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Castor seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 4000 BC. Herodotus and other Greek travelers have noted the use of castor seed oil for lighting and body anointments.
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.
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.
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 , but it is not a preferred drug to treat constipation. Besides being a laxative, Castor oil is sometimes used to help women start labor, but in any case with due caution and under medical supervision. One of Castor oil's derivatives undecylenic acid is also FDA approved for over-the-counter use on skin disorders or skin problems.
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.
Ricinoleic acid is the main component of Castor oil and it exerts anti-inflammatory effects.
A study found that castor oil decreased pain more than ultrasound gel or vaseline during extracorporeal shock wave application.
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 ; Paclitaxel, anti-cancer ; Sandimmune (cyclosporine injection, USP) ; Nelfinavir mesylate, HIV protease inhibitor . Saperconazole has Emulphor EL -719P (a castor oil derivative) ; Prograf has HCO-60 (polyoxyl 60 hydrogenated Castor oil); Balsam Peru - Castor oil - and Trypsin Topical contains Castor oil ; Aci-Jel (acetic acid/oxyquinoline/ricinoleic acid - vaginal); Emla (lidocaine, prilocaine and Castor oil)