In doing some research for my next book (on baneful herbs), I came across some … interesting information.
I don’t know about you but when I think of “Castor”, I think of the godawful oil (made from the plant Ricinus communis) Mom used to pour down my throat at the first hint that I might be constipated. Now in later years, the poisonous bean of that same plant, or perhaps the poison Ricin (made from powdered beans) come to mind.
Muddling my way through the US Dispensatory of 1834 I came across a new piece of knowledge. This may be a “duh” to the outdoorsy, hunter-types but I certainly didn’t know that “Castor” is also the Genus of beavers and refers to a pair of sacs down near the anal glands in said dam-building cuties.
Castoreum is the fluid in these sacs and is also the name of a preparation made from a combination of this fluid and the beavers’ urine. This preparation was used medicinally up until the mid-19th century and is still considered “Generally Recognized As Safe” by the FDA. Therefore, it’s considered a safe food additive and may still be found blindly listed as a “natural ingredient” in foods with vanilla, raspberry or strawberry flavor; or in some perfumes and cigarettes.
Looking for Castor? This is a case where you’d better play twenty questions and start with “plant or animal?”