Castor seed is an oilseed produced by castor plants belonging to the botanical family ‘Euphorbiaceae’. Its scientific name is ‘Ricinus communis’ and is used mainly for certain medicinal purposes.
The Castor plant is supposed to have originated from Northeastern Africa, especially Ethiopia and Somalia. It has reportedly been used by humans since more than 6000 years ago and has even been mentioned in the Bible.
Castor plants grow naturally In a wide variety of soils. Nevertheless, well-drained sandy loam soils with slightly acidic conditions and warm climates are ideal for the same that are botanically large shrubs or small trees and grow 6-15 feet in height. The plants normally take 5-6 months to start bearing the seeds. It is traditionally a Kharif season crop, but the plants bear fruits depending on the varieties and climatic conditions. The varieties of castor are categorized based on the duration of harvest, stem and leaf colour, oil content, size of the seeds, etc. Some of the main high-yielding castor seed varieties available in India are GAUCH-4NPH-1, YRCH1, TMV 5, TMV 6, TMVCH and CO1.
Castor seeds are oval-shaped, glassy and brown coloured and have many medicinal properties. However, they also contain ricin, which is poisonous and can even cause death to animals and humans if consumed through improper methods or without enough care.
The seeds are mainly used to make castor oil which was used as lamp fuel in the olden days and now mainly for certain medicinal purposes to reduce inflammation and pain, heal wounds and scars, soothe dry eyes, calm arthritis and grow and protect hair.
The same is also used as a laxative- a medicinal substance used to treat constipation by stimulating bowel movements to loosen up stool- and to boost hair growth, especially by men for growing their beards, though there is no medical evidence to support it. Castor oil and its by-products are also used for manufacturing soaps, medicines, cosmetics, perfumes, lubricants and greases.
Castor seeds contain proteins, calcium, iron, carbohydrates, ricinoleic acids, oleic acids and linoleic acids that are beneficial for health, making them one of the most demanded Agri commodities in the world.
The largest producer of castor seed in the world is India, followed by China, Brazil, Russia, Thailand, Ethiopia and the Philippines. India is also the largest exporter of the same followed by Ethiopia, Paraguay and Thailand, while the main importer is China, followed by Vietnam, Thailand, Brazil and India.
In India, the top producer is Gujarat, followed by Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.
Some of the major trading markets of castor seed in India:
Gujarat (Kutch, Patan, Gandhinagar, Palanpur, Deesa)
Rajasthan (Jodhpur, Sumerpur, Jaipur)
Andhra Pradesh (Nalgonda, Rangareddi, Mahboobnagar)
Names of castor seed in different Indian languages:
Hindi Arandee beej
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