pre-poo treatment, used as a hot oil treatment and can also be used in home made diy leave in conditioners.
If I could leave you with some sage advice as it pertains to buying castor oil it would be this: when you purchase castor oil make sure that it is from a reputable brand and always check the ingredient list to ensure that it is pure castor oil. Do your due diligence and you won’t go wrong regardless which version of the oil you choose.
So, what’s your preference, JBCO or regular castor oil?