Botanical name: Ricinus communis Family: Euphorbiaceae (castor family)
The castor bean plant, an erect, tropical shrub or small tree, grows up to 30 feet tall. As an annual in the cooler zones, it grows up to 15' tall. It is a very fast growing plant. The joints of the hollow stem, stalks and leaves are reddish to purple. The 6 - 11 lobed, palmate leaves with uneven serrated edge, are also red or colored and often have a blue-gray bloom. There is also a green variety. The flat seeds are in a seedpod that explodes when ripen. All the top of the stem and stalks are the inflorescence with the male - and female flowers. The female flowers are the fuzzy red structures at the top of the flower spike with the male flowers positioned on the lower half, and have conspicuous yellow anthers The oblong fruit turns brown when ripe. In each seed pod (a capsule) there are three seeds. The seeds of castor bean or castor oil plant, are very poisonous to people, animals and insects; just one milligram of ricin (one of the main toxic proteins in the plant) can kill an adult. The castor oil is extracted from the beans, which is used for medicinal purposes. Commercially prepared castor oil contains none of the toxin.
Medicinal uses: In Manipur, leaves are warmed, crushed and applied to annus as a remedy for bleeding piles. Seed oil is purgative. Leaf-paste is used as poultice on sores, gout or rheumatic swellings. Decoction of root is given in lumbago. For lactation, leaves of the plant are heated and applied to a woman's breasts to improve secretion of milk.
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