The castor oil plant belongs to the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae). This plant is a member of the monotypic genus called Ricinus and a sub-genus known as Ricininae. Presently, scientists are conducting researches to examine the development of the castor plant as well as its association with the other plant species.
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The seed inside the bean produced by the castor plant is actually not a bean in its true sense, though it is called so. The castor plant is native to India, Eastern Africa and the south-eastern regions of the Mediterranean basin. Presently, this plant is found growing in all the regions having tropical climatic conditions. Besides, the castor oil plant is grown in other regions of the world too as a decorative plant.
Castor oil is derived from the seeds of the castor plant and this natural oil is used for an assortment of purposes. Chemical analysis of the castor seeds have revealed that they enclose approximately 40 per cent to 60 per cent of oil, which contains sufficient percentage of triglycerides, particularly ricinolein.
In addition, the castor seeds also enclose ricin, a toxic substance that is also found in low intensities in all other parts of the castor plant.
The growth pattern as well as the appearance of the castor plant may differ greatly. The inconsistency in the appearance as well as the development habit of the castor oil plant has actually been enhanced by the cultivators who have chosen a variety of plants they have produced by breeding for the leaves, hues of the flowers and also the oil produced by the plant.
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The castor plant is suckering (shootings growing from the roots) shrub that is perennial in nature and grows rapidly often to attain the height of a small tree. Some castor plants may grow up to a height of 12 meters (39 feet).
The castor oil plant bears glossy leaves that often grow up to a length of 15 cm to 45 cm (5.9 inches to 18 inches) have long stalks and emerge alternately and are palmate (split into different parts). The castor leaves have five to 12 lobes which have roughly jagged segments.
The color of the leaves of a number of varieties of the castor oil plant may originally be deep reddish purple or bronze when they are tender, and slowly transform into a deep greenish, occasionally having a reddish dash when they become fully grown. In some other types of castor plants, the leaves are green in color right from the beginning, whereas in many other types of the castor plant the green leaves are masked with a pigment.
This green color is present in all the plant parts that enclose chlorophyll, such as the leaves, stems and the unripe fruits making their appearance dramatic ranging from purple to reddish-brown all through the plant's life.
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In fact, the variety of castor plants bearing dark leaves are often found growing in the neighbourhood of the variety of castor plants that bear green leaves. Hence, it may be said that there is a solitary gene that regulates the production of pigment in the leaves of a number of varieties of castor oil plants.
In fact, the pigmentation or color of the castor plant stems as well as the spiny, spherical seed capsules produced by this species of plants also differs. The fruit capsules borne by a number of castor oil plant varieties are flashy compared to the flowers borne by the plants.
Flowers of the castor oil plant appear in the terminal inflorescences that resemble panicles. Castor oil plant flowers are either green in color or come in an assortment of hues of red monoecious (having male as well as female organs in the same plant) blossoms with no petals.
While the male flowers have a yellowish-green hue accompanied by noticeable creamy stamens that are contained in elongated spikes that grow up to 15 cm (5.9 inches) in length, the female flowers emerge at the apex of the spikes and have protruding red-color stigmas.
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It is important to note that while the seeds of the castor plants are extremely poisonous, the oil extracted from them possesses numerous therapeutic properties and have been traditionally used for ages to treat several conditions and related symptoms by people belonging to different cultures. The oil prepared from the castor seeds is known as Castor Oil and it has traditionally been used to treat constipation.
The homeopathic remedy derived from Ricinus communis is mainly indicated for treating several ailments related to the digestive system. It is primarily used to treat symptoms, such as heavy vomiting, nausea as well as diarrhea.
Homeopathic remedy ricinus is especially beneficial for children who become weak and exhausted owing to diarrhea. People suffering from these symptoms usually endure acute dehydration and an intense thirst, but do not have any craving for food or feel hungry.
As in the instance of preparing any homeopathic medication, ricinus is also prepared with extreme caution and the end product, i.e. the homeopathic remedy, does not retain any trace of the toxic castor seeds. To prepare this homeopathic remedy, ripened castor seeds are soaked in alcohol for a specific period of time. The resultant solution is subsequently filtered, succussed and shaken up at regular intervals.
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The homeopathic remedy ricinus has multiple therapeutic uses and is especially prescribed to treat conditions, such as vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. The use of this homeopathic medicine is known to be safe for human use and is not known to result in any adverse after-effects when used in the accurate therapeutic dosages.
It is important to note that the homeopathic remedy derived from Ricinus communis is strictly prohibited for use in conditions, such as intestinal obstruction, severe inflammatory intestinal ailments, abdominal pain whose origin is unidentified and appendicitis.
It is also advisable that this homeopathic medicine should not be used by pregnant women as well as nursing mothers. Homeopathic remedy ricinus is also not indicated for use in children below the age of 12 years.
The castor oil plant (botanical name Ricinus communis) is an annual plant in Central Europe, while it may even grow as a biennial or triennial shrub in the southern regions of Europe. However, in the tropical climatic regions, the castor plant is a perennial shrub often growing to the height of a small tree.
The castor oil plant is native to the Mediterranean basin, India and the eastern parts of Africa. However, it was later introduced to different parts of the world and is presently found growing all over the tropical regions. In some other places, people cultivate the castor oil plant as a decorative shrub.