- Family Euphorbiaceae
- Ricinus communis
- Castor Bean, Mexico Seed, Oil Plant, Castor Oil Bush
- Spanish: Palma Christi, Ricino, Aciete de Ricino,
- Nahuatl: Asiixa’a
- Maya: Xcoch
- Do not ingest the seeds: One bean can be lethal for a child, while two or more can be lethal for an adult. However, the toxins do not pass into the expressed oil.
- Do not use during pregnancy.
- Do not use more than once every few weeks as a treatment for constipation.
Probably native to eastern Africa, the castor bean plant is now cultivated in hot climates around the world especially in Africa and southern Asia and commonly cultivated in latitudes where maize thrives. The plant is an annual evergreen shrub growing to about thirty feet in its natural state but much smaller when cultivated. It has large, palm-shaped leaves, green female flowers, and prickly red seed capsules. The seeds are gathered throughout the year when nearly ripe and put out into the sun to mature.
Castor oil has been used medicinally for about 4,000 years; and, until recently, it was given regularly to children to “keep their systems clear”. Because of its unpleasant taste, castor oil is a remembered bane of many a childhood.
- strongly laxative
- fixed oil (45-55% mainly of glycerides of ricinoleic acid)
- ricin (a toxic protein)
- ricinine (an alkaloid)
- Seed oil, seeds
Castor oil is well known for its strongly laxative action, taking effect within three to five hours after ingestion. In higher doses, it is a purgative. The oil is so effective that it is regularly used to clear the digestive tract in cases of poisoning.
The oil is well tolerated by the skin and is sometimes used as a vehicle for medicinal and cosmetic preparations.
In India, the oil is massaged into the breasts after childbirth to stimulate milk flow.
In Ayurvedic medicine, a poultice of castor oil seeds is applied for the relief of swollen and tender joints.
In China, the crushed seeds are used to treat facial palsy.
In Morelos, Mexico, the leaves are used in poultices placed on the chest for congestion, cough, or fever, or on the abdomen to treat an acute intestinal distress known as “empacho”. The leaves are used on anything that “hurts”, that is, swollen joints, bruises, boils, neuralgia, abscesses, as well as for colds and fever. Since they seem to have anti-inflammatory properties, this use stands to reason.