- Ricinus communis L.
- Dwarf Red Spire
- Spurge family
Parts Usually Used
Description of Plant(s) and Culture
Large, rank, annual or perennial (in the south), 5-12 feet tall.
Leaves large, palmate, with 5-11 lobes up to 3-5 feet across. Flowers
in clusters; female ones above, male ones below; July to September.
Seed capsule has soft spines. The flowers have no petals and grow
in upright panicles covered with dark brown spines. The fruit which
follows is a capsule containing 3 large seeds. The dark shiny seeds
are extremely poisonous if swallowed, but can be easily removed from
the plant when they first begin to form.
Because castor bean is extremely sensitive to frost, seed must be
started indoors in early spring in cooler climates, or outdoors only
in warm ground. Space plants 3-4 feet apart in full sun. Adaptable
to most soils; adding fertilizer will give brightest color and faster
growth. Plants like lots of water, which mulching will help conserve.
Do not pinch or tip-prune castor bean; this may kill the plant. While
spider mites may be a problem on indoor seedlings, they usually disappear
when the plants are set outdoors. Prefer good drainage, lots of water,
will grow in clay or sandy loam.
Varieties Carmencita and Dwarf Red Spire have attractive red foliage.
Ricinus africanus has very large green leaves; R. macrocarpus has
purple-red foliage: R. cambodgensis has blackish-purple stems and
leaves; R. sanguinea is red-leaved; and R. gibsonii, a lovely dwarf,
has dark red leaves with a metallic luster.
Native to tropical Africa and India, where it may grow to a 40-foot
Castor bean plant is often cultivated for ornamental effect in the
southern United States. Cultivated in China.
Laxative, purgative, cathartic, demulcent (soothes mucous membranes).
Only the oil is non-toxic.
Contains the poison ricin, toxalbumin, chelidonine, chelerythrine,
coptisine, protopine, chelidonic and other acids, saponin, carotenoid
pigments, enzymes and traces of an essential oil.
Legends, Myths and Stories
The castor oil plant has long enjoyed the reputation as a fly and
mosquito repelling plant and will also rid the garden of moles and
The plant has a very long history. It is cultivated as a quick growing
ornamental; as a barrier and as a sand-binder on dunes. South Americans
grow the plant as a mosquito repellent. In West Africa, natives believe
the plants protect them from lightning and they are referred to as
The book "Old Ways Rediscovered" tells a story; "For several years
I have been told that a castor bean plant in the garden would to some
extent control grasshoppers. Last spring I put a seed at the edge
of my compost pile. Result--a plant 16 feet 4 inches tall and 14 feet
2 inches in diameter. Result--no grasshoppers."
Taken internally, it treats constipation.
Externally, a castor oil fermentation is rubbed over the liver and
other areas of the abdomen. A thick towel that has been wrung out
in ginger tea is then applied over the entire abdomen and a heating
pad or hot water bottle is placed over the liver. This will draw toxins
into and through the liver. This treatment is excellent for liver
disorders, cysts, growths, warts,
and other excrescenses. Applied to sties around the eyes, or on pimples,
etc., results are seen in just a couple of days.
In Ayurveda, castor oil is used in the treatment of epilepsy, paralysis,
insanity and many other nervous system disorders. Although the leaves
are poisonous, they may be steamed and directly applied externally
to relieve pains from bruises, injuries and stiffness, aches and pains,
Seed oil famous since ancient Egyptian time as a purgative or laxative;
folk remedy used to induce labor. Nauseous taste may induce vomiting.
Oil is used as a laxative in food
poisoning or before X-ray diagnosis of the bowels. Used externally
for ringworm, itch, tapeworms,
for dandruff. Oil even suggested
as a renewable energy source. When the patient cannot strain the stool
as in colitis, prolapsus, weakened
structural tissue, the oil is given in very small doses. Can be used
as an enema with soap suds and water. Poulticed boiled leaves is a
folk remedy to produce milk flow.
Combined with baking soda and applied to skin cancers, the treatment
takes a long time but is very effective, with no scars after healing.
Oil is used in industrial lubricants, varnishes, plastics, etc. Used
in the manufacture of soap, furniture polish, flypaper, artificial
leather and artificial rubber, some types of cellulose, and candles.
Formulas or Dosages
Laxative: 1 or 2 tbsp. before sleep.
The prickly reddish seed pods of castor bean contain beautiful gold,
silver, and black seeds. These temptingly attractive seeds are quite
poisonous, so you must be sure to keep them away from children and
unknowing adults. Three seeds are sufficient to kill an adult.
Seeds are a deadly poison. One seed may be fatal to a child. After
oil is squeezed from the seeds, the deadly toxic protein, ricin, remains
in the seed cake. May induce dermatitis.