Castor Bean Plant (Ricinus communis)

Castor Bean Plant Identification:
In tropical areas, castor bean is an evergreen herbaceous shrub or small tree growing up to 40 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Elsewhere, the plant grows as an annual growing 8 to 15 feet Castor Bean Fruit
tall in a single growing season. This fast growing plant has tropical looking foliage. The huge leaves are palmate, with 5 to 11 deeply incised lobes. They are glossy and purplish or reddish-green, growing 12 to 30 inches across, with long petioles (leaf stems). The stems are juicy and reddish or purplish also. The greenish-yellow flowers are small, about 1/2 inch wide, and borne in fat spikes 8 to 18 inches tall near the tops of the stems. Female flowers are on the top half of the spike and have conspicuous red stigmas (the parts that receive the pollen). The male flowers on the lower half of the spike have conspicuous yellow anthers (the parts that give off the pollen). The female flowers are followed by reddish brown egg-shaped capsules, about an inch long, thickly covered with soft flexible spines. Each capsule contains three seeds that look like fat swollen dog ticks and are deadly poisonous.
Castor Beans Other Names: Castor Bean, Castor Oil Plant, Mexico Seed, Oil Plant, Palma Christi, Wonder Tree

Family: Euphorbiaceae (Spurge Family)

Flowers: July – August
Castor Beans

Parts Used: Seeds
Habitat: Castor bean was originally native to northeastern Africa and the Middle East. It has escaped cultivation and become naturalized as a weed almost everywhere in the world that has a tropical or subtropical climate. Castor bean grows wild on rocky hillsides, and in waste places, fields, along road shoulders and at the edges of cultivated fields. It is grown as an ornamental in gardens and sometimes as a houseplant.
History: The beans from the castor bean plant have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 4000 BC. It is also mentioned by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. American farmers and gardeners used to plant castor beans in their gardens to keep moles away, and some still do today. But, you should never plant castor beans where children are present.
Constituents: The primary form of medicine made from the plant is Castor Oil, which contains ricinoleic acid with only small amounts of dihydroxystearic, linoleic, oleic, and stearic acids. More information:
Medicinal Properties:
Properties – Anodyne, antidote, aperient, bactericide, cathartic, emetic, emollient, expectorant, insecticide, lactagogue, laxative, purgative, tonic, and vermifuge.
Uses – Taken internally, Castor Oil is used for constipation, intestinal inflammation, and worms. Its laxative effect stems from its ability to prevent absorption of liquids from the intestinal tract. In Asian medicine, castor oil is used as a remedy for joint pain, dry stool, indigestion, facial paralysis, boils, and ulcers. Homeopathic practitioners prescribe it for digestive ailments. Castor oil is a cathartic and has labor-inducing properties. Ricinoleic adic has served in contraceptive jellies. Ricin, a toxic protein in the seeds, acts as a blood coagulant. Oil used externally for dermatitis and eye ailments. The seeds, which yield 45-50% of a fixed oil, also contain the alkaloids ricinine and toxalbumin ricin, and are considered purgative, a counter-irritant in scorpion sting and fish poison. The leaves are applied to the head to relieve headache and as a poultice for boils.
Preparation And Dosages:
Castor oil is supplied commercially. For acute constipation or worms, the dose is at least 10 grams (2 teaspoonfuls). Follow the manufacturer’s directions whenever available.
Warning: While the oil is relatively safe, the beans are extremely poisonous (as few as 12 can be fatal), and they should never be taken
internally. They can cause severe fluid loss and lethal circulatory collapse.
Avoid If: Don’t take castor oil if you have nausea, vomiting, and intestinal blockage, appendicitis, severe inflammatory intestinal disease, or any abdominal pain of unknown origin. Not recommended for pregnant and nursing women and children under 12.
Special Cautions: Habitual use of castor oil discourages normal activity in the intestinal tract, leading to laxative dependence. Prolonged use can also result in an unhealthy depletion of minerals, particularly potassium. In rare cases, an allergic skin rash may develop.
Possible Drug Interactions: Potassium depletion due to habitual use can increase the body’s sensitivity to certain heart medications, such as digitalis and digoxin.
Overdose: An overdose will irritate the stomach, leading to queasiness, vomiting, cramps, and severe diarrhea. If you suspect and overdose, seed medical attention immediately.
Symtoms Of Poisoning: Abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea (sometimes bloody). Within several days there is severe dehydration, a decrease in urine, and a decrease in blood pressure. If death has not occured in 3 to 5 days, the victim usually recovers.

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