Ricinus communis L.

Last updated: 4 Nov 2016

Scientific Name

Ricinus communis L.


Cataputia major Ludw., Cataputia minor Ludw., Croton spinosus L., Ricinus africanus Mill., Ricinus angulatus Thunb., Ricinus armatus Andr., Ricinus atropurpureus Pax & K.Hoffm., Ricinus badius Rchb., Ricinus borboniensis Pax & K.Hoffm., Ricinus cambodgensis Benary, Ricinus communis var. aegyptiaceus (Popova) Moshkin, Ricinus communis var. africanus Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis subsp. africanus (Mill.) Nyman, Ricinus communis var. amblyocalyx Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis f. americanus Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis var. americanus Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis f. argentatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. argyratus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis var. armatus (Andr.) Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis f. atratus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. atrobrunneatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. atrofulvatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. atrofuscatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. atrophoeniceus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. atropunicatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. atropurpureatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. avellanatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis var. badius (Rchb.) Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis var. bailundensis J.M.Coult., Ricinus communis var. benguelensis Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis f. blumeanus Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis var. brasiliensis Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis var. brevinodis Moshkin, Ricinus communis var. caesius Popova, Ricinus communis f. canatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. canescens T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. carneatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. cervatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. cinerascens T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. cinereatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis var. communis, Ricinus communis f. denudatus Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis f. epiglaucus Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis f. erythrocladus Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis f. exiguus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. fulvatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. fumatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. fuscatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. gilvus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis var. glaucus Popova & Moshkin, Ricinus communis f. glaucus (Hoffmanns.) Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis f. gracilis Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis var. griseofolius Moshkin, Ricinus communis f. guttatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis f. hybridus (Besser) Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis f. incarnatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus communis var. inermis (Mill.) Pax & K.Hoffm., Ricinus communis var. japonicus Popova & Moshkin, Ricinus communis var. leucocarpus (Bertol.) Müll.Arg., Ricinus communis f. maculatus T.Carvalho, Ricinus vulgaris Garsault [Invalid], Rininus communis f. purpurascens (Bertol.) Pax [Unresolved]. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Jarak, jarak berumah, jarak besar, minyak jarak [2]
English Castor bean, castor bean tree, castor oil, castor oil bush, castor oil plant, castor oil tree, castor seed tree, castor seeds, palma Christi, red castor oil plant, wonder tree [2]
China Bi ma zi, pei ma [2]
India Amanakku, amanda, amangala, andi, araud, ayidamu, bhanda, bindi, chankuka, chatkijada, citavanacu, dalda gass, era pat, eranda, erendi, gandharvahastaka, jaronda, kanta, lulucha, ndataila, oudale, panchagulam, ranga bindi, ruvuka, suklah, taruna, urubaka, uttanapatraka, vatari, vyadambaka, yeranda [2]
Bangladesh Bherenda [2]
Thailand Khi-to, la-hung, ma-hong, ma-hong-hen, ma-hung [2]
Philippines Casla, gatlaoua, hawa, katana, lansina, lingang-sina, sina, taca-taca, tan-tangan, tañgan-tañgan, tangan-tangan, taua-taua, tawa-tawa [2]
Vietnam Cay thau-dau, du-du-dau, ma puong si, thau dau, ty ma [2]
Tibetan Dan-khra, dur byid, e ran da, e ran da dmar po, e ram nda, e-ran [2]
Japan Chanda-kashi, tô-goma [2]
Saudi Arabia Arash, kharwa, kherwa’, shemouga [2]
Nepal Andela, ander, andi ko bot, avend, dhandarobi, dhatura [2]
Pakistan Morpad [2]
Hawaii Ka’apeha, kamakou, koli, la’au ‘aila, pa’aila [2]
Central and South America Al-pai-ue, balureira, carapateiro, carrapateira, cashtilenque, dacui, degha, figo-do-inferno, girgilla, guechi-beyo, higuera del diablo, higuereta, kawapat, mamona, nhambuguacu, ricina, thiquela, xkoch, yaga-bilape, yaga-higo, yaga-queze-aho [2]
East Africa Igonu, mbarika, mbono, mnyemba, mzono, nsogasoga, ol-dule [2]
Nigeria Zurma, zurman [2]
Madagascar Kimanga, kinamena, kinana, kinanga, ricin, palma Christi, tanantanamanga, tanatanamanga, tanatanamena, tseroka [2]
Southern Africa Bloubottleboom, bosluisboom, kasterolieboom, olieboom, oliepitboom, wonderboom, nhlampfura, muFude, mufuta, muplure, mbariki, mohlafotha, mokhura, umHlakuva, umfude, umhlakuva [2].

