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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

FDA Poisonous Plant Database

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AUTHOR(S): Pammel, L. H.
TITLE: Castor oil plant - poisonous.
YEAR: 1921 CITATION: Vet Med, 16(12), 49 [English]
FDA #: F10809
ABSTRACT: Complete article: Mr. C. C. Scott of Rockwell City, writes as follows concerning the castor oil plant: ¿Under separate cover I am sending you a specimen of a plant and its seed for identification. A farmer here lost tow or three hogs that had eten some of the seed and wants to know if this seed was the cause of their death. He calls them mole beans. Please advise me the name of this plant and if the seeds or plant are poisonous to hogs.¿ The plant sent is the castor oil plant (Ricinus communis) and is a poisonous plant of the spurge family. There are many cases of poisoning on record, though few of these in domestic animals. The seeds furnish the well known castor oil, which is a mild and safe purgative. It contains ricinolein, or ricinoleic acid glycerid; an acrid principle, also palmitin, stearin, and myristin. The purgative principle found in it is unknown. Castor oil of commerce is not poisonous, but the pulp contains an acrid, albuminous substance, ricin. Dr. Winslow, in speaking of the poisonous character, says, ¿the seeds contain 50 per cent of oil, and an acrid, poisonous substance. Three seeds have caused death in man, and they are ten times more purgative than the oil.¿ A few seeds eaten entire by a child might produce serious symptoms. According to Chestnut, the seed eaten accidently by horses has caused death. They are used alos to poison sheep, according to the same authority. The oil cake is said not to be poisonous to poultry and cattle. A case is known of a young lady whose eyes became inflamed when in contact with a mere trace of the material in the laboratory. The toxin is very poisonous, but animals may be rendered immune, and the seeds then fed to them. Behring has produced an anti-toxic serum against this ricin or toxin of the castor oil bean. The symptoms of poisoning are vomiting, gastric pain, bloody diarrhea and dullness of vision. Stillmark states that the toxalbumin of castor oil bean, when injected into the circulation, is more poisonous than strychnin, prussic acid, or arsenic. Quite recently Dr. W. N. Bispham reported on several cases of poisoning in cuba from eating the seeds of the castor oil plant. Some persons showed peculiar susceptibility; in one case poisoning occured from eating a single seed, while in another a good many were eaten; in both cases the seeds caused nausea, vomiting, and purging of a violent nature.
GRIN #: 31896 Exit Disclaimer
COMMON NAME: castor oil plant
STANDARD COMMON NAME: castor
FAMILYEuphorbiaceae
LATIN NAMERicinus communis
STANDARD PLANT NAMERicinus communis L.
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