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Castor Oil

Castor oil is edible oil derived from the castor bean. Its scientific  name is ‘ricinus communis’ and this plant is not a member of the bean  family. Castor seeds contain between 40% and 60% oil that is rich in  triglycerides, mainly ricinolein, and helps immensely in moisturizing  and lubricating the skin. Since centuries, castor oil has been used as  remedies for many disorders.
Besides being used as an edible oil, it is also used for producing  cosmetics and other personal care products such as night creams,  lipsticks, masks, etc. However, its seeds also contain ricin, a poison,  which is also present in lower concentrations throughout the plant.  Ricin does not partition into the oil because it is water-soluble,  therefore, castor oil does not contain ricin, provided that no  cross-contamination occurs during its production. India is the leading  producer of castor oil in the world, followed by China and Brazil with  0.8 and 0.4 lakh tons respectively.
Earlier castor oil was used for lighting by means of torches and  candles. Nowadays, it is widely used in many industries as a lubricant.
Castor Oil Plant
The castor bean plant, ‘ricinus communis’, is a native to the Ethiopian  region of tropical east Africa. It has now become naturalized in the  tropical and warm temperate regions throughout the world, and becoming  an increasingly abundant weed in the South-western United States. We can  locate these plants along river beds, stream banks, bottom lands, and  just about any hot area where the soil is well drained and with  sufficient nutrients and moisture to sustain the vigorous growth.
The castor plant may grow 6 to 15 feet (2-5 meters) in one season  with full sunlight, heat and adequate moisture. Its palmately lobed and  large leaves may grow up to 20 inches (50 cm) across and resemble a  tropical aralia. There are various cultivated varieties with different  foliage colorations like  black-purplish, dark red-metallic,  bronze-green, maroon, bright green with white veins, and just plain  green.
Flowers occur  most of the year in dense terminal clusters, with female flowers just  above the male flowers. There are no petals and each female flower  consists of a little spiny ovary (which develops into the fruit or seed  capsule), and a bright red structure with feathers. Each male flower  consists of a cluster of many stamens which literally smoke as they shed  pollen in a gust of wind.
The castor bean seed looks like an engorged dog tick in size and  shape, which is composed of three sections or carpels which split apart  at maturity. Each section (carpel) contains a single seed, and as the  carpel dries and splits open, the seed is often ejected with  considerable force.
Castor bean fruit (ricinus communis) is the spiny, globose seed  capsule (left) that dries and splits into 3 sections called carpels.  Each carpel (right) splits open and forcibly ejects a large seed. Like  the faces and fingerprints of people, the beautiful designs on castor  seeds exhibit infinite genetic variation.

Uses of Castor Oil
Food Industry: Food Grade Castor Oil is widely used in the food processing industry. It is used as food additives, lavorings, candy (i.e., chocolate), as a mold inhibitor, and also in packaging. The food stuff industries also use polyoxyethylated castor oil (eg. Cremophor EL) as a vehicle for oral and intravenous administration of water-insoluble compounds
Uses in Medicinal Science: From centuries, castor oil has been widely used as home remedy for many disorders. This unsaturated fatty acid contains ricinoleic acid, a unique subtance with great healing capabilities. Ricinoleic acid inhibits the growth of many viruses, bacteria, yeasts and molds. The most common and most frequent of the medical uses for castor oil are the way it is used for treating constipation. Application of the castor oil is also beneficial in cases of ringworm, keratoses, skin inflammation, abrasions, fungal infections, and acne. One study has found that castor oil decreased pain more than ultrasound gel or vaseline during extracorporeal shock wave application.
Other Medicinal Properties of Castor Oil
It is also used for skin ointments (healing of wounds, pustules, pimples, or haemorrhoids)
It is helpful in case of arthritis and back pain
Application of castor oil to the abdominal area relieves pain during the menstruation cycle
Nursing mothers used to apply castor oil to the breasts to increase milk secretion and relieve milk stagnation in the mammary glands.

Industrial Uses of Castor Oil

Castor oil is widely used in many industrial applications. This bio-degradable and eco-friendly product is used in plastics, textiles, paints, cosmetics, and a number of inks and industrial adhesives. Below is a brief description of its industrial application areas:

Adhesives
Cosmetics
Hair oils
Food containers
Fuel additives
Insulation
Lubricants
Nylon
Synthetic resins
Fibers
Paints
Varnishes
Plastics
Printing Inks
Textiles
Textile finishing materials
Paints
Varnishes
Fibers
Drying oils
Fungus-growth-inhibiting compounds
Embalming fluid
Soaps
Greases
Hydraulic fluids
Dyeing aids
Consumer Products: Cleaning products, detergents, personal care products, paint strippers, styling gel, adhesive remover, etc.

Other Applications

Due to its good lubricity and biodegradability, castor oil is an attractive alternative to petroleum-derived lubricant, but its oxidative stability and low temperature performance limits its widespread use
Its better low temperature viscosity properties and high temperature lubrication than most vegetable oils, makes it useful as a lubricant in jet, diesel, and race-car engines
Highly refined and dried castor oil is sometimes used as a dielectric fluid within high performance high voltage capacitors
It is the preferred lubricant for bicycle pumps, most likely because it doesn’t dissolve natural-rubber seals

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