Saturday, September 16, 2017

DO NOT EAT THIS PLANT!!!! (Castor Bean Poisoning Story)


I had seen this plant for years, growing just about everywhere they don't use lawn mowers.  It seemed logical that if they were letting this plant grow so commonly, that it couldn't possibly be harmful, and if it were, somebody clearly would've told me by now.  No words could've ever been so untrue.

I had always seen it with these distinctive spike balls on them, which are actually the unripe seed pods.
Then, for the first time, I saw them bearing seeds, and thought, "wow, that's a lot of seeds, maybe this is one of those wild grains the natives used as food" (again, no such words could ever be more untrue, this plant is not even native to the continent)
The spiky part was dry and split off easily at this point revealing the clusters of husked seeds.  Upon opening, they looked similar to black-eyed peas.  I decided I'd try them since I was having so much fun peeling and husking them, and thought maybe this could be a new addition to my smoothies.... so I tasted one, and it was pretty good, like a combination of jalapeno bread and peanut butter.  I then proceeded to start downing them like crazy, since I figured if it were poisonous, it wouldn't taste so good. I probably ate a few dozen total.
Yeah..... not the best decision.  Fortunately, my friend knew what they were when I showed a picture of my new discovery and immediately warned me they were very poisonous.  I began feeling nauseous a few hours later, and started throwing up, except it wouldn't stop even after there was nothing left in my stomach.  If I tried drinking water, I'd just throw it up a minute later.  We called poison control and they recommended I went to the emergency room, so that's where we went seeing as how they didn't recommend any other remedy.
Since this was my first time ever going to the ER, I didn't really know what to expect.  The sign on the wall of the waiting room said patients would be admitted in order of urgency, my name was called first, even though the room was mostly full when I got there.  I really had no idea how serious this was.  When they were discussing my case as a "possible overdose" I began feeling like Eminem in that "Mr. Mathers" skit except that I was conscious.  After being hooked up to an IV of saline solution and anti-nausea medicine for a few hours the vomiting went away, and I began feeling normal again.  They did take a blood sample to make sure my organs were functioning, and everything checked out.
I learned a lot from this experience.  It is very humbling to know that when standing next to a castor bean plant, you are quite literally 3 feet between life and death.  They say 8 beans is enough to kill somebody in the absence of medical treatment, but I guess most people are smart enough to not go around trying random plants that are growing.  I guess most people are also smart enough to not try building their own foundries either, but whatever the case; CASTOR BEAN WILL NOT MAKE YOU A BETTER METALCASTER (unless you harvest them for oil and burn it as fuel, but that is incredibly laborious).
What makes this story even more embarrassing is that I was once stabbed by one of those spike balls from a castor bean plant overhanging the bike lane and it made my arm numb for a good half hour.  For some reason, it slipped my mind at the time that this plant wasn't friendly....

Fun facts:
  • Castor oil is used for torture, discipline, lubrication of WWI airplane engines, and fuel for ancient Egyptian lamps
  • The oil itself isn't poisonous because heat eliminates the ricin effect in processing
  • The engine oil company Castrol got their name from "castor oil"
  • Castor bean is a popular ornamental garden plant


  1. Interesting experience, not sure a lot of people were lined up to savor those tasty beans,but they surely will pass on them now.Good research! Bob J Oshkosh.

  2. If you cooked the beans, it would have removed the toxin. Who eats raw beans???
    The leaves look like giant poison ivy leaves. Glad you survived.


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