San: Erandah, Pancangulah;
Hin: Erandi, Erand;
Tam: Amanakku, Kootaimuttu, Amanakkam Ceti;
Kan: Haralu, Manda, Oudla;
Tel: Erandamu, Amudamu
Importance: Castor is a perennial evergreen shrub. The Sanskrit name erandah describes the property of the drug to dispel diseases. It is considered as a reputed remedy for all kinds of rheumatic affections. They are useful in gastropathy such as gulma, amadosa, constipation, inflammations, fever, ascitis, strangury, bronchitis, cough, leprosy, skin diseases, vitiated conditions of vata, colic, coxalgia and lumbago. The leaves are useful in burns, nyctalopia, strangury and for bathing and fermentation and vitiated conditions of vata, especially in rheumatoid arthritis, urodynia and arthralgia. Flowers are useful in urodynia and arthralgia and glandular tumours. Seeds are useful in dyspepsia and for preparing a poultice to treat arthralgia. The oil from seeds is a very effective purgative for all ailments caused by vata and kapha. It is also recommended for scrotocele, ascites, intermittent fever, gulma, colonitis, lumbago, coxalgia and coxitis (Warrier et al, 1996). Oil is also used for soap making. Fresh leaves are used by nursing mothers in the Canary Island as an external application to increase the flow of milk. Castor oil is an excellent solvent of pure alkaloids and as such solutions of atropine, cocaine, etc. is used in ophthalmic surgery. It is also dropped into the eye to remove the after-irritation caused by the removal of foreign bodies.
Distribution: It is a native of N. E. tropical Africa. It is found throughout India, cultivated and found wild upto 2400m.
Botany: Ricinus communis Linn. belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae. It is a monoecious evergreen shrub growing upto 4m. Leaves are alternate, palmatifid, 6-10 lobed, each 1- nerved with many lateral nerves and peltate. Lobes are lanceolate, thinly pubescent below, margin serrate and apex acuminate. Paniculate racemes are terminal with male flowers below, female ones above. Perianth is cupular, splitting into 3-5 lobes, laceolate, valvate, margin inrolled and acuminate. Filaments of stamen are connate and repeatedly branched with divergent anther cells. Sepals are 5, sub-equal, lanceolate, valvate and acute. Ovary is globose, echinate, 3-locular with 3 ovules and pendulous. Styles are 3, stout, papillose, stigmatiferous. Capsules are 3-lobed and prickly with oblong seeds having smooth testa and marbled, shiny and carunculate. R. bronze King and R. africanus are two good garden varieties which are known as Italian and East Indian Castors, respectively (Mathew, 1983, Grieve and Leyel, 1992).
Agrotechnology: Castor is cultivated both in the plains and the hills. As it has deep root system it is hardy and capable of resisting drought. It does not withstand waterlogging and frost. It requires hard dry climate for proper development of fruits and seeds. It requires a well- drained soil, preferably sandy loam or loamy sand. High soil fertility is of less importance as compared to the good physical condition of the soil. It cannot tolerate alkalinity. It is generally grown in red loamy soils, black soils and alluvial soils. The plant is seed propagated. The seed rate required is 5-12 kg/ha (pure crop) and 3 kg/ha (mixed crop). Seeds are to be sown on a hot bed early in March. When the plants come up individual plant is to be planted in a separate pot filled with light soil and plunged into a fresh hot bed. The young plants are to be kept in glass houses till early June where they are hardened and kept out. The suitable season of growing is kharif season. The crop is usually sown in April and planting is done in early July. The land is to be ploughed 2-3 times with the onset of rains and is repeated after rain. The spacing recommended is 60X90cm in case of pure crop but it is seldom cultivated pure. It is usually grown mixed with crops such as jowar, arhar, chilly, groundnut, cowpea, cotton, etc. 10-15t FYM/ha and 50kg N, 50kg P2O5 and 20kg K2O/ha will be sufficient. Addition of neem cake is beneficial as it increases oil content. There should be sufficient moisture in the field at the time of sowing. A month after planting, weeding and earthing up is to be done. The plant is attacked by hairy caterpillar, castor semi – looper, castor seed caterpillar, etc. which can be managed by integrated pest management measures. The leaf blight disease occurring in castor can be controlled by spraying with Bordeaux mixture 2-3 times at 15 days interval. Harvesting of ripe fruits can be done from the end of November till the end of February. The fruit branches are picked when they are still green to avoid splitting and scattering of the seeds. The pods are to be heaped up in the sun to dry. Then the seeds are to be beaten with stick and winnowed. Roots, leaves, flowers, seeds and oil constitute the economic parts. The average yield is 500-600kg/ha (Thakur, 1990).
Properties and activity: The beancoat yielded lupeol and 30-norlupan-3 -ol-20-one. Roots, stems and leaves contain several amino acids. Flowers gave apigenin, chlorogenin, rutin, coumarin and hyperoside. Castor oil is constituted by several fatty acids (Husain et al, 1992). Seed coat contained 1. 50-1. 62% lipids and higher amounts of phosphatides and non-saponifiable matter than seed kernel. Fresh leaves protected against liver injury induced by carbon tetra chloride in rats while cold aqueous extract provided partial protection (Rastogi et al, 1991). Root and stem is antiprotozoal and anticancerous. Root, stem and seed are diuretic. The roots are sweet, acrid, astringent, thermogenic, carminative, purgative, galactagogue, sudorific, expectorant and depurative. Leaves are diuretic, anthelmintic and galactagogue. Seeds are acrid, thermogenic, digestive, cathartic and aphrodisiac. Oil is bitter, acrid, sweet, antipyretic, thermogenic and viscous (Warrier et al, 1996). Castor oil forms a clean, light- coloured soap, which dries and hardens well and is free from smell. The oil varies much in activity. The East Indian is the more active, but the Italian has the least taste. Castor oil is an excellent solvent of pure alkaloids. The oil furnishes sebacic acid and caprylic acid. It is the most valuable laxative in medicines. It acts in about 5 hours, affecting the entire length of the bowel, but not increasing the flow of bile, except in very large doses. The mode of its action is unknown. The oil will purge when rubbed into the skin (Grieve and Leyel, 1992).