(Synonyms – castor, jara, reri, verenda, arand, palma christi)
Castor plants grow wild in India and are also cultivated for castor oil. The fruits are clustered in bunches, have multiple spikes on the surface. The seeds are available in two sizes. The smaller variety is about 1.2 cm x 0.8 cm in dimensions. The surface is mottled brown and glossy. The seeds contain the active principle ricin which is a toxalbumin. Castor oil extracted from the seed is not poisonous. The pressed cake of the seed retains ricin, after extraction of the oil.
Fatal dose – 6 – 8 seeds ; 20 – 30 mg of ricin. Some believe that pure ricin is not absorbed from the intestine.
Fatal period – within a day or two.
Actions – Similar to the action of abrus precatorius.
Signs and symptoms – There are burning pain in the throat, pain in abdomen, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness, rapid weak pulse, low blood pressure, cold extremities, muscular cramps and collapse. When powder is applied in the eye, it produces conjunctivitis.
Treatment – If there is no vomiting, then stomach wash, demulcent drink, maintenance of circulation and other supportive treatment are necessary.
Complication – Damage of liver and kidney tissues.
Postmortem appearance – Nothing specific externally. Internally, mucus membrane of stomach and intestine is congested and haemorrhagic. Crushed seed with intact pericarp may be present in the stomach. Organs are congested with haemorrhage in the organs and on their surface.
Medicolegal aspects – Suicidal use in the village areas. Accident in children. Homicidal use is not common. Is occasionally used as abortifacient agent.