This family has many plants with abundant milky juice or watery sap, often irritating and toxic. The flowers are most small. The fruits are usual capsules with 3 compartments, each with 1 or 2 seeds. The ripe capsules break open with a crack and some species shoot their seeds for more than 50 meters away. Sometimes the fruit is more like a berry, with an edible fleshy and juicy layer around the seed.
This family has many plants used for medicine, wood, dyes, rubber, oil, food, fruits and as ornamental plants.
These oil plants are small trees or shrubs up to 6 m; the seeds contain highly toxic proteins. Consumption of a few chewed raw seeds can be deadly. The remainder of the pressing cook of the seeds is only useful as fertilizer unless detoxified.
The pressed oil from the seeds is called castor oil or wonder oil.
Ricinus oil is a none drying and non-edible, very viscous oil. The oil is soluble in alcohol, not common for natural oil, but not mixable with light petrol.
For medicinal and food processing purpose the caster oil should be pressed cold to prevent introduction of toxic compounds.
The main fatty acid in the oil is ricinoleic acid, an unsaturated fatty acid with a hydroxyl group in the molecule.
Medicinal the oil is a useful a laxative agent. It has been used
in medicines inducing abortion or labour in pregnant woman.
A dose of 15-30 gram (1 or 2 table spoons) will result in defecation within 4 hours. A higher dose will not be digested but gives an contribution to 'pseudo diarrhea'
By the natural digestion of the oil the fats broken down to glycerol and ricinoleic acid. Ricinoleic acid irritates the mucus layers in the intestines and so speeds up the propulsion of its contents.
The oil is also used as oil for injection and in eye drops.
The oil is used in cosmetics as filler for nail varnish,
lipsticks, shampoo and hair creams (grease).
Ricinoleic acid can be used as a spermicidal in contraceptive gels and crèmes.
Ricinus oil is far more important as lubricant. It has a high
viscosity over a wide temperature range and is used as a high quality
lubricant under extreme conditions like the arctic or in airplanes.
Highly purified oil is used to lubricate food-moulds and food processing machines.
The processed oil is the major component in hydraulic- and break oils. The cracked oil delivers further products for lubricants and polymers.
The seeds contain a toxic protein 'ricin', especially when injected directly in the blood stream, 1 mg is lethal. Ricin is the supposed active ingredient in the "umbrella murder" in London in 1978. A Bulgarian journalist was killed after a sting with an umbrella. The umbrella was used to inject a small bullet with ricin as poison. Since 1994 ricin is considered as a potential chemical weapon.
The plant with green, red or brown leaves is nice garden plant. In colder regions it is grown in summer as an fast growing annual ornamental plant.
As the name of the seeds (no nuts) implies it good purging and
The oil will also repels worms, but is actually too toxic to use for medicinal use.
The oil of
The shrub grows well in dry regions, so it could be an interesting economically crop plant in dry areas. As a non-food oil preferable above fueled food like palm oil or corn alcohol to dilute gasoline.
Hopefully the cultivation of this plant will not have the same destructive impact on the natural forests as the rubber tree and oil palm.
In the traditional medicine, the clear sap of the plant is used to
arrest bleeding, to treat ulcers, cuts and abrasions. It is said that
the sap works by forming an airtight film after drying, like
The Thai name can be translated as 'black soap'. If you break a leaf and you blow in the right way over the gap you will see soap bubbles flowing off. The plant contains saponins, they can be used for washing cloths but are very different from normal soaps. It is possible to make a dark blue dye from the bark.
The fresh stems can be used as toothbrush to strengthen the gums and to cure bleeding gums.
The oil of the seeds was formally used as extreme laxative in very
persistent constipation. On the skin the oil is very irritating
causing sever itch and after some time bladders and pustules.
Croton oil contains 5% resinous material. This are esters of euphorbol, a mixture of irritating, toxic and cancer promoting chemicals. These compounds make the milky juice of many plants in the
The seeds (and oil) of
The dried crushed leaves are used as a purgative medicine, and externally used by snake bites.
Because the toxicity of all parts of the plant, including roots, it is better to consider this tree as nice ornamental plant but too dangerous medicinal plant for man and cattle.
|Hevea brasiliensis||H. brasiliensis flowering||H. brasiliensis in fruit||H. brasiliensis with fresh leaves|
The milk sap of this tree is the source of most of the natural rubbers in the world. The milky juice of the rubber tree is a special case within this family: it is not poisonous.
|Euphorbia millii hybrids||E. antiquorum||Pedilanthus tithymaliodes||Jatropha multifida||Manihot esculentum|
What seems to be an common flower is actually an collection of one central female flower surrounded be an number of male flowers. The male flowers are reduced to one single stamen. This collection of mini flowers is enclosed by bracts than can bear honey gland or other attributes.
The name for this pseudo flower is called an cyathium.
All species have white latex and mostly all with toxically euphorbol compounds.
Most information is to find in Plant resources of South-East Asia Vol 12(1): Medicinal and Poisonous plants for
Internet links for some plants: