For the past few weeks, TikTok creator Busy Belle has been telling her nearly 30,000 followers that castor oil, if applied to the belly button, can fight bacterial infections and dissolve tumors. She’s posted several videos to TikTok Shop, the platform’s new e-commerce tool, promoting Aliver Jamaican Black Castor Oil. One of these videos has more than 1.5 million views and the product she links to lists more than 33,000 total sales. Belle presumably got a cut from more than a few of these.
“The people who are like, ‘Eh, blah blah blah, TikTok people are just lying,’” Belle says in one video. “No, we are not. Why would I be posting about it? I’m a Taurus, I don’t lie, okay?” She said her routine involves “lathering” herself with castor oil once a week, adding, “I’m telling everybody to do it. It’s natural and why not.”
Although castor oil has been sold (with little evidence) as a cure-all for ages, it’s recently become trendy, and its sales are getting a boost from influencers and stores claiming that it can relieve a wide range of ailments. Its popularity spans several social platforms. But on TikTok, creators like Busy Belle can make you feel as though you were fated to discover a new trend that promises to make you feel or look better.
Recommendation algorithms can feel magical when they deliver what you want. And when they work, you might be tempted to interpret the eerie insights as evidence that the algorithm knows you better than you know yourself. Get a steady stream of posts and videos about a certain topic and you might start to wonder if your feed is trying to tell you something about yourself. So in the land of wellness influencers on TikTok — and the diaspora of niches that draw from this space — you might feel as though a promised treatment or cure “found” you just when you needed it most.