From The Nurse’s PDR Resource Center
Castor oil, emulsified
Alphamul, Emulsoil, Fleet Flavored Castor Oil, Neoloid) (OTC)
Classification: Laxative, stimulant
Action/Kinetics: The active ingredient is ricinoleic acid, which is liberated in the small intestine. This substance inhibits water and electrolyte absorption, leading to fluid accumulation and increased peristalsis. Prompt (within 2-6 hr) and complete evacuation of the bowel occurs, often with a watery stool.
Use: Preparation of bowel for diagnostic procedures. Short-term relief of constipation.
Contraindications: Pregnancy, menstruation, abdominal pain, and intestinal obstruction. Common constipation. Concomitantly with fat-soluble anthelmintics.
Side Effects: Severe diarrhea, abdominal pain and colic, altered mucosal permeability in the small intestine, dehydration, and changes in electrolyte balance, including hyperkalemia, acidosis, or alkalosis.
I’m not a doctor, but I can hardly imagine an MD worth his or her salt recommending this powerful purgative as a cure for ovarian cysts. Nor can I envision any responsible nurse practitioner/midwife inducing diarrhea as a means to inducing uterine contractions during labor. Increased intestinal peristalsis does not translate into faster baby.
Take a close look at the side effects and contraindications. A good case of the Hershey squirts, dehydration and an altered electrolyte balance are probably the last things a woman in childbirth should have on her mind.
However, there are other good things to be said of castor oil - it’s undergoing a sort of technological rennaisance in the search for renewable, natural alternatives to petrochemicals: