NaturHeals – Medicinal Plant 1 - Ricinus – Erand - Castor Plant
Plants are like the vacuums of our planet. Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases emitted in the air in large quantities. Human life is dependent on plants for medicine and food production. The last few decades have seen exponential growth in herbal medicines. The medicinal properties of plants are known to man since ancient times. The curative properties of plants are mentioned in Babylonian, Egyptian, and Chinese writings about five thousand years ago. Herbal medicines are popular due to their natural origin and minimum side effects. One such medicinal plant is the castor plant or Erand.
Herodotus and other Greek travelers noted that castor seed oil could be used for lighting, body ointments, and hair growth. Cleopatra is reputed to have used castor oil to brighten the whites of her eyes. The castor plant originated in the tropical belt of India and Africa. In India, castor has been popular for many years and even referred to in Sanskrit literature. Castor oil is used as skincare, lubricant, additive in food, medications, and biodiesel fuel component. Although Erand is a remedy for rheumatism and arthritis, its benefits are far-ranging, and the seed is used commonly in cosmetics and in treating common ailments. The oil of this plant is used to make Unani, Ayurveda, Homeopathic, and Allopathic medicines.
Different Names of Erand
The botanical name of the Erand is Ricinus Communis L. It belongs to the genus Ricinus, a member of the Euphorbiaceae family. The other common names of this plant are Castor bean, African Coffee Tree, Castor Oil Plant, Castor Seed, Gandharva Hasta, Huile de Ricin, and Graine de Ricin. It is also called Mexico Weed, Palma Christi, Ricin, Ricin Commun, Ricine, Ricino, Ricin Sanguin, Ricinus Sanguines, Tangantangan Oil Plant, and Wonder Tree. It is called andi, arand, and rend in Hindi; Gandharvahasta, rubu, urubu, vatari, citra, and pancangula in Sanskrit; era and eda in Assamese; bherenda in Bengali; erando and erandio in Gujarati; haralu, gida, and oudala in Kannada; aran and banangir in Kashmiri; avanakku in Malayalam; and errand in Marathi.
Ideal Soil and Climate
Castor plant is grown under varied climatic conditions, including tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate regions. Castor requires a moderately high temperature with low humidity throughout the growing season. Prolonged cloudy weather with high temperatures during flowering will result in poor seed settings. High temperatures above 41oC at the flowering time, even for a short time, will result in a good yield.
The castor plant grows to about six meters in height and is found extensively in South Africa, China, India, USSR, Brazil, and Thailand. The highly suitable soils for castor are deep, moderately fertile, well-drained, and red sandy loams with slightly acidic conditions (pH 5.0 to 6.5). Clayey and marshy soil with poor drainage is unsuitable. The crop cannot grow if the alkaline content of the soil is high. On the other hand, it can withstand slight to moderate acidity of the soil. India, the top-ranked country, is accounted for eighty-five percent of castor oilseed production in the world. Orissa, Telangana, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Andhra Pradesh are some of the major castor producing states in India.
Castor oil plant is a tall, perennial shrub that grows three meters high. When mature, the trunks turn greyish. The leaves of the castor plant are cylindrical, curved, drooping, purplish petioles with large stipules. Each leaf is divided into seven to nine-pointed triangular segments with toothed edges. The leaves are glossy, reddish-green when young, and glossy green when mature. The flowers occur in the stout in dense clusters and erect spikes in the forks of the upper branches. Female flowers are in the upper part of the spikes, and the male flowers are at the base. The spiny seed pod has three segments. Each segment contains one large, mottled, smooth seed. When ripe, the fruit explodes and throws the seed to a distance of several meters. The shiny seeds of the castor plant vary in size. They have a tiny brittle testa enclosing a white kernel. The seeds, a little larger than pinto beans, have beautiful, intricate designs in brown, brownish-red, dark chocolate, red, or black color.
Plant-based vegetable oils are identified as one of the oils having high nutritive value. Castor plant is one such oilseed with rich oil content due to the high monounsaturated fatty acids and bioactive compounds such as vitamin E. Its fatty acids constitute mainly of ricinoleic acid and other minor acids such as palmitic, stearic, and oleic acid. The major phytoconstituents present in this plant are gentistic acid, quercetin, gallic acid, tannins, Ricin A, B, and C, Indole 3 acetic acid, and alkaloid ricinine. The presence of toxic components of castor seed has been a concern for all who handle the castor seed. The predominant triglyceride component in the oil is trinicinolein. Minor compounds like carotenoid, tocotrienol, tocopherol, phytosterol, phytochemical, phospholipid, and phenolic compounds are present in castor oil. These compounds offer oxidation stability and antioxidant properties to the oil. The acid, iodine, viscosity, anisidine, and saponification indicate that the castor has good oil quality compared to other vegetable oils.
Castor oil is a natural product that fights many diseases. It is used for hair care, face, acne, and constipation due to its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, moisturizing, and hydration properties. The castor plant also possesses antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-implantation, antinociceptive, central analgesic, larvicidal, anti-tumor, and anti-asthmatic properties.
Mentioned below are the medical benefits of the castor seed.
Labor and Breastfeeding: There are times when a woman is in extreme pain, and the labor isn't beginning as smoothly as one would hope. Castor seeds and castor oil are given to would-be-mothers, as they help in inducing labor. After childbirth, the galactagogue properties in castor seeds are great for lactation, thus stimulating the secretion of milk. The high amount of healthy fatty acids in castor ensures a good milk flow in new mothers.
