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Castor oil

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Castor oil is a vegetable oil obtained from the castor bean (technically castor seed as the castor plant, Ricinus communis, is not a member of the bean family).

Castor oil has an unusual composition and chemistry, which makes it quite valuable. Ninety percent of fatty acids in castor oil are ricinoleic acid. Ricinoleic acid, a monounsaturated, 18-carbon fatty acid, has a hydroxyl functional group at the twelfth carbon, a very uncommon property for a biological fatty acid. This functional group causes ricinoleic acid (and castor oil) to be unusually polar, and also allows chemical derivatization that is not practical with other biological oils. Since it is a polar dielectric with a relatively high dielectric constant (4.7), highly refined and dried Castor oil is sometimes used as a dielectric fluid within high performance high voltage capacitors. Castor oil also contains 3-4% of both oleic and linoleic acids.[1]

Castor oil maintains its fluidity at both extremely high and low temperatures. Sebacic acid is chemically derived from castor oil. Castor oil and its derivatives have applications in the manufacturing of soaps, lubricants, hydraulic and brake fluids, paints, dyes, coatings, inks, cold resistant plastics, waxes and polishes, nylon, pharmaceuticals and perfumes. In internal combustion engines, castor oil is renowned for its ability to lubricate under extreme conditions and temperatures, such as in air-cooled engines. The lubricants company Castrol takes its name from castor oil. However, castor oil tends to form gums in a short time, and its use is therefore restricted to engines that are regularly rebuilt, such as motorcycle race engines.

Castor oil is vegetable-based oil because it's made from Castor plant seeds; thus, it naturally biodegrades quickly and comes from a renewable energy resource (plants). The castor seed contains Ricin, a toxic protein removed by cold pressing and filtering. [2].

Castor oil fatty acids


Castor oil in food

In the food industry, Castor oil (food grade) is used in food additives [2], flavorings, candy (i.e., chocolate) [3], as a mold inhibitor, and in packaging. Polyoxyethylated Castor oil (a.k.a. Cremophor) [4] is also used in the foodstuff industries [5].

Medicinal use of Castor oil

Today, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes Castor oil as generally safe and effective (GRASE) for over-the-counter use as a laxative [6], but it is not a preferred drug to treat constipation. [7] Besides being a laxative, Castor oil is used throughout the world to help women start labor.[3] One of Castor oil's derivatives undecylenic acid is also FDA approved for over-the-counter use on skin disorders or skin problems. [8].

Pure cold pressed Castor oil is really tasteless and odorless. When additives are added to pure cold pressed Castor oil, the oil becomes adulterated and the taste and smell can change according to the additives. Also, pure cold pressed Castor oil is potent and can be an eye irritant similar to pepper spray, so avoid contact with eyes. [4]

Ricinoleic acid is the main component of Castor oil and it exerts anti-inflammatory effects [9].

A study found that castor oil decreased pain more than ultrasound gel or vaseline during extracorporeal shock wave application [10].

Therapeutically, modern drugs are rarely given in a pure chemical state, so most active ingredients are combined with excipients or additives. Castor oil in the form of Cremophor EL (polyethoxylated Castor oil: a mixture of ricinoleic acid, polyglycol ester, glycerol polyglycol esters, and polyglycols) is added to many modern drugs such as: Miconazole, anti-fungal [11] [12]; Paclitaxel, anti-cancer [13]; Sandimmune (cyclosporine injection, USP) [14]; Nelfinavir mesylate, HIV protese inhibitor [15]. Saperconazole has Emulphor EL -719P (a castor oil derivative) [16]; Prograf has HCO-60 (polyoxyl 60 hydrogenated Castor oil); Balsam Peru - Castor oil - and Trypsin Topical contains Castor oil [17]; Aci-Jel (acetic acid/oxyquinoline/ricinoleic acid - vaginal); Emla (lidocaine, prilocaine and Castor oil) [18].

Traditional or folk medicines

Cold pressed Castor oil has been used or time-tested for centuries throughout the world for its anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties long before any government agency was created to regulate medicines.

Medicinal Castor oil was used for skin problems, burns, sunburns, skin disorders, skin cuts, abrasions, etc.

The oil is also used as a rub or pack for various ailments, including abdominal complaints, headaches, muscle pains, inflammatory conditions, skin eruptions, lesions, and sinusitis. A castor oil pack is made by soaking a piece of flannel in castor oil, then putting it on the area of complaint and placing a heat source, such as a hot water bottle, on top of it.

