Ricinus communis L.

DeFilipps, Robert A. & Krupnick, Gary A., 2018, The medicinal plants of Myanmar, PhytoKeys 102, pp. 1-341: 72-73

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Ricinus communis L.


Ricinus communis L. 


Myanmar: kyet-hsu, kyetsu, thinbaw kyet-hsu, kyet-hsu yoe-ni, shapawing (Kachin), tanah toung (Mon), toon (Mon), mai-kong-leng (Shan). English: castor bean, castor oil plant, wonder-tree.


Tropical Africa. Although found wild in nature, now cultivated widely for the extraction of oil from the seeds. In Myanmar, does well in Sagaing, Mandalay, and Shan; prefers a warm temperate climate, but can also thrive in hot and dry areas. Found growing naturally on the banks of rivers, lakes and streams.


Sweet and rather bitter with heating properties, the plant is considered difficult to digest but generally effective at increasing sperm, regulating bowel movements, and controlling flatulence and phlegm. Leaf: Used in remedies for headaches and in poultices for sores and wounds. A decoction of leaves reduced to one-third the starting volume is ingested to alleviate strong gas and phlegm; also used for testes enlargement, bladder aches and pains, sore throat, and bile problems. Seed: They and their oil (lethal in their natural form) are used in oral medications after detoxifying. The detoxified, ground seeds are applied as a paste to neutralize venom from scorpion stings. They are also employed in anthelmintic remedies; and in medicines for flatulence, fever, cough, stomach bloating, liver disease, shooting abdominal pains, dysentery, back and bladder conditions, head-aches, asthma, leprosy, edema, and a general weakening malaise in men. Detoxified seed oil is additionally used to make laxative preparations, as well as to facilitate childbirth, and to strengthen hair.


Medicinal uses of this species in India are discussed in Jain and DeFilipps (1991). Chemical constituents, pharmacological action, and medicinal use of this species in Indian Ayurveda are discussed in detail by Kapoor (1990). Indigenous medicinal uses of this species in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India) are described by Dagar and Singh (1999). Medicinal uses of this species in China are discussed by Duke and Ayensu (1985).

The medicinal uses of this plant in the Caribbean region, as well as its chemistry, biological activity, toxicity and dosages, are discussed by Germosén-Robineau (1997). Traditional medicinal uses, chemical constituents and pharmacological activity of this species are discussed by Ross (2001). The chemistry, pharmacology, history and medicinal uses of this species in Latin America are discussed in detail by Gupta (1995). Worldwide medicinal usage, chemical composition and toxicity of this species are discussed by Duke (1986).

A pharmacognostical profile including medicinal uses of this plant in Africa is given in Iwu (1993). The toxic properties, symptoms, treatment and beneficial uses of this plant, parts of which are poisonous, are discussed by Nellis (1997). Data on the propagation, seed treatment and agricultural management of this species are given by Katende et al. (1995) and Bekele-Tesemma (1993). Details of the active chemical compounds, effects, herbal usage and pharmacological literature of this plant are given in Fleming (2000).

The plant and its seeds can cause skin irritation (contact dermatitis). "The pomace (residue after extracting the oil from castor beans) can cause asthma, urticaria, and dermatitis among castor oil extractors … (Castor oil used in) lipstick can also be the source of contact dermatitis resulting in cheilitis … Cases of allergy to castor oil, contact dermatitis of the face due to a makeup remover and contact dermatitis due to sulfonated castor oil have recently been described … Ricinoleic acid has been claimed to be the agent causing lipstick dermatitis." The seed contains a poisonous substance, the protein “ricin”, which is not present in castor oil, but is "probably responsible for certain allergies related to the plant" ( Benezra et al. 1985).

It has been reported that “Ricin”, a white crystalline compound isolated from castor beans ( Ricinus communis  ), is listed by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation, USA) as the third most poisonous substance known, behind plutonium and the botulism toxin. Toxicity of this species is discussed by Bruneton (1999). Ricin and ricinine contained in the seeds and leaves make this one of the most toxic plants known, and as noted by Lan et al. (1998): "A single seed of 0.25 g contains a lethal dose. The toxins are stable to proteolytic enzymes and hence are not destroyed when taken orally."


Nordal (1963), Agricultural Corporation (1980).