The castor is a small annual plant. It ranges from 1 to 7 meters in height. It has well-developed roots, with green and reddish stems which become hollow with age. The fruit is a spherical capsule with small grey seeds with brown spots.
The seeds of the plant contain alkaloid ricinine and toxalbumine ricin. They yield a fixed oil, which is used chiefly for medicinal purposes. Though castor plant or its oil is not a food, yet it is one of the most commonly used oil all over the skin and alleviating swelling and pain.
Castor oil chiefly consists of ricinoleate of glycerol or triricinolein with a small quantity of palmitin and stearin. Unlike most fixed oils, castor oil possesses the remarkable property of mixing with absolute alcohol and glacial acetic acid in all proportions. The glycerides of ricinoleic acid in castor oil are mainly responsible for its purgative effect.
Botanical Name- Ricinus communis
Indian Name- Arandi
Below are some of the medicinal properties of castor seeds:
- A poultice of castor seeds can be applied with gratifying results to gouty and rheumatic swellings. A decoction of the roots of castor plant with carbonate of potash is useful in the treatment of lumbago, rheumatism and sciatica. A paste of the kernel without the embryo, boiled in milk, is also given as a medicine in these conditions.
- Castor oil is a harmless purgative. It simply passes out after completing its purgative action, making the patient feel a mild irritation in the anus at that time. Administering of castor oil as a purgative is very simple. About 30 to 60 grams of pure odorless castor oil is given orally with 250 to 375 grams of lukewarm milk. It acts just after an hour.
Those who find its use nauseating and unpalatable can take it with ginger water or aqua anisi in place on milk. This greatly reduces its unpleasantness, while destroying mucous and promoting healthy appetite.
- A poultice of castor leaves is useful as an external application of boils and swellings. Coated with some bland oil such as coconut oil and heated, the hot leaves can be applied over guinea-worm sores to extract the worms. A poultice of castor seeds is also applied to scrofulous sores and boils due to tuberculosis of lymph nodes.
- Castor oil massaged over the breast after child-birth increases the flow of milk, as it stimulates the mammary glands. The leaves of castor can also be used to foment the breast, for the same purpose.
- Castor oil massaged over the body, before bath, keeps the skin healthy and imparts sound sleep. Such an oil bath may be taken once in a week. Applying castor oil over hand and feet before going to bed keeps them soft and similarly over the eyebrows and eyelashes keeps them well-groomed.
- If used regularly as hair oil, it helps the growth of the hair and cure dandruff.
Repeated use of castor oil as a laxative should be avoided as it causes secondary constipation, that is, recurrence of the condition after cure. Persons suffering from kidney infections should not take castor oil as a purgative. It should also not be used when there is abdominal pain or intestinal infections such as appendicitis, enteritis or inflammation of the small intestine and peritonitis. Large doses of castor oil during the early months of pregnancy may cause abortion.