Castor Bean – Ricinus communis

Castor Bean flowers
Castor Bean flowers

This very Toxic plant produces Ricin in all parts, but especially concentrated in its seeds. Ricin has been used in biologic warfare and terrorism. Ricin is found after the oil has been extracted, the cake that remains carries it. Symptomology of poisoning includes stomach irritation, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, profuse sweating, collapse, convulsions, and death within a few days. If death does not occur after 5 days, the patient normally recovers! The plant is also grown as a deterrent to ground burrowing pest in the yard and garden.

 

Even with the fear that Ricin may generate, the Castor Bean plant has been known in medicine

The infamous Castor oil has been used in the US since the days of the pioneers. As America’s west was settled people seemed to want vile concoctions dreamed up by ‘snake oil’ salesmen. The more unpleasant tasting the concoction, the better. Castor oil was used to treat everything from constipation to heartburn; it was even taken to induce labor!

 

The oil contains water resistant qualities that make it perfect for coating fabric, insulation, food containers, and guns. The dehydrated oil has qualities superior to linseed and tung oil! The Egyptians used the oil for fueling lamps. Herodotus (a Greek traveler) reported seeing castor oil used for body ointments, and for hair tonics to improve hair growth and texture. Cleopatra was even said to use it to brighten the whites of her eyes!

To read my former post

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