This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Ricinus & ricinoides: large plants, with small flowers in clusters, and the fruit growing at a little distance from, or succeeding only a few of, the flowers: the fruit consists of three capsules, containing each a single seed, flatted on one side, generally about the size of a small bean, composed of a thin skin or shell including an oily kernel.
1. Ricinus Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Palma-christi Pharm. Paris. Cataputia major, cherva major, kiki, & granum regium quibusdam: Ricinus vulgaris C. B. Ricinus communis Linn, Palma-christi, Mexico seed: with the fruit triangular, the seed furnished with a little knob at one end, externally variegated with blackish and whitish streaks, resembling both in shape and colour the infect ricinus or tick.
2. Ricinoides, feu pineus purgans, vel pinho-nes indici Pharm. Paris. Carcas, nux barbaden-fis, & faba purgatrix quibusdam: Ricinus ameri-canus major femine nigro C. B. Jatropha Curcas Linn. Barbadoes nut: with an oval walnutlike fruit, and oblong black seeds.
3. Avellana purgatrix C. B. Nuces pur-gantes Ger. Jatropha multifida Linn. Purging nut: with oval fruit, and roundish, somewhat triangular, pale brownish seeds.
4. Tiglium, grana tiglia. Pinus indica nucleo purgante, & lignum moluccense foliis malvae, fructu avellanae minore, cortice molliore & nigricante, pa-vana incolis C. B. Croton Tiglium Linn. Grana tilia: with roundish fruit, and dark greyish seeds in shape nearly like those of the first species.
The first of these plants is said to be found wild in some of the southern parts of Europe: it is biennial. The others are middling sized trees, natives of America and the East Indies, from whence the seeds are sometimes brought to us.
The two first of these seeds are sweetish, nauseous, and acrid: the third has scarcely any acrimony, and tastes nearly like almonds: the fourth is intensely hot and acrimonious. They are all strong evacuants, operating, in doses of a few grains, both upwards and downwards; the sweet species not excepted. The grana tilia are the most violent, too much so to be taken with any tolerable safety; and indeed they all appear too drastic to be ventured on in sub-stance.
They yield upon expression a considerable quantity of oil, impregnated more or less with the taste and the purgative quality of the seeds: of the oil of the grana tilia, Geoffroy limits the dose to one grain, which is probably an error of the press for one dram: that of the Barbadoes nut is said to be taken in America in larger quantities, and to purge without much inconvenience.
The oil of the palma-christi, vulgarly called in America castor oil, has been often given from two to four spoonfuls, and found to act as a sufficient mild laxative: it is said to be particularly useful in the dry-belly-ach, and in other disorders where irritating purgatives cannot be borne, and where the common laxatives, on account of the large dose in which they require to be given, are apt to be rejected by the sto-mach. From such trials as I have made of this medicine, it did not seem to have any peculiar good qualities, or to produce any other effects than may be equally obtained by combining the more common purgatives, as tincture or infu-sion of fena, with common oil. - It is said that some, or all, of the above oils act as purgatives, when applied externally to the umbilical region.
The wood and leaves of the plants are like-wife strong cathartics: Hermann relates, that the wood of the tilia, called panava or pavana, operates violently, when fresh, in the dose of a scruple or half a dram: that when dried and long kept, it is given to the quantity of a whole dram as a purgative, and in smaller doses as a sudorific. Among us, all these substances are entire strangers to practice (except that the oil of the first species has of late been sometimes made use of;) and, so far as can be judged from the accounts given of them, they have little claim to be received.
* Since the above was written, the Oleum Ricini has increased in reputation, and is now a common remedy in calculous, nephritic, bilious, and various other cases. It is, however, liable to the inconvenience of much uncertainty in its operation, owing, probablv, to the dif ferent modes of preparing the oil, or its different degrees of genuineness. One spoonful, or half an ounce, is the dose usually begun with.
Dr. Wright, in a paper containing an account of the medicinal plants growing in Jamaica, printed in the London Medical Journal for 1787, fart iii. gives the following information concerning this oil.
"Castor oil is obtained either by expression or decoction. The first method is practised in England; the latter in Jamaica. It is best prepared in the following manner. A large iron pot* or boiler is first prepared, and half filled with water. The nuts are then beaten in parcels in deep wooden mortars, and, after a quantity is beaten, it is thrown into the iron vessel. The fire is then lighted, and the liquor is gently boiled for two hours, and kept con-stantly stirred. About this time the oil begins to separate, and swims on the top, mixed with a white froth, and is skimmed off till no more riles. The skimmings are heated in a small iron pot, and strained through a cloth. When cold, it is put up in jars or bottles for use. Castor oil thus made is clear and well flavoured, and, if put into proper bottles, will keep sweet for years. The expressed castor oil soon turns rancid, because the mucilaginous and acrid parts of the nut are squeezed out with the oil.
As a medicine, castor oil purges without stimulus, and is so mild as to be given to infants soon after birth to purge off the meconium. All oils are noxious to insects, but the castor oil kills and expels them. It is generally given as a purge after using the cabbage-bath some days. In constipation and belly-ach this oil is used with remarkable success. It fits well on the stomach, allays the spasm, and brings about a plentiful evacuation by stool, especially if at the same time fomentations, or the warm bath, are used."