Geographical Distributions

Ricinus communis is native in South Eastern Mediterranean Basin, Eastern Africa and India. It is now widespread throughout the tropical regions. They are also grown on a commercial basis for the production of castor oil and many are also attracted to the colourful leaves to grow them in home garden landscape. [3]

Botanical Description

R. communis is member of the Euphorbiaceae family. It is a perennial shrub or small tree that can grow to 2-4m, branched, completely glabrous, a glaucous green with yellow parts that are often reddish. [4]

The leaves are simple, alternate, downy and with a long petiole bearing shield-like epidermic glands. The limb is palmate-lobed, divided to 7-9 lanceolated, irregularly toothed, glandulous lobes. [4]

The flowers are apetalous, set in several groups to form a wide-panicled inflorescence. The male flowers are found at the base of the bush; their stamens are undefined, with many pollen loculi, and they hang together in very ramified bushes. The female flowers, set at the top of the bunch, have three red, lengthwise bifid styles. The flowering occurs between the month of March and June. [4]

The fruit is a 2-3 cm, capsule composed of three prickly shells; each loculus contains a shiny seed about the size of a haricot bean, with a caruncle, covered with a very hard yellow/brown marbled integument. [4]


No documentation

Chemical Constituent

R. communis has been reported to contain 2”-O-p-coumaroylprunin, 3,4-dimethoxy-6,8-dihydroxy-coumarin, 30-nor-lupan-3-β-ol-20-one, 6,7-dihydroxy-8-methoxy-coumarin,   9,10-dioxystearic-acid, agmatine, α-tocopherol, β-amyrin, β-sitosterol, calcium, casbene, catalase, chlorogenic-acid, corilagin, edestine, ellagic-acid, endotrypsin, ferulic-acid, fucose, gallic-acid, γ-tocopherol, glutamic-acid, glycolic-acid, hcn, hyperoside, invert-sugar, invertase, isoquercitrin, kaempferol, kaempferol-3-O-β-d-glucopyranoside, kaempferol-3-O-β-d-xylopyranoside, kaempferol-3-O-β-rutinoside, l-(+)-norleucine,   lecithin, linoleic-acid, lipase, maltase, mannose, n-demethylricinine, n-heptylaldehyde, neo-chlorogenic-acid, niacin, nucleoalbumin, oleic-acid, oxidase, p-coumaric-acid, palmitic acid, peroxidase, phosphorus, protein, quercetin, quercetin-3-O-β-d-glucopyranoside, quercetin-3-O-β-d-xylopyranoside, quercetin-3-O-β-rutinoside, quercitrin, reductase, riboflavin, ribonuclease, ricin, ricinine, ricinoleic acid, ricinoleic acid esters, ricinolein, rutin, saccharose, sapogenin acetate, shikimic acid, squalene, stigmasterol, succinic acid, sugar, tocopherols, trans-dehydromatricaria ester, tridec-1-en-penta-3,5,7,9,11-in, triricinolein, uric acid, water, and zymogeneed. [5]

Plant Part Used

Root, seed, leaves. [6][7]

Traditional Use

R. communis roots are considered sweet, acrid, astringent, thermogenic, carminative, purgative, anthelmintic, emollient, diuretic, aphrodisiac, galactagogue, sudorific, expectorant and depurative. The leaves are diuretic, anthelmintic and galactagogue. Seeds are acrid, thermogenic, digestive, cathartic and aphrodisiac and oil obtained from the seeds is slightly bitter, acrid, sweet, antipyretic, thermogenic and viscous. [6]

