Welcome to the two sides of the castor plant!
Search for “benefits of castor bean oil” and you’ll hear amazing stories about their ability to help in losing weight, relieving arthritis, and fading scars - just to name a few.
Castor plant seeds are roughly half oil. This oil is extracted by cold pressing. The poison ricin, present in the rest of the plant, is water soluble and therefore not in the oil.
"Castor oil is most commonly used as a natural treatment for thin or sparse eyelashes," says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, dermatologistand director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. "It is rich and fatty acid's and helps coat hair shaft themselves to enhance shine and make the hair itself look thicker. In addition, castor oil has anti-microbial properties … it can help reduce inflammation and subsequently allow hair follicles to function optimally." - from InStyle’s Erin Lukas.
Each furry pod protects a set of castor seeds. Because of their appearance, they are called "beans."
Funny thing is, the castor plant – also known as African Coffee Tree and Mexico Weed – is highly poisonous. It gets its scientific name – Ricinus communis – because it contains ricin, a powerful toxin. According to Cornell University, “The seeds from the castor bean plant are poisonousto people, animals and insects.” Spy fans might recall this story from the 1970’s. During the height of the cold war, an assassin shot a ricin-packed poison dart from an umbrella into Georgi Markov, Bulgarian playwright and political activist, while he waited for the bus in central London. Markov died a few days later in the hospital.
How can something so bad be good for you?
Castor beans contain more than just the poison ricin, they also contain 35-55% oil. Because ricin is water soluble, it is not present in the oil. It's the Castor oil that has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties and is high in Vitamin E and Omega 6. Ricinoleic acid – which makes up about 90% of the oil – is what makes castor oil unique.
Castor oil helps to keep your skin and scalp healthy and adds shine and silkiness to hair. There has been some interesting scientific research on the properties of castor oil’s effect on preventing hair loss and encouraging hair regrowth. For example, The Journal of Ethnopharmacology reported that castor oil can help prevent hair lossin people with androgenic alopecia - a common form of hair loss in both men and women. Researchers found that ricinoleic acid inhibits a compound associated with hair loss – prostaglandin D2 (PGD2).
At ANTIDOTE, we use castor oil to improve the condition of the hair and soothe the scalp. You’ll find it in our protein shampoo, protein conditioner, and Carnauba Pomade. Our pure castor bean oil naturally contains triglycerides of different fatty acids (90% ricinoleic acid, 3-4% oleic acid, 3-4% linoleic acid).
The castor plant likely originated in tropical Africa. Today, it is grown as an ornamental in temperate regions - like here in Wisconsin. Photo above is from last year's seed harvest!
Sometimes you have to look past the bad to see the good.
-- Abigail + David, ANTIDOTE1848
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