Castor bean contains a constituent called ricin, a protoplasmic poison that causes cell death after binding to normal cells and disrupting deoxyribonucleic acid synthesis and protein metabolism. Ricin may have analgesic and antiviral properties. Castor bean is available as a paste for external use. Castor seed is the source of castor oil, which has a wide variety of uses. The seeds contain between 20% and 90% oil that is rich in triglycerides, mainly ricinolein. They also contain ricin, a poison, which is also present in lower concentrations throughout the plant.
The toxicity of raw castor beans isn’t well-known, though reports of actual poisoning are relatively common. Many children die from as few as three beans; adults may require eight or more. As an example of the rarity of castor bean poisoning, in recent years there have only been two cases reported in all of England, and in both the victims recovered uneventfully. Castor bean plant (Ricinus communis) growing along the edge of San Elijo Lagoon in coastal San Diego County, California. The large, tropical, palmately-lobed leaves make this naturalized plant unmistakable.
Benefits And Uses of Castor Bean
Castor bean is used externally as a paste to treat inflammatory skin conditions, boils, carbuncles, abscesses, inflammation of the middle ear, and migraines.
Paste (made from ground seeds): Applied externally to affected areas two times a day for up to 15 days.
Side Effects of Castor Bean
Adverse effects associated with castor bean include rash, toxic reaction, and allergic reaction. Potassium depletion from herb use can increase body’s sensitivity to digoxin. Inhaled castor bean dust can cause allergic reaction.
Pregnant and breast-feeding patients should avoid use.
Discourage oral use of castor bean.
Advise patient not to use on broken or damaged skin and not to inhale castor bean dust.
Advise patient to discontinue use if develops a rash after use.
Instruct patient to seek medical help immediately if he suspects he has taken an overdose.
Warn patient to keep all herbal products away from children and pets.
Tell patient to remind prescriber and pharmacist of any herbal or dietail supplement that he’s taking when obtaining a new prescription.
Advise patient to consult his health care provider before using an herbal preparation because a treatment with proven efficacy may be available.
The concepts behind the use of castor bean and the claims made regarding its effects have not yet been validated scientifically.