Monday, December 02, 2002

Castor Oil. Palma christi oil. For decades castor oil has been a part of the folk medicine repetoire. The oil has been used as an industrial lubricant, lamp oil, hot compress, laxative, body care product, etc. The plant material, stalks and leaves, when dried after a harvest are a highly potent allergen/sensitizer and cause severe, disabling allergic asthma in workers who handle the material. The mash that remains after the oil has been pressed or solvent-extracted is toxic to many animals. The majority of castor oil that is produced today is produced in the Middle East, India and Africa. Curiously, there are no significant scientific studies that can strongly document skin healing properties or other therapeutic effects.

There are two interesting things that can be reported about this oil: 1) it has never been used as a food for humans and 2) when you type the words "castor oil army ricin" into the search engine "google," there are 1950 results linking to the potential use of ricin (a deadly component of castor beans) being used in biowarfare terrorist attacks to kill US citizens and many listings for our government's and the military's concerns about ricin's ease of manufacturing and the virtually unlimited quanitities of castor beans available for processing ricin.

For an enlightening report on castor beans and ricin production visit this article from the Harvard Independent magazine titled "Iraq Sharpens Weapons Disguise."

Why would a self-proclaimed health-conscious, environmentally-friendly, socially-responsible business choose to use this oil in their body care products that are being offered in the health/environmental products industry? If you review the results in the google search recommended above, you will see that the terrorist problem and the potent allergen/sensitizer problem are not a new problem. Why would you want to use products made from castor oil when the many negatives far outweigh the anecdotal "positives?" I think I'll pass, thanks.