Ricin - From Pharaohs to Bioterrorists and Beyond

Author(s): Martha L. Hale

Pp: 3-37 (35)

DOI: 10.2174/9781608058785114010005


From the time Pharaohs first presided during the dawn of civilization until the present day, the castor bean plant, Ricinus communis, and its seeds have played a significant role in the advancement of science, industry, and war. From ancient times, the seeds have been a valuable source of oil used for light and medicinal purposes. Also co-existing in the seed is a toxin (ricin) that has been used in beneficial, and sometimes iniquitous, ways. This chapter provides a review of the history of ricin use (with background information on its source the castor plant and its seeds) that shows the impact that Ricinus communis has had upon many facets of civilization.

Keywords: Ricinus communis history, castor beans, castor oil, beneficial uses, bioterrorism, biocrime.

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