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Ricinus communis Linn.

Botanical Name

Ricinus communis Linn.


No documentation



Vernacular Names

Malaysia Jarak, Jarak Besar, Kayu arang (Kadazan)
Indonesia Jarak (Java); Jarak, Jarak Kaliki, Jarak Jitun (Sunda)
Thailand Mahung
Myanmar Kesu, Kyeksu 
China Bi-ma-zi (China); Bay-mar-gee (Hong Kong)
Japan Himashi
Korea Pi-ma-ja

Haralu, Manda, Oudla (Kan); Avanakku (Mal); Amanakku, Kottaimuttu, Amanakkan ceti (Tamil); Erandamu, Amudamu (Telegu); Eranda (Urdu); Bherenda (Bengali); Arand, Rendi, Arandi, Erand, Rand (Hindi);  Sanskrit – Eranda, Pancangula, rubuka (Sanskrit);  Eudaru, Telendaru (Singhalese)

Nepalese Alha, Areta, Reri
Arabic Khirwa, Charua ; Kharouaa 
Persian Bedanjir, Bedangir 
English Castor oil plant, Palma Christi 
French Ricin, Palma Christi, Ricin commun 
German Wunderbaum, Palme Christie 
Greek Kiki
Italian Fagiolo d’India, Caffe do olio 
Hawaiian Koli ulaula, Koli keokeo  [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]


Ricinus 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. 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. The flowers are apetalous, set in several groups to form a wide-panicled inflorescence. The male flowers are found at the base of the buch; 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 fruit is a measure 2-3 cm. The 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. Flowering occurs between March and June. [8]


The plant is native of southeastern 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.[9]

Plant Use

R. communis is planted on a commercial basis for the production of castor oil which is used for centuries in the treatment of many medical conditions.

While the seeds are toxic other parts of the plants apparently does not contain ricin and had benefited many as medicine. The roots are considered sweet, acrid, astringent, carminative, purgative, anthelmintic, diuretic and depurative. The leaves on the other hand are diuretic, anthelmintic and galactagogue. [1] [10]

Toxic Parts

The fibrous part of the seed.[1]


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.

Seed residue after the process of oil extraction contains protein allergens that can cause contact dermatitis or asthma-like reaction if inhaled. [1] [2]

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.[1] [2]

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.

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.[2]


Oral – Gastric lavage or administration of activated charcoal should be considered should the patient be seen within the first hour of ingestion. Fluid replacement for gastrointestinal fluid loss. Monitoring of cardio-pulmonary, hepatic and renal function with management of organ dysfunction conventionally.

Parenteral – Symtomatic and supportive measures are the mainstay of the management of ricin poisoning.[2]

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  1)  Safety


1. Brent J. Critical Care Toxicology: Diagnosis and Management of the Critically Poisoned Patient.Elservier Health Sciences.Singapore. 2005. 1345 
2. Scott S, Thomas C. Poisonous Plants of Paradise: First Aid and Medical Treatment of Injuries. Available from: id=99Dr7v8JOKAC&pg=PA32&dq=Ricinus+communis+poisoning&hl=en&sa=X&ei=qKtLUcy2Ccn-rAe9tIH4Ag&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Ricinus%20communis%20poisoning&f=false.
3. Bhagwan Vaidya Dash, Vaidya Bhagwan Dash. Herbal Treatment Constipation. B. Jain Publishers (P) ltd. New Delhi. 2003;75.
4. D. M. Kaaiakamanu, JK Akina. Hawaiian Herbs of Medicinal Value. University Press of the Pacific. Hawai. 55.
5. Takeatsu Kimura. Unesco, Northeast Asia, Volume 2.World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd. Singapore. 1997. pg87-88.
6. Kamarudin Mat-Salleh, A. Latiff. Tumbuhan Ubatan Malaysia. Pusat Pengurusan Penyelidikan Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Selangor. 2002. pg349.
7. I.H. Burkil. A Dictionary of Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives Malaysia.Kuala Lumpur. 1966. pg. 1940 – 1945.
8. Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Union internationale pour la conservation de la nature et de ses ressources. A guide to medicinal plants in North Africa, IUCN. Spain. 2005. pg199.
9. Phillips R, Martyn R. Annuals and Biennials. Macmillan. London .1999. p. 106.
10. PK Warrier, VPK Nambiar, C Ramankutty, R Vasudevan Nair. Indian medicinal plants: a compendium of 500 species, Volume 5, Orient Longman Privaate Limited. India. 2002. pg1-3.


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