Croton oil is a dangerous yet quite useful oil. It is obtained from the flowering plant Croton. It is a poisonous oil and can be lethal. It is mainly used to make chemical skin peels for exfoliating the skin. It is also used for a number of industrial applications.
The source of croton oil is a flowering plant in the genus Euphorbiaceae. The plant is commonly referred to as Croton or rushfoil. Its name means “tick.” The oil was generally extracted using the cold-pressed method, but nowadays, it is removed using solvent extraction and other techniques that provide better oil output.
It is also known as crotonis oleum or croton tiglium oil.
Blends Well With
It is rarely used in aromatherapy. Croton oil blends well with essential oils of lavender and rosemary.
Croton oil has some unique and powerful therapeutic effects.
- Irritant – It irritates the skin.
- Exfoliant – It sloughs off the outer layer of skin.
- Inflammatory – When applied to the skin, it causes inflammation and a sharp negative reaction.
- Pain Inducer – It is the exact opposite of analgesic. It causes intense pain when applied to the skin.
- Purgative – When taken internally, it can leads to diarrhea even in the smallest amounts. It is used to purge the intestines, but this requires expertise and knowledge of the correct concentration to be used.
- Cytocidal – Some species of Croton yield cytocidal properties. They kill individual cells, which can be beneficial in cancer treatment. 
- Anti-helminthic – It is used to kill specific intestinal parasites.
- Tumor – It contains a compound called phorbol esters. These have been identified to have tumor-promoting effects. 
Color and Aroma
It is yellowish with a hint of brownish tinge. It has an unpleasant odor, somewhat repulsive and pungent. Its taste is acrid.
Deep Skin Exfoliation
The single most popular use of croton oil is in the manufacture of chemical peels for skin exfoliation. The most commonly used peel is the Phenol-Croton chemical peel . When applied to the skin, it sloughs off a thin layer of the epidermis ( outermost skin layer ). This leads to deep pain and a burning sensation on the skin. There is visible redness, and it usually takes two weeks to heal. This is where the most important part comes. When the skin heals itself back, collagen and elastin fibers fill up space uniformly. This evens out wrinkles, fine lines, depression scars, and raised scars. However, these peels are not helpful in skin conditions that affect the dermis ( second layer of skin ) like stretch marks, although some improvement may be seen.
Croton oil-based chemical skin peels are the deepest acting ones. But, they have the strongest side effects and risks. They lead to burning, redness, and sharp pain. In some cases, the damage done to the skin may be more than what was intended. The peel may scrape off skin upto the dermis, leading to complications. Therefore, it is advised not to use these peels at home without prior knowledge. They should be performed under the supervision of a trained professional.
Such peels do have strong anti-aging effects. However, these are never long-lasting and may increase dependency on such products. Croton oil also has a tumor-promoting tendency, so such peels should not be used for long periods.
Croton oil leads to irritation on the skin when applied. This is made use of as a counter-irritant. A low concentration of croton oil is used to divert the mind to some other place on the skin and leave aside some other place suffering from severe irritation or inflammation. This is generally only carried out when the benefits weigh over the side effects and troubles that the patient has to endure because of croton oil.
In ancient Chinese medicine, croton oil was used to get rid of severe constipation. It is still used today for the same purpose. However, one should not attempt to use this oil without the supervision of a trained TCM ( traditional Chinese medicine ) practitioner.
Croton oil is used to rid the patient of intestinal parasites like in Schistosomiasis. It is a parasitic infection caused by Schistosoma.
Croton species are being studied for their cytocidal effect on cancerous cells. If this is verified, then croton oil may well be used in conventional cancer treatments.
Croton oil is also helpful in dealing with eczema and skin eruption. It is also used in liniments to treat urticaria.
Croton oil is also used for other purposes.
- Liniments- Surprisingly, croton oil is used as an ingredient in liniment formulations. When used singly, it causes pain, but it helps lower pain, stiffness, and discomfort when used in the right combination.
- Biodiesel – Croton tiglium is used to extract biodiesel. It is even more efficient at biodiesel production than jatropha.
Side Effects, Safe Dosage, and Toxicity Issues
Croton oil has major side effects. It is strongly irritant and often leads to chemical burns on the skin. It can also lead to permanent scarring and damage to tissues, nerves, and blood vessels if the chemical peel is not of the right concentration. Secondly, it poses the risk of tumors.
It should be kept away from toddlers and even kids. Pregnant women should strictly avoid this oil.
Nutritional and Medicinal Information
- Linoleic Acid – It is also an omega-6 essential oil fatty acid.
- Oleic Acid – It is an omega-9 fatty acid.
- Eicosenoic Acid – This is also a fatty acid.
- Isoborneol – This is a volatile organic compound.
- Fenchyl alcohol
- Phorbol esters
1. In vitro cytocidal effects of the essential oil from Croton cajucara (red sacaca) and its major constituent 7- hydroxycalamenene against Leishmania chagasi. Igor A Rodrigues et al. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:249
2. Tumor-promoting Activity of Phorbol and Four Diesters of Phorbol in Mouse Skin. William M. Baird and R. K. Boutwell. Cancer Res 1971;31:1074-1079
3. An examination of the phenol-croton oil peel: Part I. Dissecting the formula. Hetter GP. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2000 Jan;105(1):227-39; discussion 249-51.
4. [GC-MS analysis of chemical components in seeds oil from Croton tiglium]. Lan M1, Wan P, Wang ZY, Huang XL. Zhong Yao Cai. 2012 Jul;35(7):1105-8.