The castor oil plant is annual and sensitive to frost and has woody branches. It grows at a height of approximately 1-3 m, in temperate latitudes. This plant, which is native to the warmer regions, can grow up to 12 m and live for approximately 4 years. The seeds obtained from the plants were found in Egyptian tombs in the 4th millennium BC. However, it is not clear if the castor oil plant originated in India or in Africa. Today, this plant is of great economic importance and is distributed throughout the world. However, it prefers tropical and subtropical areas.
The pink ovary that contains the seeds is surrounded by a hard, reddish brown and veined skin. The seed has between 40-50% oil content. Cold-pressed castor oil is pale yellow, hard to digest, viscous, non-drying with a faint odor and mild taste, but which then becomes unpleasant, while hot-pressed castor oil has a yellow color. Marked brown
Castor oil consists mainly of oleic, linoleic, palmitic and stearic acids, together with 80-85% ricinoleic acid and glyceride, which gives the castor oil a purgative action. Therefore, castor oil is used as a purgative in humans and in veterinary medicine. Since the viscosity of castor oil is, in all its applications, constant and since it acts as a strong adhesive, it is used as a lubricating oil for airplanes, boats, engines, hydraulic pumps and brake fluids, and also as a softener in the industry of plastic, as well as raw material in dyes (printing dyes, lithographic varnish, rubbers) and in the production of paints (clear and enamel paints), and in rubber, textile, leather, plastics (polyamide 11) and in the detergent industry, where castor oil is reprocessed (example: garanza oil = sulphated castor oil) to be used again.
Castor oil is used in specialized industries as a basis for the synthesis of sebacic acid and 12-hydroxy stearic acid and for the production of linoleum-coated floors. In the decorative cosmetics industry, castor oil is used as a base for lipsticks and eyeliners. Shampoos contain = 30% castor oil.