I'm Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh growing herbs is a passion I've had for more than 20 years now. The Backyard Patch is my own herb business started in 1995. I specialize in fresh, amazing, organic blended herbs. Those for cooking, tea and bath -- and they are all home-grown and hand-blended. In the last 20 years I have gained a knowledge of herbs and their flavors that I share here.
The bold look is back in garden
design, so not surprisingly, castor beans have reappeared as backdrops for
gardeners wanting to make a prominent statement in their plantings. Everything
about castor bean is bold and a bit audacious, so gardeners with a bit of
maverick in them seem to be drawn to this big plant. It was a very popular
plant in 1890s gardening and cam be a great focal point in your garden.Because the bean make a useful oil, one can
loosely consider them and herb, so this week’s
Herb of the Week is Castor (Ricinus communis).
Castor bean (Ricinus communis)
is a member of the spurge family and is native to tropical Africa where it
grows as a tree to 40 feet tall. When grown as an annual it is usually a more
modest 10 feet tall, which I what it will be when grown in Illinois where I
live. Its leaves are star shaped with five to nine lobes and can be as large as
a garbage can lid. The selections grown as ornamentals usually have a maroon
tinge to the foliage.
The flowers of castor bean are borne
near the top of the plant in panicles. But lacking petals they are not
especially noteworthy. As the seed mature, the three-celled, spiny capsules
turn bright red on foot long panicles and make an interesting distraction to
the bold foliage.
It is from the extracts of this seed
that castor bean gains its real significance. The oil is used commercially for
everything from lubrication to cosmetics and is one of the most important
industrial crop oils.
Children of my parent’s generation, probably
know castor oil as a not-so-gentle laxative. The purgative powers of castor
bean have long been known. The ancient Egyptians believed that food was the
source of disease, so they drank beer laced with castor bean three times a
month for a hearty flush of the digestive track.
As a teen-ager my encounter with
castor bean expanded when I tried Castrol motor oil in hopes it would make my
old Ford run like a race car. It didn’t help. The oil is used commercially in
cosmetics, medicine and waterproofing treatments.
But castor bean seeds have one other
characteristic that merits attention - they are poisonous. The poison is ricin,
a proteinaceous molecule similar in structure and mode of action to the
bacterial toxin found in anthrax. It’s said to be 1,000 times more toxic than
Castor bean is sometimes called mole
plant from the practice of placing castor bean seeds in mole runs where the
rodents will hopefully eat the seeds and perish. When you spot a castor bean
growing in the middle of someone’s lawn, you can bet that the moles missed one.
Because of poor absorption of the phytotoxin
from seed, fatalities from accidentally ingested seeds are uncommon. In fact, I
can find no direct reports of fatalities from the seeds unless some nefarious
plot was at work. But prudence dictates that castor bean plants should not be
planted if small children are around.
Castor oil has been used medicinally in the United States since the days of
the pioneers. As Americans moved west after the Civil War, settlers were very
attracted to Indian medicines and popular "cure-all" remedies. The
stronger smelling and the more vile tasting the concoction, the better, and
some medical historians have described the latter part of the 1800's as the
"age of heroic cures." Traveling medicine men peddled their elixirs
throughout towns of the west, and often their products contained up to 40
percent (80 proof) alcohol. Castor oil was one of the old-fashioned remedies
for everything from constipation to heartburn. It is indeed a very effective
cathartic or purgative (laxative) and is still used to this day; however, there
are milder, less drastic methods of inducing regularity. Castor oil is also
used as personal lubricant: It is sometimes applied externally as a soothing
emollient for dry skin, dermatitis, other skin diseases, sunburn, open sores,
and it is the primary ingredient of several brand name medications. Several
additional little-known uses for castor oil include hair tonics, ointments,
cosmetics, and contraception creams and jellies. One remarkable old remedy mentions
administering castor oil to induce labor during pregnancy.
One of the reasons castor plants have become so successful is their
extremely viable seed that germinates readily in a variety of soils. In fact,
desperate vegetable gardeners have been known to place the poisonous seeds in
the burrows of gophers and moles, thus propagating and dispersing the plant.
Because of its ability to grow wild and reseed itself, castor plants are
recognized by botanists as naturalized weeds throughout the southwestern United
Castor beans, despite their colorful
history, are still good garden plants. They are best used at the back of the
flower border where they form a fast growing, bold screen. Seeds should be
planted where the plant is to stand in mid spring after the last chance of
frost is past. They do best in full sun in any good garden soil. They are
intolerant of wet locations.
word voile in French means veil and is used to describe something that is very
light and delicate.When used to
describe fragrance a voile is gentle and soft, just a whisper of fragrance on
your skin.You can also use a different
favorite floral scent in this recipe, such as jasmine or rose.
cup filtered or distilled water
drops castor oil
to 8 drops lavender essential oil
together all ingredients and stir well.Pour into a clean container with a tight-fitting lid.
Splash on after bath or shower.
3 tsp. jojoba Oil
1 tsp. castor oil
1 tsp. full-scented Cocoa butter
1 tsp. beeswax
10 drops peppermint essential oil
Melt the cocoa butter together
Add the jojoba and castor
Stir and allow to cool
slightly before adding the essential oils and blend thoroughly.