The castor plant (Ricinus communis L.) or Eranda is perennial shrub and used for treating various ailments. Castor plant has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, liver protecting and various other medicinal properties. Castor oil or eranda taila (eranda oil) is extracted from castor beans is very good laxative, anti -inflammatory and cures skin problems. It is highly recommended to use this oil only occasionally for constipation. Although there are countless medicinal use of different part of this plant here are some of them that can be used at home without any side effect, if taken in recommended doses.
Note: It is important to note that castor seeds are highly toxic. Oral intake of single seed for children and more than three seeds for adult can kill.
Latin name:Ricinus communis Linn.
- Sanskrit:Gandharva-Hasta, Panchangul, Vatari
- English:Castor Oil Plant
- Hindi:Erand, Rendee, Andu
- Malayalam:Ambanakka, Avanakku
- Marathi:Erand, Erandee
- Telugu:Amudanu, Amudmuchetu
- Other names of castor:Reer, Arandi, Eranda, Rendi, Gandharva hasta
Ayurvedic Properties and Action on body
For medicinal purpose the leaves and dried mature roots of plant are used. Below is given the Ayurvedic properties and action of fresh leaf and dried roots of castor.
- Rasa (Taste):Katu (pungent), kashaya/Astringent, Madhura/Sweet
- Guna (Characteristics):Sukshma, Snigdha/Unctuous, Tikshna/Sharp
- Virya (Potency):Ushna/Hot
- Vipaka (Post Digestive Effect):Madhura/Sweet
- Effects on Tridoshas (Humor):Pacifies Vata and Kapha.
Dried, mature roots:
- Rasa (Taste):Madhura/Sweet
- Guna (Characteristics):Guru/Heavy, Snigdha/Unctuous
- Virya (Potency):Ushna/Hot
- Vipaka (Post Digestive Effect):Madhura/Sweet
- Effects on Tridoshas (Humor):Vata har
Dose of roots:20-30 g of dried mature roots for decoction.
Constituents of roots: contains Alkaloid (ricinine).
Ayurvedic Medicines containing Castor as an ingredient: Chaturbhadra Rasa, Chaturmukha Rasa, Chintamani Rasa
Dose of leaves as per Ayurvedic pharmacopeia of India: 10-20 ml (Svarasa/fresh juice), 2-5 g (Powder).
Health remedies of castor
Roots are used in treatment of swelling, fever, abdominal diseases, arthritis, rheumatism, pain in lumbar region and similar conditions. The leaves are used for painful urination, lump, diseases due to vitiation of vata/wind and colic pain in the bladder (Vasti-Shula).
For treatment of Jaundice and liver related problems: Fresh leaves of castor plant has hepatoprotective action i.e. it protects liver damage. In case of jaundice in initial stage, use fresh leaf of plant to cure it. For this take 4-5 gm of leaves and grind them. Add this to boiling water and make decoction and drink twice a day. Or take 4-5 gm of leaves and extract its juice, mix with water and drink twice a day. This can also be used during pregnancy.
Antioxidant effects: Its seed extract has strong antioxidant effect.
Cracked heels, rough skin and hyper pigmentation: Massage with castor oil.
Irritation in eyes due to dust: Put 2-3 drops of castor oil in eyes to clean the dust.
Piles: Mix desi kapoor in eight times lukewarm castor oil. Use this oil to clean warts after bowel. This gives relief from swelling, pain and regular use help to dry the warts.
Inflammation, swelling due to arthritis: Massage with any pain reliving oil. Then take few castor leaves and heat them, put in cloth and tie on affected area at night before sleeping and remove in morning.
Chronic stomach pain: Take lukewarm water, add 2 tbsp of castor oil, lemon juice and drink. Regular use cures chronic stomach pain. For pain due to gastric trouble mix castor oil with butter and massage on the stomach.
Sciatica pain and backache: Grind castor kernel in milk and drink to relieve sciatica pain and backache
Chronic Constipation and Bleeding from the gums:Take 1 tea spoonful of castor oil with milk at bed time.
Contraceptive effect:Take one castor seed to prevent pregnancy. It is said one seed prevent pregnancy for one year.
Breast cancer: For breast cancer in initial stage do the following.
- Massage breast with castor oil.
- Take castor plant leaves 5 gm, cook in 200 gm of water and when water reduces to 50 gm filter and drink. Take this twice a day. Use regularly.
- Boil leaves of castor plant and apply this at affected area.
Central obesity:Take 20 gm roots of castor and make it powder and cook in 400 ml water and when it reduces to 100 ml mix 2 tbsp of castor oil and drink two times a day.
Swelling in vagina: Take cotton and soak in castor oil and apply on vagina.
Contraindications and Side Effects of Castor
- Do not use castor in intestinal obstruction and abdominal pain of unknown origin, appendicitis, inflammatory bowel (IBS) disease.
- Do not consume for more than 8–10 days.
- Do not consume castor oil frequently as it can cause electrolyte losses, gastric irritation, and allergic skin reactions. It should not be given to children.
- Castor seed contains very toxic components, about 3% on whole seed, which is highly poisonous for human beings and animals. Intake of single seed for children, and about 3-20 seeds for adult, can kill.
- Castor oil is sometimes used to induce labour by midwives.
- Castor oil, if taken in excess can causes serious side-effects such as abdominal pain, loose motions disease of the stomach, nausea and vomiting.
Castor Seeds Toxic but Not the Oil
The plant bears oval, glossy brown and beautiful seeds. These seeds look very attractive but are highly poisonous in nature due to presence of ricin.
Ricin is a carbohydrate-binding protein produced in castor seeds. It is the most poisonous naturally occurring substance. Ricin prevents synthesis of protein and cell metabolism. Since the toxicity involves synthesis of protein so visible symptoms appear only after few hours of ingestion or inhalation. Although on basis of symptom supportive treatments can be given but long-term organ damage can occur.
Castor seeds are lethal to every animal. It is said about 2.5–2.0 seed can kill a man (chewing a single seed may be fatal to a child), 4 to kill a rabbit, 5 for sheep, 6 for ox, 6 for horse, 7 for pig, 11 for dog and 80 seeds for a cock or duck.
These highly toxic castor seeds contain oil 40% to 60%. This oil is available in market by name Castor oil and is safe to use. It is used both in industry and for therapeutic use. Medicinally it is applied topically for skin dryness, ringworms and other skin conditions. Orally the oil is taken as laxative to soften stool and cure constipation. It is also given to start labour and improve breast milk.
So why castor seeds are highly toxic and castor oil is safe to use. The answer is, toxic protein Ricin is present in seed hull and in oil processing dehulled seeds are used. The dehulled seeds are cleaned, cooked and dried before oil extraction. Cooking ensures proper oil extraction and Ricin which remains stable at normal conditions gets inactivated by heat. Moreover ricin is water soluble and not oil soluble. Oil extracted contains no trace of ricin. The pulp or cake which is obtained after oil extraction is used as manure.
Even swallowing of whole seed is not poisonous. But if the seed coat/hull is broken then it will definitely cause poisoning. If a person chews the seed and breaks the seed coat then he/she may suffer from the toxicity and symptoms may appear after as early as 4- 8 hours and as late as 24 hours.
Since castor is easily available plant and its seeds are quite attractive therefor people and particularly children should be aware of the toxicity of seeds. Children should be kept away from castor plant.