- Family Euphorbiaceae
- Ricinus communis
- Castor Bean, Mexico Seed, Oil Plant, Castor Oil Bush
- Spanish: Palma Christi, Ricino, Aciete de Ricino,
- Nahuatl: Asiixa'a
- Maya: Xcoch
- Castor Oil Plant
- The castor bean plant, 'ricinus communis', is a native to the Ethiopian region of tropical east Africa. It has now become naturalized in the tropical and warm temperate regions throughout the world, and becoming an increasingly abundant weed in the South-western United States. We can locate these plants along river beds, stream banks, bottom lands, and just about any hot area where the soil is well drained and with sufficient nutrients and moisture to sustain the vigorous growth.
- The castor plant may grow 6 to 15 feet (2-5 meters) in one season with full sunlight, [[Tips what to do against Heat Islands|heat and adequate moisture. Its palmately lobed and large leaves may grow up to 20 inches (50 cm) across and resemble a tropical aralia. There are various cultivated varieties with different foliage colorations like black-purplish, dark red-metallic, bronze-green, maroon, bright green with white veins, and just plain green.
- Flowers occur most of the year in dense terminal clusters, with female flowers just above the male flowers. There are no petals and each female flower consists of a little spiny ovary (which develops into the fruit or seed capsule), and a bright red structure with feathers. Each male flower consists of a cluster of many stamens which literally smoke as they shed pollen in a gust of wind.
- The Castor bean seed looks like an engorged dog tick in size and shape, which is composed of three sections or carpels which split apart at maturity. Each section (carpel) contains a single seed, and as the carpel dries and splits open, the seed is often ejected with considerable force.
- Castor bean fruit (ricinus communis) is the spiny, globose seed capsule (left) that dries and splits into 3 sections called carpels. Each carpel (right) splits open and forcibly ejects a large seed. Like the faces and fingerprints of people, the beautiful designs on castor seeds exhibit infinite genetic variation.
- Castor is essentially a warm season crop, cultivated in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions.
- Its cultivation is largely confined to countries lying between 400N and 400S latitudes, but in Russia, a few varieties are grown even upto 520 North latitude.
- In India it is being cultivated upto an attitude of 2500m, but in regions where frosts are common during the crop season, its cultivation is restricted upto 500 m.
- A frost free growing period of 140-190 days depending on variety is highly essential for obtaining satisfactory yields.
- It grows in tropical and subtropical regions as a perennial plant and in temperate climate as an annual plant.
- A moderate temperature of 20-260C is highly favourable during crop period for obtaining higher yields.
- Low temperatures (less than 150C) in the seed bed prolongs the emergence of seedlings, and makes the seed more liable to attack by fungal diseases and insects.
- Castor is sensitive to high temperatures especially at flowering.
- A temperature of 410C or above even for a relatively short period results in blasting of flowers and poor seed set.
- The effect is more marked if it coincides with moisture stress.
- In the country, the kharif crop is often subjected to prolonged cloudy weather with high temperatures during flowering, which adversely affects the seed setting.
- Generally, temperatures do not influence the oil content or level or composition of fatty acid.
- Basically castor is a long-day plant and comes up well without marked reduction in yield under fairly wide range in day-length
- The plant growth and development did not differ significantly when grown under different photoperiods of 12,14,16 and 18 hours.
- Castor, being a deep rooted crop, is fairly resistant to drought. In our country, castor is widely grown as a rained crop in kharif season, with sowings between May and July.
- A well distributed rainfall of 500-600 mm, during growing period will yield reasonably good yields.
- However, in the country satisfactory yields are obtained on sandy soils receiving a rainfall of 300-500mm., using the varieties with capacity for extremely quick root growth.
- In Andhra Pradesh, a rainfall of 500-600 mm is optimum for producing good yields on red loams.
- There should not be heavy and continuous rains during flowering.
- Continuous rains prior to planting are also not desirable as it will lower the soil temperature effecting the germination and increase the fungal diseases.
- Castor can with stand long dry spells as well as heavy rains but is highly susceptible to water logged conditions.
- Hail storms do considerable damage to the crop especially during the seedling stage.
- Defoliation due to hail prior to flowering will have little effect on final yield, but hail storm during flowering and capsule formation will cause considerable damage to the final yield.
- In India, the crop is essentially taken up during kharif.
- The availability of early maturing hybrids/varieties and improved agronomic practices has now made rabi or summer cropping possible under irrigation.
- In case of seed production of castor climatic conditions prevailing in a season has profound influence on sex expression.
- High temperatures coupled with humidity provide ideal climate for producing more male flowers and low temperatures is most conducive for production of female flowers and this is one reason why rabi/winter is the most ideal season for taking up hybrid certified seed production.
