Plants at a Glance

July 1, 2005

Castor Bean(Higuerilla)Ricinus communisEUPHORBIACEAEGeo-distribution: Higuerilla orcastor bean is a native of the OldWorld tropics that is now foundaround the world in tropical andeven temperate climates. In CostaRica, it is most commonly found growing in fields, roadsidesand pastures where it has escaped cultivation andgrows wild. It is also grown in some gardens or as a shadeplant for nurseries. This plant grows in most regions ofthe country.Botanical Description: Castor bean is a perennial shrub or small tree 1-5 meters inheight with palmate, deeply lobed leaves 10-60 centimeters wide. The purple to reddish-brown flowers are borne on spikes that turn into soft, spiny seed capsules withblack or spotted brown or gray seeds.Medicinal Uses: The oil of the castor bean is famous as a purgative laxative. Althoughthe plant and its seeds have been used in folk recipes as a laxative, anti-inflammatory,analgesic and febrifuge, it is much safer to use the commercial processed oil, whichis sold in most pharmacies. Use 1-2 tablespoons of castor oil, taken with a glass ofwarm water, to eliminate constipation and help cleanse the colon of obstructions andputrid waste. The same treatment is recommended in conjunction with the naturalherbal treatment for parasitic worms. The oil can also be used as an external massageoil for young babies suffering from constipation or for nursing mothers to heal breastsores and increase milk production. Caution: The fresh seeds contain a compoundcalled ricin, which is poisonous but rendered non-toxic by heating. Processed castoroil has been heat-treated.Notes: Castor bean is often used as an ornamental in Costa Rican home gardens. Theumbrella-like leaves add an unusual appearance to the garden landscape. Costa Ricansalso use this plant to repel moles from the garden. The moles are repelled when theyeat the toxic roots. Seeds can be planted directly around the home vegetable or ornamentalgarden for this purpose.We have books and seeds to share with you. Visit www.thenewdawncenter.org ore-mail us at thenewdawncenter@yahoo.com.

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