Dry eye is a common condition where the eyes are unable to retain moisture. This can lead to discomfort and impair vision. Eye drops are one of numerous options available to help manage the condition. Many lubricating eye drops may contain an oil-based solution, such as castor oil.

Dry eye disease is a fairly common condition. The National Eye Institute estimate that it affects almost 16 million people in the United States.

It can occur when the eyes do not produce enough tears or when tears are unable to lubricate the eyes. Common symptoms may include discomfort, itching, and burning.

Eye drops are a common option that may offer relief from dry eyes. Eye drops contain ingredients such as castor oil that can help lubricate the eye. Typically, people may also use castor oil as a skin treatment or laxative.

While castor oil is a common ingredient in many eye drops due to its lubricating properties, ophthalmologists do not recommend using pure castor oil. Instead, people should keep using over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops.

In this article, we take a close look at the use and possible benefits of castor oil for dry eyes. We also discuss how to use castor oil and other natural remedies for this condition.

A person applying eye drops containing castor oil.Share on Pinterest
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Castor oil is a vegetable oil harvested from castor beans. These are the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant, which is common in Africa, Asia, and South America. During the manufacturing process, producers heat the oil to destroy toxins, such as ricin, making the oil safe to use.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that people have used castor oil as a traditional medicine since the times of ancient Egypt. Nowadays, it has various uses as a food additive, medicine, ingredient in cosmetic products, industrial lubricant, and biodiesel fuel.

Castor oil contains moisturizing properties and is useful as an artificial lubricant. Lubricating eye drops are a common treatment for dry eyes, and many artificial tear products contain castor oil as an inactive ingredient.

Castor oil may help other eye conditions as well. It is a common ingredient of artificial tears, which people may use to treat dry eyes. The oil helps prevent moisture from evaporating from the eyes, thereby keeping them better lubricated.

In an older study using eye drops containing castor oil, researchers found the drops remained useful in the eyes for at least 4 hours, produced a better quality tear film, and reduced dry eye symptoms.

A 2017 review on lipid-based products for the management of dry eye notes that emulsion eye drops with castor oil are an attractive option due to their positive effect on eye health.

The review also suggests that castor oil may help treat meibomian gland dysfunction. This is when glands do not produce enough oil to prevent eyes from drying out.

Moreover, castor oil may help treat blepharitis, or eyelid inflammation. A 2021 study suggests that applying castor oil twice per day over 4 weeks can help reduce blepharitis symptoms.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, artificial tears, which commonly contain castor oil, can have side effects. These may include blurry vision, irritation, and allergic reactions.

People should stop using castor oil on their eyes if they begin to experience itchiness, swelling, breathing difficulties, dizziness, or nausea.

While castor oil is a common ingredient in many eye drops, doctors do not recommend putting castor oil directly in the eye.

Castor oil is a common ingredient in lubricating eye drops. When using eye drops containing oils, it is advisable to thoroughly shake the eye drops before use to ensure the oil and water portions are well mixed.

The recommended steps for using eye drops are:

1. Preparing the eye drops

It is essential to wash the hands thoroughly before handling the eye drops or touching the eyes. If a person wears contact lenses, they may need to remove them unless the eye doctor advised otherwise.

Shake the eye drop bottle vigorously and remove the cap, being careful not to touch the dropper tip.

2. Putting in the eye drops

Tilt the head back and look upward. It can be helpful to focus on one point on the ceiling. With one hand, pull the lower eyelid down and slightly out. This creates a pocket to contain the drop.

Keep the tip of the eye drop bottle right over the bottom of the eyelid. Next, slightly squeeze the bottle and allow an eye drop to fall into the bottom eyelid pocket.

Ensure that the bottle does not touch the eye or eyelid, as this could contaminate the eye drops with bacteria or other microbes.

3. After the eye drop application

Close the eyes and do not blink. Next, apply slight pressure to the tear ducts in the area where the eyelids and the nose meet.

Do this for 1–2 minutes before opening the eyes. This allows the eyes time to absorb the drops without them draining away into the nose.

People can wipe away any unabsorbed drops with a tissue. Follow these steps on the other eye if necessary and wash the hands afterward.

To manage dry eyes, people can choose from a range of options, including:

  • OTC artificial tears: These lubricating eye drops may contain other oils, such as mineral oil, instead of castor oil.
  • Artificial tear ointment: People who have extremely dry eyes may need an ointment that stays in the eye for longer than eye drops.
  • Prescription eye drops: These drops may include cyclosporine (Restasis) and lifitegrast (Xiidra). They also contain ingredients to reduce inflammation and irritation.

Research has also shown that increasing the dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids may help with dry eyes. Fish oil supplements and foods such as oily fish, flaxseeds, and soybeans are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties that may soothe irritated, dry eyes.

Making some behavioral changes, such as limiting screen time, avoiding smoky atmospheres, and wearing eye protection, can also help prevent painful, dry eyes.

Learn more about treating dry eyes naturally here.

Castor oil is a natural plant oil that appears as an ingredient of some eye drops. These may help moisten and lubricate the eyes, preventing dry eye symptoms.

Typically, eye drops, including those containing castor oil, have few side effects but can cause temporary blurred vision. People should be watchful for allergic reactions, and if they experience any symptoms, they should seek medical attention.

A range of treatments exist for dry eyes, including natural remedies. People may consider behavioral changes, in addition to treatments, to relieve their dry eye symptoms.