 Uses of Castor Oil
 uses in beauty
- Uses for castor oil in beauty products is common and it can also be used alone as an acne treatment, assisting in the healing of breakouts. Castor oil softens and conditions skin and hair. When castor oil is mixed with other products that have a mild abrasive effect is can be used for exfoliation.
 Acne Treatment
1. It is a common theory that excessive oiliness is the reason for acne. While it is true that over productive oil glands do contribute to acne symptoms, castor oil may actually help reduce and improve these symptoms.A recommended beauty treatment for acne is steaming the face for 20 minutes and applying castor oil afterward. You can heat water to boiling and bend over the bowl of water letting the steam reach your face. Drape a towel over your head. Add boiling water as needed to keep steam constant. After 20 minutes, measure a 1/2 tsp. of castor oil and massage it over the face while it is still damp. Leave the oil on overnight.If you see signs that an acne eruption is occurring, only use the steaming and castor oil technique every other night until they clear.
 Hair Care
2. Deep condition your hair with castor oil. Its heaviness allows it to penetrate the scalp and coat the hair strands more effectively, thus providing needed moisture to your hair. A good deep conditioner can be made from 1 tsp. of soybean oil and 2 tsp. of castor oil. Combine the two oils and heat until warm. Pour the mixture on your head and work it evenly throughout. Wrap your head in a towel that has also been heated and leave the towel and oil treatment on for fifteen minutes. Rinse out the excess oil, shampoo with your normal shampoo and rinse your hair well.
 Rough Areas on Skin
3. Combine castor oil with baking soda for use as a natural exfoliate. You'll mix a 1/4 tsp. of baking soda with 3 to 5 five drops of castor oil. You want the mixture to resemble a paste, so you may need to adjust the amount of castor oil until it is right. Once the mixture is ready, massage it into rough areas of your skin such as your elbows. Rinse the paste off, then apply a small amount of castor oil while your skin is still damp. Wrap a towel dampened in warm water around the rough area and leave it on for fifteen to thirty minutes.
 Internal Use
4. Beauty starts from within. If your body is not as healthy as it can be on the inside, it can show up in the appearance of your skin. Castor oil is recommended for relief from constipation. Follow dosage directions on the bottle.
 Industrial Uses
- Castor oil is widely used in many industrial applications. This bio-degradable and eco-friendly product is used in plastics, textiles, paints, cosmetics, and a number of inks and industrial adhesives. Below is a brief description of its industrial application areas:
- Hair oils
- Food containers
- Fuel additives
- Synthetic resins
- Printing Inks
- Textile finishing materials
- Drying oils
- Fungus-growth-inhibiting compounds
- Embalming fluid
- Hydraulic fluids
- Dyeing aids
- Consumer Products: Cleaning products, detergents, personal care products, paint strippers, styling gel, adhesive remover, etc.
- The health benefits of castor oil include the following:
- The Ricinoleic Acid, Oleic Acid, Linoleic Acid and other fatty acids found in castor oil are very effective in treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, gout etc. They easily penetrate through the skin. Castor Oil is many a times mixed with other medicines for rheumatism to facilitate their penetration and to enhance the effects.
 Birth Control
- Castor Oil contains toxin called Ricin (a protein) which, if administered in very low dosages, acts as germicidal. Due to this property, it is also used as Spermicidal (in spermicidal gels, lotions etc.). If administered to pregnant ladies in higher dosages, it can also cause abortions. However, the second mode of birth control can be fatal for the mother too and is never recommended.
 Menstrual Disorders
- Ricinoleic acid, present in castor oil, is Emenagogue in nature and helps open menstruation in cases of delayed or painful or stopped menstruations. It also helps relieve pain during menstruations.
 Skin Care
- Castor oil contains Undecylenic Acid which, due to its germicidal and disinfectant properties, is useful in treating skin diseases and skin ulcers, particularly those which are caused due to bacterial or fungal infections.
- Most of the substances which are Emenagogue in nature, are also Galactagogue in nature, that is, they stimulate secretion of milk. So is castor oil. Apart from easing and enhancing milk flow, it also increases quantity of milk due to presence of fatty acids in it. However, its cold-compressed form only should be taken in low doses to avoid its adverse effects on the infant.
 Hair Care
- The germicidal, insecticidal and fungicidal properties of Ricin and Ricinoleic acid present in castor oil protect the scalp and hair from microbial and fungal infections, the two prime causes for hair loss. In addition, the fatty acids in it nourish hair and prevent the scalp from drying by retaining moisture.
- Castor is most widely used as a laxative (better call it purgative). It is thus a very effective treatment in extreme cases of constipation where the bulk laxatives do not work.
 Other Benefits
- Used as an effective purgative. Ricinoleic acid is anti inflammatory in nature. Castor oil is also used in medicines for HIV positive people, as compounds like Ricinoleic acid and Ricin in it have germicidal and anti viral effects. Castor oil is also used on burns, wounds etc. to protect them from infections.