Botanist's Glossary

Castor-oil Plant - Ricinus communis

  • Description
    • Native to North-eastern Africa and South-western Asia, and now spread throughout all tropical regions, the castor-oil plant (Euphorbiaceae family) is, in its natural climate, a large shrub that grows to 3 or 4 meters, with beautiful large palmately-lobed leaves, which are red in ornamental varieties. The greenish flowers with red stigmas grow in erect spikes and produce capsules that contain three seeds.
  • Traditions
    • The castor-oil plant has been cultivated for at least 6,000 years for its oil, which was burned in lamps by the ancient Egyptians. However, the main use of the plant was as a purgative. The seeds (which can prove fatal to humans if 2 to 6 are ingested) contain one of the most deadly plant poisons: ricin. Castor oil itself does not contain ricin and has many industrial uses. The castor-oil plant also makes a beautiful ornamental plant.
  • Properties
    • Castor oil is obtained by cold pressing the dried and ground seeds. It is a hair conditioner and stimulant. It nourishes the skin, prevents skin dehydration and boosts radiance.