Preclinical Data


Anti-inflammatory activity

Ricinoleic acid is the main active principle of castor oil. Single topical application of ricinoleic acid initiates inflammatory while repeated application (over 8 days) inhibited inflammatory processes. Both the methanol and ethanol extracts of the roots of R. communis has significant anti-inflammatory activity in acute and chronic inflammatory models in rats. This activity may be due to the presence of flavonoids, alkaloids and tannins. [8][9][10]

Cytotoxic activity

Ricin is a heterodimeric protein from the seeds of R. communis. It has cytotoxic activity by virtue of its ability to fatally disrupt protein synthesis. The cell entry process by ricin is postulated to be a 10 step process, which culminate into the protein synthesis disruption. A single molecule of ricin reaching the cytosol can kill the cell due to this. Therapeutically, it can be used to specifically target and destroy cancer cells. The leaves on the other hand, have another range of cytotoxic phytochemicals which induces apoptosis via translocation of phosphatidyl serine to the external serface of cell membrane and loss of mitochondrial potential. These compounds included three monoterpenoids: 1,8-cineole, camphor and alpha-pinene and a sesquiterpenoid: beta-caryophyllene. The R. communis agglutinin I (RCA I) was found to preferentially binds to and is internalized by tumour endothelial cells leading to VEGFR-2 down-regulation, endothelial cell apoptosis and tumour vessel regression. It has no effect on normal blood vessels. [11][12][13]

Bone regeneration activity

R. communis polyurethane (RCP) has been studied for its biocompatibility and its ability to stimulate bone regeneration. Results showed that RCP blended with calcium carbonate or calcium phosphate could promote matrix mineralization and are biocompatible materials. Incorporating Alkaline phosphotase to RCP with subsequent incubation in Synthetic body fluid could improve the biological properties of RCP. The advantage seen in RCP as compared to demineralized bone is that the former has a slower resorption process. [14][15][16][17]

Antibacterial activity

Extracts of fermeneted seeds of R. communis showed antibacterial activity. Klebsiella pneumonia, Escherichia coli, Proteus vulgaris and Staphylococcus aureus were highly susceptible to methanol and aqueous extracts. [18]

Antidiabetic activity

The 50% ethanol extract of roots of R. communis showed significant antihyperglycemic activity. It has a high margin of safety as studies done showed that there was no mortality and no significant difference in alkaline phosphatase, serum bilirubin, creatinine, serum glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase, serum glutamate pyruvate transaminase and total protein levels after testing with the extract. [19]

Antifertility activity

A number of studies in animals (rats, rabbits and guinea pigs) showed the extracts of the seeds has antifertility activity. The extract showed anti-implantation activity together with premature opening of the vagina, increased in the number of epithelial cells and cornified cells with decrease in leucocyte number in vaginal smear. These oestrogenic actions are dose dependent. One possible mechanism was evidenced by the ability of ether extract of the bean to inhibit rat decidual stromal cells. This effect is probably due to the presence of phytosterols (ergost-5-en-3-ol, stigmasterol, gamma-sitosterol and fucosterol) in particular gamma-sitosterol. [20][21][22]

Another series of studies showed that the seeds also has antifertility activity in male rats. 50% ethanol extract of R. communis was able to drastically recude the epididymal sperm count. There were also altered motility, mode of movement and morphology of sperms. The reduction in the fructose and testosterone levels observed was suggestive of the reduced reproductive performance [23]. The methanol extract of the seeds caused significant decrease in the weight of reproductive organs, sperm functions and serum levels of testosterone in rats. Histologically there were disorganization of the cytoarchitecture of the testes, disruption of the seminiferous tubules and erosion of the germinal epithelium. The effects were revisable. The changes could probably be mediated via gonaldal disruption in testosterone secretion [24].