Industrial Castor oil

Castor oil has over 1000 patented industrial applications [5] and is used in the following industries: automobile, aviation, cosmetics, electrical, electronics, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, plastics, and telecommunications. The following is a brief list of Castor oil uses in the above industries: adhesives, brake fluids, caulks, dyes, electrical liquid dielectrics, humectants, hydraulic fluids, inks, lacquers, leather treatments, lubricating greases, machining oils, paints, pigments, refrigeration lubricants, rubbers, sealants, textiles, washing powders, and waxes.

Castor oil's high lubricity (reduces friction) is superior to petroleum-based lubricants; for instance, it really clings to metal, especially hot metal, and is used in racing and jet (turbine) engines. In addition, Castor oil is non-toxic and quickly biodegrades; whereas, petroleum-based oils are potential health hazards, and take a very long time to biodegrade, thus can damage the environment when concentrated [19].

Castor oil is non-drying oil (slow to oxidize); thus, it remains liquid for a long time. As a result, it's naturally a good lubricant, and was a fuel for lamps before alternating current electricity (AC) was invented.

Castor oil's value was recognized by the United States Congress in the Agricultural Materials Act of 1984, and classified as a strategic material.

Lamp fuel

It is said to be the best lamp oil in use in India, giving an excellent white light, vying in brilliancy with electricity, far superior to petroleum, rape seed, and all other oils, whether vegetable, animal or mineral. [6]

In Bangladesh, some villagers use castor oil instead of kerosene to fuel lamps.

Castor oil as a tool of political terror

In Fascist Italy under the regime of Benito Mussolini, castor oil was one of the tools of the blackshirts. Political dissidents were force-fed large quantities of castor oil by Fascist paramilitary groups. This technique was said to have been originated by Gabriele D'Annunzio. Victims of this treatment would experience severe diarrhea and dehydration, often resulting in death[7].

Sometimes when the blackshirts wished to make sure that the victim would die rather than simply be badly disabled, they would mix gasoline with the castor oil.

It is said that Mussolini's power was backed by "the bludgeon and castor oil."


  1. ^ Soap Making Oil Properties. Saratoga Scents. Retrieved on 2006-10-09.
  2. ^ Castor Oil is non-toxic. ICOA. Retrieved on 2006-12-28.
  3. ^ Overview of the preperation, use and biological studies on polyglycerol polyricinoleate (PGPR).. PubMed. Retrieved on 2007-01-26.
  4. ^ Development and validation of HPLC methods for the determination of potential extractables from elastomeric stoppers in the presence of a complex surfactant vehicle used in the preparation of parenteral drug products.. PubMed. Retrieved on 2007-01-26.
  5. ^ Cremophor EL stimulates mitotic recombination in uvsH//uvsH diploid strain of Aspergillus nidulans.. PubMed. Retrieved on 2007-01-26.
  6. ^ Ingredient List A-C. FDA (see page 52 of this link). Retrieved on 2006-12-28.
  7. ^ Castor Oil. DRUGDEX® System. n.d. Thomson Micromedex. Retrieved February 19, 2007 [1]
  8. ^ Ingredient List P-Z. FDA (see page 65 of this link). Retrieved on 2006-12-28.
  9. ^ Effect of ricinoleic acid in acute and subchronic experimental models of inflammation. PubMed. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.
  10. ^ Castor oil decreases pain during extracorporeal shock wave application. PubMed. Retrieved on 2007-01-15.
  11. ^ Reversible Thrombocytosis and Anemia Due to Miconazole Therapy (pdf). PubMed. Retrieved on 2007-01-06. See page 1, Methods and Materials.
  12. ^ Overview of medically important antifungal azole derivatives (pdf). PubMed. Retrieved on 2007-01-06. See page 6, /192, Clinical studies
  13. ^ Abraxane in the treatment of ovarian cancer: the absence of hypersensitivity reactions. PubMed. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.
  14. ^ Sandimmune ingredients. DailyMed. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.
  15. ^ Circulating metabolites of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Protese Inhibitor Nelfinavir in Humans:. PubMed. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.
  16. ^ Saperconazole Therapy of Murine Disseminated Candidiasis:. PubMed. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.
  17. ^ Heparin - induced thrombocytopenia syndrome bullous lesions treated with trypsin - balsam of peru - castor oil ointment: a case study.. PubMed. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.
  18. ^ Contact urticaria from Emla cream. PubMed. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.
  19. ^ Petroleum Oil and the Environment. DOE. Retrieved on 2006-12-28.

8 ^Castor Oil: Uses. Retreived 31 December 2006.

See also

  • Castor plant
  • Castor wax
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