The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!

Castor Bean

Scientific Names

Castor Bean

  • Ricinus communis L.
  • Euphorbiaceae
  • Carmencita
  • Dwarf Red Spire
  • Spurge family

Common Names

  • Bofareira
  • Castor bean plant
  • Castor oil plant
  • Mexico seed
  • Oil plant
  • Palma Christi
  • Pei-ma

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Parts Usually Used

Seed oil
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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.
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Where Found

Native to tropical Africa and India, where it may grow to a 40-foot tree.

Castor bean plant is often cultivated for ornamental effect in the southern United States. Cultivated in China.
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Medicinal Properties

Laxative, purgative, cathartic, demulcent (soothes mucous membranes).

Only the oil is non-toxic.
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Biochemical Information

Contains the poison ricin, toxalbumin, chelidonine, chelerythrine, coptisine, protopine, chelidonic and other acids, saponin, carotenoid pigments, enzymes and traces of an essential oil.
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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 gophers.

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 “thunder trees.”

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.”
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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, rheumatism, arthritis, lumbago, bursitis.

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, piles, sores, abscesses, hairwash 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.
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Formulas or Dosages

Laxative: 1 or 2 tbsp. before sleep.
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How Sold

Castor Oil
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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.
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Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

Buy It! Secrets of the Chinese Herbalists, by Richard Lucas, Parker Publishing Company, Inc., West Nyack, NY, 1987.

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements, by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C., Avery Publishing Group, Inc., Garden City Park, NY

Buy It! Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 15th Edition, F. A. Davis Company, 1915 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Buy It! Old Ways Rediscovered, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, published from 1954, print 1988

Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! The Magic of Herbs in Daily Living, by Richard Lucas, Parker Publishing Co. (1988).

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

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