CNS stimulant activity

Extract of pericarp of R. communis showed typical central nervous system stimulant effects in mice as evidenced by the presence of exophthalmia, tremors and clonic seizures appearing immediately after receiving large doses of the extract. However, lower doses improved memory consolidation and some neuroleptic-like properties (decrease in exploratory behavior and catalepsy). Ricinine, a neutral alkaloid isolated from the extract possesses the memory-improving effect and the seizure-eliciting properties but not the neuroleptic-like properties. [25]


No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

A clinical trial carried out on 50 women volunteers showed that the administration of a single oral dose of 2.3-2.5 g once per 12 months protected against pregnancy for a period of 1 year. There were also minimal side effects which included headache, nausea, vomiting, weight gain, loss of appetite, raised blood pressure and dysmenorrhoea. There were also no adverse effects on liver and kidneys. It is believed that the antifertility and contraceptive activity was not solely due to hormonal mechanism since side effects attributable to oestrogen and/or progesterone were minimal. [26]


No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation


No documentation

Case Report

Two cases of multiple organ failure following injection of ricin were reported.

Case 1

A 28 year old transsexual received 500ml of castor oil in the hips and buttocks for cosmetic enhancement. She immediately developed local pain and erythema followed by abdominal and chest pain, vomiting, headache, haematuria, jaundice and tinnitus. Her condition deteriorated despite treatment and developed fever, tachycardia, haemolysis, thrombocytopenia, hepatitis, respiratory distress and anuric renal failure. She was on intensive supportive care which included mechanical ventilation and haemodialysis and finally recovered and discharged on the 11th day but required dialysis for another one and a half months. [26]

Case 2

A 49-year old man committed suicide by administering extract of castor bean both subcutaneously and intravenously. He was admitted in a conscious state with a history of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dyspnoea, vertigo and muscular pain. He succumbed to the poison 9 hours after admission despite symptomatic and supportive intensive care. The death was attributed to multiple organ failure as a result of intoxication with plant toxin from R. communis. Two cases of multiple organ failure following injection of ricin were reported. [27]


No documentation

Poisonous Management

Toxic parts

The fibrous part of the seed. [28]


Ricin is the toxin in R. communis. It is a toxalbumin that causes red blood cells to agglutinate. It is capable of causing severe bleeding in the mouth, oesophagus, stomach and intestine. The onset of toxalbumin lesion which is similar to alkaline burns, may take several hours after ingestion. Upon being absorbed it cause cell damage due to its interference with cell function. This eventually leads to serious liver, kidney, adrenal and nerve damage. A single seed chewed can be lethal to a child, and adults may need from 8 to 10 seeds. Degree of poisoning will depend on how thorough the person chews the seeds. [28][29]

Seed residue after the process of oil extraction contains protein allergens that can cause contact dermatitis or asthma-like reaction if inhaled. [28][29]

Risk management

The plant has been used as ornamental especially the purple leaf variety. As the seeds are deadly, such plants should not be planted in areas where toddlers could pick them up and ingest them. [28][29]

Poisonous clinical findings

Exposure to fertilizer made from castor seed residue can cause wheezing and dyspnoea and handling it can cause allergic skin reaction. Accidental pricking of finger during stringing castor seeds can cause immediate painful swelling, cold sweat and throat and nasal congestion. Juice from the seeds can cause redness, lachrymation and swelling with loss of eye tissue. [29]

Upon ingestion, symptoms do not appear immediately. A latency of between 2 hours to 3 days is often observed. There is burning sensation in the mouth and throat, which is followed by nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea often with bleeding. In severe cases lesions appearing like alkaline-burns can be seen in the mouth, oespphagus and throughout the stomach and intestine. Haematuria and dehydration may ensue. Death is as a result of fluid loss and multiple organ failures. [29]



Gastric lavage or administration of activated charcoal should be considered should the patient be seen within the first hour of ingestion. [29]

Fluid replacement for gastrointestinal fluid loss. [29]

Monitoring of cardio-pulmonary, hepatic and renal function with management of organ dysfunction. [29]


Symtomatic and supportive measures are the mainstay of the management of ricin poisoning. [29]

Line drawing

No documentation


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