Herb Library

Back to Herb Menu     Back to Index

DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Bofareira, Castor Oil Plant, Eranda (Sanskrit), Kastorka (Russ), Mexico Seed, Oil Plant, Palma Christi
(Ricinus communis syn Oleum ricini)
[bì má zi]

• Ricin is a slow acting poison, the first symptoms appearing about 10 hours after ingestion and beginning with vomiting, followed by diarrhea, blurred vision, cold sweat, burning sensation in the mouth, thirst, skin turning blue, disruption of normal heart rhythm, convulsion and death from respiratory failure and cardiac arrest!
• An OVERDOSE OF THE OIL can irritate the stomach, cause nausea, vomiting, cramps and severe diarrhea - medical attention required if symptoms occur.
• Handling of the foliage and seeds can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions.
• In parts of Australia and other countries, Castor Bean is SUBJECT TO REGULATIONS as a noxious weed.

CONTRAINDICATED: NOT FOR HABITUAL USE! Chronic use of Castor Oil can cause potassium depletion and create a sensitivity to heart medications like digitalis and digoxin.
OIL SHOULD NOT BE USED when nausea, vomiting, internal blockage, appendicitis, severe inflammatory intestinal disease or abdominal pain of unknown origin is present.
OIL SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN when pregnant or nursing, or when under the age of 12 years.

CONTAINS: Ricin: a very toxic blood coagulating protein, not soluble in oil, which is found in all parts of the plant. Even when the seeds are pressed for oil, some ricin can be found in the residue. Also, toxalbumin, chelidonine, chelerythrine, coptisine, protopine, chelidonic acid, saponin, carotenoid pigments, enzymes, traces of essential oil.
LEAVES (based on 100 grams at zero moisture): 24.8 g protein, 5.4 g fat, 57.4 g carbohydrates, 10.3 g fiber, 12.4 g ash, 2,670 mg calcium, 460 mg phosphorus.
SEED: 5.3% water, 12.0% protein, 45% oil, 3.3% nitrogen-free extract, 23.18% crude fiber, 2.1% ash, phosphorus (high).
OIL: Mainly ricinoleic acid with small amounts of dihydroxystearic acid, linoleic acid, oleic acid, and stearic acid.

An herbaceous annual, the Castor plant is native to tropical Africa and the East Indies, but naturalized throughout the topics and considered a noxious weed in southern Florida. It grows 8 to 10 feet tall with male and female flowers (neither having petals) growing on the same plant in clusters on terminal spikes and appear in late summer. The female flowers have a 3 to 5 part calyx with greenish to red stigmas. The male flowers have a 4 to 5 part calyx, red or green, and several yellow stamens. The leaves are alternate, palmate with 5 to 9 toothed pointed lobes and long leaf stalks, being purplish when young and gray-green or dark purplish-red when mature and grwoing from 4 inches to 2½ feet across. The fruit appears on a long stalk and is a spiny, 3-lobed, 1/2 to 1 inch long, roundish capsule containing 3 seeds. Seeds are smooth, glossy black or mottled with gray or brown.

The Castor plant has been in cultivation for over 6,000 years. Seeds 4,000 years old have been found in Egyptian tombs. Long used as a liniment and lubricant, the oil became popular as a laxative during the 18th century. Under cultivation, a typical harvest runs between 500 and 2500 lbs. of beans per acre.

Ricin became well known when it was used to assassinate a London poitician by coating the tip of an umbrella and stabbing the man in the leg with it.

NOTE: If Castor oil gets on fabric, it is said to be best washed out with pure Castile soap.

NEEDS: Grown as an ornamental in well-drained, humusy soil in sun.
HARVEST: Seeds for commercial oil extraction.
PART USED: Commercially extracted oil.
R.c. Carmencita
R.c. Impala


