Where It Comes From
Castor oil is an extract that comes from the seeds of the castor plant. In botany, this plant is known as Ricinus communis. It is a member of the Spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) where similar plants such as poinsettia also belong.
This flowering plant is a shrub but it can fully develop into the size of a small tree. It is resistant to drought and it grows at an amazing rate. When located in warm climates and open spaces, it could reach up to 12 meters in height. The plant thrives mostly in tropical or subtropical places such Eastern Africa and India. It can flourish almost anywhere in the world as long as the climate fits.
Castor plants are grown on plantations for castor oil production. A matured castor oil plant produces castor seeds. Others call it castor beans. These are oval and light brown, with streaks of dark brown shades. The seeds are the primary source of castor oil. A single castor seed is naturally 40% to 60% oil in structure.
Properties and Composition
Castor oil may be colorless to pale yellow liquid. Its rich nature is evident in its thick and sticky texture, especially when pouring the oil. Due to a moisture-rich quality, the oil does not dry or evaporate easily. It has a boiling point of 313 degree Celsius and a density of 961 kg/m3.
Crude or unrefined type of castor oil has a yellowish color and distinct odor. This type of castor oil does not undergo refinery that involves bleaching and deodorization. They turn colorless and odorless. These processes may diminish important properties of the oil. Therefore, unrefined oils are better due to greater amounts of nutrients.
A high concentration of ricinoleic acid is uniquely found in castor oil. This compound is an omega-9 fatty acid with great anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. The oil contains proteins, Vitamin E, and omega-6 fatty acids as well. These make castor oil good for skin, hair, and body application. It is best for relieving pain and swelling. The table below shows the average composition of castor oil.