Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ricinus communis L.

Family : Euphorbiaceae

Synonym(s) : Palma christi; Ricinus dicoccus, Ricinus europaeus, Nees., Ricinus laevis, DC., Ricinus viridis, Willd. Ricinus lividus, Jacq. Ricinus africanus, Mill.

English Name : Castor or Castor Oil

Origin : Eastern Africa (especially Ethiopia)


The leaves are placed alternately on the stem, on long, curved, purplish foot-stalks, with drooping blades, generally 6 to 8 inches across, sometimes still larger, palmately cut for threefourths of their depth into seven to eleven lance-shaped, pointed, coarsely toothed segments. When fully expanded, they are of a blue-green colour, paler beneath and smooth; when young, they are red and shining. The flowers are male and female on the same plant, and are produced on a clustered, oblong, terminal spike. The male flowers are placed on the under portion of the spike; they have no corolla, only a green calyx, deeply cut into three to five segments, enclosing numerous, much branched, yellow stamens. The female flowers occupy the upper part of the spike and have likewise no corolla. The three narrow segments of the calyx are, however, of a reddish colour, and the ovary in their centre is crowned by deeply-divided, carmine-red threads (styles). The fruit is a blunt, greenish, deeply-grooved capsule less than an inch long, covered with soft, yielding prickles in each of which a seed is developed. The seeds of the different cultivated varieties differ much in size and in external markings but average seeds are of an oval, laterally compressed form. The smaller, annual varieties yield small seeds- the tree forms, large seeds. They have a shining, marble-grey and brown, thick, leathery outer coat, within which is a thin, dark-coloured, brittle coat. A large, distinct, leafy embryo lies in the middle of a dense, oily tissue (endosperm).


Common in wastelands of India; also in many warmer habitats of the globe.

Parts Used : Seed and its oil, leaf, stem, flower and root

Herb Effects

Laxative (seed oil); lowers blood sugar (leaf and stem); diuretic and poisonous (can be fatal) (seed); antiviral and stimulates milk production and flow (leaf decoction); anticancer and antiprotozoal (stem and root); kills bacteria, contraceptive, emollient.

Active Ingredients

Ricin (a toxic seed albumin); ricinoleic acid and its glycerides (seed oil); ricinine, norlupan and lupeol (seed coat); various amino acids (leaf, root and stem); apigenin, hyperoside, rutin, chlorogenin and coumarin (flower); chlorogenic acid, kaempferol, quercetin (plant); ellagic acid, ferulic acid, gallic acid, isoquercitrin (leaf)

Medicinal Use

As one of the best laxatives (seed oil); poultice for boils, rheumatism and sores (seed paste); skin diseases, such as ringworm, and itching, as an emmenagogue (leaf decoction);in temporary constipation and wherever a mild action is essential, and is extremely useful for children and the aged, for various cutaneous complaints, such as ringworm, itch, dropped into the eye to remove the after-irritation caused by the removal of foreign bodies (oil); used by nursing mothers as an external application, to increase the flow of milk, as a poultice to relieve headaches and treat boils and diabetes (leaves).


Oil doses: children- 1 tsp.; adults-2 tsp. - 3 tbs. in tea or boiled milk. Decoction, infusion, poultice, leaf, paste.
For internal use: Take at least 10.0 gm for acute constipation or as a purgative against worms.
For external use: Use a paste made from ground seeds. Apply this paste to the affected skin areas twice daily. A course of treatment may take up to 15 days.


The seed is very poisonous; the oil should not be taken as a purgative for those suffering from kidney infections. It should also not be used when there is abdominal pain or intestinal infections.


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