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Ricinus – Wikipedia

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**Botanical Description and Taxonomy**:
– Ricinus communis varies in growth habit and appearance, resembling a small tree.
– Its glossy leaves are long-stalked, alternate, palmate, with deep lobes.
– The plant’s stems and seed capsules exhibit varying pigmentation.
– The flowers are unisexual, lacking petals, and borne on the same plant.
– The genus Ricinus is named after a Latin word for tick by Carl Linnaeus.

**Cultivation and Cultivars**:
– Indigenous to the Mediterranean Basin, Eastern Africa, and India, Ricinus communis can become invasive in suitable climates.
– It is grown as an annual in cooler regions and evergreen in sheltered spots.
– Ornamental cultivars like Carmencita, Gibsonii, Impala, and Red Spire have unique features.
– Some cultivars, such as Hale and Brigham, were developed for oil production.
– BRS Nordestina and GCH6 were specifically bred for environmental adaptation and resistance.

**Uses and Significance**:
– Castor seeds are the source of castor oil, utilized in various industries.
– Ricinus has shown anti-inflammatory properties and medicinal uses due to its healing abilities.
– Castor oil is used for liver protection, antimicrobial properties, and in ancient Indian medicine.
– Global castor seed production is around two million tons annually, with India, China, and Mozambique being leading producers.
– Castor oil is used in cosmetics, as a lubricant, chemical feedstock, and in biodiesel production.

**Toxicity and Medicinal Applications**:
– Ricinus communis seeds contain the highly toxic ricin, making it one of the most poisonous plants.
– The plant’s allergenicity is rated 10 out of 10 on the OPALS scale, triggering asthma and severe allergies.
– Castor oil has been studied for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and therapeutic potential.
– Studies have explored the effects of Ricinus extracts on liver, kidney functions, and disease prevention.
– Poisoning cases in animals and humans have been reported due to the plant’s toxicity.

**Historical and Cultural Significance**:
– Ricinus communis has a rich historical background, with mentions in ancient texts and medicinal uses in various cultures.
– Pliny the Elder documented castor oil’s medicinal use in ancient times.
– Traditional practices, such as maternity care, have involved the use of Ricinus communis.
– The plant’s diverse uses have been noted in historical texts and ethnopharmacological studies.
– Afro-Cuban herbalism guides and cultural practices have also referenced the plant.

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