What Is Castor Oil?

About Castor Oil

Many people had the unfortunate experience of taking castor oil in their childhood and the unpleasant taste and oily residue left on the tongue is not soon forgotten. Castor oil has been used by humans for centuries as a laxative, in unguents and as a lamp oil, but the majority of castor oil produced today is used in industrial processes. It was used by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks and it was a favorite tonic sold by snake oil salesmen in the American West.
  1. Geography

    • Castor oil comes from the seed of the castor plant, which is native to tropical climates, such as Ethiopian Africa. It is a major cash crop in Brazil and India. It can grow 30 to 40 feet high in its native habitat, but it can also thrive in colder climates, where the frost will kill the foliage every winter. It grows abundantly in the Southwestern United States, along streams and river banks. This member of the spurge family is sometimes grown as an ornamental plant because of its large, attractive foliage.

    Medicinal Uses

    • Castor oil is a strong and effective laxative. It is useful for temporary constipation and will provide relief in about 5 hours. It has been used as a folk remedy for various purposes such as removing styes, curing heartburn and expelling worms. Externally, castor oil can be used as a personal lubricant or a soothing cream for dry skin conditions, burns or open sores. It is sometimes used as a rub for headaches, stomachaches, arthritis and joint and muscle pain.
    • Castor oil is well known as an aid to induce labor in an impatient mother-to-be. It is sometimes effective, as it can cause cramping in the bowel, which may spread to the uterus and start the labor process. It is most likely to work if the woman’s body is close to labor already. This method of inducing labor can have some rather unpleasant side effects, however, such as diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. It may also cause a prolonged labor, and it is not advisable to jump start labor in this way.

    Industrial Uses

    • There are a number of surprisingly diverse uses for castor oil in industry. Castor oil is one of the main components of nylon, and it is used extensively in paint and varnish manufacture. It is an excellent lubricant for engines, able to maintain its oiliness even in high temperatures, and it is a popular automobile fuel additive. Castor beans are used to make biodiesel. Castor oil is used in the food industry for the manufacture of fruit flavorings, food additives and packaging.

    Warning

    • Castor seeds, or beans, contain a deadly poison, called ricin. This is one of the most potent substances that exist in nature, stronger than cyanide, arsenic or rattlesnake venom. Ricin will cause massive damage to vital organs, the breakdown of red blood cells and internal hemorrhages. Rest assured that this poison is removed from castor oil that is sold for medicinal use.

Read more: About Castor Oil | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/about_4709454_castor-oil.html#ixzz2LHCYVVT8

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