Arthritis: In chronic cases of rheumatism where the patient suffers from pain in joints and muscles, they are likely to experience limited movements or disabilities. The extreme pain caused due to arthritis can be alleviated by regular use of castor oil by massaging the oil onto the affected areas. Castor is also effective in treating gout, a condition that causes pain, burning sensation, and swelling of joints.
Constipation: One of the best-known medicinal benefits of castor is that it is a natural laxative and approved by the FDA as a stimulative laxative. Castor oil is used as a natural remedy for constipation. It increases the movement of muscles that pushes the excreta through the intestines, helping clear the bowels. Study shows that castor oil is effective in cleansing bowels before undergoing a non-invasive colonoscopy, also called a colon capsule endoscopy.
Fungal Infections: The antimicrobial property of castor makes it a popular treatment when suffering from fungal infections. Several studies have shown that castor oil may reduce harmful bacteria and fungi in dentures and help to improve symptoms related to denture stomatitis, which causes inflammation in the mouth. One can get relief from pain and itching on bruises, scratches, cuts, and wounds by applying castor seed oil.
Skin Issues: Castor oil has anti-inflammatory properties that help in reducing puffiness in the face. The presence of ricinoleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, helps in keeping the skin moisturized by preventing water loss through the outer layer of the skin. Therefore, castor oil is used in cosmetics like lotions, make-up, and soaps. As castor oil is thick, it is often mixed with other skin-friendly oils like jojoba, olive, almond, and coconut oil to keep the skin hydrated.
Hair Growth: Castor oil is a tonic for hair growth. Regularly massaging your hair with castor oil helps to make the roots stronger and prevents hair loss. The moisturizing properties of castor lubricate the hair shaft and leave your hair strong, smooth, and shiny. The use of castor seed oil helps to enhance the thickness of the eyelashes. Castor oil is a remedy for the treatment of dry and thinning hair, split ends, dandruff, and alopecia.
Apart from the benefits mentioned above, the castor seed helps to get rid of ringworms from the body with ease. It also helps to remove excess liquid from the lungs and liver. The protein ricin, used in small quantities, can be effective for birth control and prevent pregnancy as well. Castor oil helps in reducing menstrual pain.
Uses of Castor Plant
It is an important oilseed crop with great utilitarian value in the pharmaceutical, industrial, and agricultural sectors. The demand for castor oil has increased in international markets for medicine, cosmetics, biodiesel, plastics, and lubricant purposes.
- Castor oil taken orally alone or with quinine sulfate helps induce labor in pregnancy at term.
- The decoction acts like a galactagogue. The application to the breasts of women increases the secretion of milk.
- Leaves are used in the form of poultice or fomentation on sores, boils, and swellings.
- Leaves coated with oil and warmed when applied over the abdomen give relief to flatulence.
- Infusion of leaves is used for stomach ache and as a lotion for the eyes.
- Pounded leaves are said to give relief to dental caries or cavities.
- The juice of erand helps in treating jaundice.
- Roots of the castor plant taken in the form of decoction help to cure lumbago and allied complaints.
- Roots of the castor plant taken in the form of paste help in toothache.
- It is used externally as an emollient and a soothing medium when dropped into the eyes after removing foreign bodies like dirt, makeup, or dust.
- Ricin, despite being a very potent poison, possesses anti-tumor qualities used in cancer research and chemotherapy in recent years.
- During pregnancy, excessive use of castor seed oil can lead to abortion.
- Even though castor oil helps in lactation, excessive use by nursing mothers can adversely affect the baby.
- Always use castor seeds as laxatives in moderation to avoid diarrhea, vomiting, cramping, and bloating.
- The castor seeds should always be used after removing the outer covering properly as it contains the highly toxic protein, Ricin.
- Excessive use of castor oil on the skin can result in inflammation.
- Castor oil should be avoided if you have blocked intestines or unexplained stomach aches.
- The seeds of the castor plant contain Ricin, a poison that is extremely toxic for livestock and humans. Consumption of seeds can cause gastrointestinal disorders, and leaves may tend to cause neuromuscular disorders.
Planting and Harvesting
Castor being a deep-rooted crop requires a well-prepared seedbed. Deep ploughing in summer is necessary to break up any compact layer in the soil, so that the roots can penetrate into the soil to absorb moisture from the deep layer of the soil during the dry season. Disc-harrowing is done, followed by ploughing to break clods, level the seedbed, and destroy the weeds. The seedbed should be moist up to 15-20 cm. Castor plants can be grown under rain-fed and irrigated conditions. The sowing time for rain-fed crops is the onset of the monsoon i.e. around 15th June. Sowing after 20th July gives poor yield in Kharif crop. The sowing time for an irrigated crop is from 1st July to 15th August. It takes approximately 145-180 days for the castor plant to mature. Harvesting of the castor plant is done when the capsules turn yellowish. The spikes are dried in the sunlight for four to five days and then threshed by beating the dried capsules with wooden sticks, an electric thresher, or trampling under the feet of bullocks. Harvesting of pre-mature spikes leads to poor yield.
An agro-based organization, Jaivik Farms encourages farmers who are interested in cultivating medicinal plants like the castor plant The only criteria we look out for is that the farming method practiced by the farmers is organic i.e. without using any pesticides or synthetic-based fertilizers. We have a team of experts that provide guidance and assistance to the farmers in growing and nurturing their crops to maximize their yield.