Oil is demulcent, laxative, cathartic, purgative, emollient; affects liver and spleen.
The oil has been used internally for constipation and acute diarrhea due to food poisoning.
The oil has been used as an enema (with soap suds and water) for severe constipation and externally for skin and eye irritations, cysts, growths, warts (massaged into wart several times a day; oil sometimes steeped with willow bark or garlic for a few days since both are considered wart-removers on their own).
The oil has been used when lactating to draw milk down; after feeding a few drops have been rubbed on each breast, avoiding the nipple area; to REDUCE milk flow, a few drops rubbed into the upper back morning and night has been said to be effective. In the Canary Islands, the women have used the leaves applied to the breast to increase lactation. Also: a poultice of the leaves have been used on inflamed breasts due to lactation as well as boils and swellings; a boiled leaf poultice has been applied to the abdomen for flatulence or to promote menses.
The oil has been used in conjunction with other remedies to expel tape worm and round worm.
Castor oil packs to the abdomen have been used to treat diarrhea in infants and children.
The oil has been applied externally for ringworm.
The seeds minus the embryo have been boiled in milk and water to use as a liniment for lumbago, rheumatism, sciatica.
Has been used in AYURVEDIC medicine for epilepsy, paralysis, insanity, nervous system disorders.
In CHINESE medicine the seeds are considered to be antitussive, discutient, expectorant and have been used to treat abscesses, skin eruptions, deafness, headache (seeds rubbed on temples), bleeding, constipation, boils, piles, to induce labor; the powdered seeds, have been used for dogbite, scrofula, skin problems; the crushed seeds made into a pulp have been rubbed into the palms of the hands for palsy, placed in the urethra for stricture, rubbed on the soles of the feet of women in labor to speed the birth process or expel the placenta, stuffed into ears for loss of hearing, rubbed on the top of the head for uterine prolapse. The leaves and roots in decoction (considered purgative, lactagogue, emmenagogue) have been used for anal prolapse, arthritis, constipation, facial palsy, uterine prolapse, disorders of the lymph glands, ocular muscle defects; the heated leaves have been used as a poultice for gout, bruises, injuries, stiffness. The oil has been used externally for skin problems and used for hearing loss, dropsy, headache, hemorrhage, joint pain, dry stool, indigestion, facial paralysis, boils, ulcers, and labor. The JUICE of the leaves is considered a strong emetic and has been used in cases of narcotic poisoning. The root bark has been used as a strong purgative.
Continuous and frequent Castor Oil packs have been used over the liver for an inflamed liver. Also, Castor oil rubbed over the liver, covered by a warm towel which has been soaked in Ginger tea and wrung out, to help draw toxins into and through the liver.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
The commercially processed oil is the ONLY part of the plant which is used!
DOSAGE is determined by age and weight. See bottle directions for use.
OIL = For constipation, 1 to 2 tsp before bed.

Used for albuminuria, aphthae, cholera, diarrhea, digestive problems, dysentary, gangrene, skin eruptions, jaundice, lactation, peritonitis.

Castor oil has been in conjunction with bread and milk to expel foreign objects from puppies.
The oil has been used in conjuction with other methods as purge in cases of poisoning in dogs.
The oil has been combined with garlic as a poultice for abscesses in dogs, also for skin diseases.
For fur loss in dogs the oil has been rubbed into the bald patches.
The oil has been used in combination with other treatments for hernia in dogs.
Castor oil has been used by natural practitioners in the treatment of Parvovirus (CPV).
The oil has been applied to sore pads and split pads.
A dose of 1 tsp has been used for vomiting, worms, and wounds in dogs.
In farm animals the fresh leaves and the oil have been used as a purge in cases of poisoning as well as to expel worms (including tapeworm).
The oil has been used externally for skin problems, sores, old wounds, swellings, and falling fur in farm animals.
The fresh leaves have been placed over festering wounds in farm animals.
For an animal the size of a goat, 4 tbsp have been given as a DOSE; for other farm animals, the dose is given according to the size of the animal.

The plants are believed to be a deterrent to moles, rabbits, and other rodents when planted around a garden; also the seeds have been used to kill gophers.

The oil repels cockroaches.
Chiggers drown in Castor Oil.

Once a source of oil for lamps.
The oil was once used for cosmetics in Egypt.
Necklaces were once made from the seeds.
Commercially the oil is added to soaps, cosmetics, eye products, candles, crayons, printing inks, varnishes, lubricating oil, fuels, carbon paper, polyamide fiber, leather preservatives, waterproofing for fabrics and cotton dyes.
The residue from the pressing is used in fertilizers, fiber manufacture, and board manufacture.
The oil is used in contraceptive creams and eye medications.

© 2005 by Ernestina Parziale, CH