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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

The Myth About Learning How to Make Ricin from the Internet

By March 1, 2008

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As the story unfolds about the man associated with the ricin found in the Las Vegas hotel room, questions arise as to what he was doing with the ricin and the castor beans. The answers to those question are unknown. It is not even certain the man knew about the ricin in the room. Since he remains in a coma, those questions will have to wait.

So far we know the occupant of the hotel room who was hospitalized for respiratory problems was a 57-year-old-man. There were three pets found in the room. One pet is deceased, apparently due to lack of food and water and not from ricin poisoning. The other two animals are fine. According to a CNN report, in addition to a vial containing ricin, the room also contained castor beans, guns, and an "anarchist type textbook".

When I started writing about the chemistry behind AMC's "Breaking Bad" tv show, I learned that it really is true you can learn how to make crystal meth from instructions freely available on the Internet. Would anyone want to use those instructions? I'd hope not... I tried to describe all the reasons making meth is dangerous to yourself and others. The question has arisen as to whether a person could learn to make ricin from information freely available on the internet. I'm not going to give you a definitive 'no' since I didn't follow every single link on the subject, but I will say the top links that supposedly tell you how to purify ricin using lye and acetone contain many factual errors. Probably the only good advice given in the instructions is to remove the coat from the seeds. Also, any website that tells you ricin can be obtained from castor oil is wrong. Castor oil is essentially free from the toxin. If you are a terrorist or looking to purify the toxin for other purposes, you're a stupid terrorist if you think instructions posted on the web by an anonymous source are reliable or that duplicating erroneous instructions across multiple websites magically makes the instructions correct. Can you learn how to make ricin from a Google search? I didn't see any accurate instructions. Can you poison yourself with castor beans? You could, but you can poison yourself with rhubarb or death cap mushrooms, too. In my opinion, ricin is sensationalized because it's so very toxic. Would I stay in the Las Vegas hotel room after they clean it up? No. Am I worried about wackos suddenly making ricin because it's newsy? No. Even if they wanted to, the instructions are not readily available.

Update on Ricin in Las Vegas
Ricin Found at a Las Vegas Motel

Ricin & RCA from Castor Beans | What You Need to Know about Chemical Weapons
Photo: Castor beans (seeds from Ricinus communis) are the source of ricin, a deadly toxin. (USDA-ARS) Add to Technorati Favorites

Comments

November 30, 2008 at 7:40 pm
(1) jane drae says:

she is absolutely nuts.. don’t believe me.. try it out.. btw I don’t expect to see any replies from those ppl

April 29, 2009 at 3:02 pm
(2) Joe Citizen says:

LOL,LOL,LOL………..

Can anyone spell 200 lbs of Processed Caster Beans?????????

Happy Days To All :-}

September 27, 2009 at 6:15 pm
(3) tony says:

Its kind of sad but in order to find recipes to ricin one only needs to google it. However many recipes may prove to cause more harm to the person making the deadly poison, most recipes will succeed. Nobody is going to make castor beans illegal. People should be cautious around those who make the ricin.

September 27, 2009 at 6:28 pm
(4) tony says:

Here is an easy example of the internet recipe found with the google search. Dont try this at home or anywhere for it is extremely dangerous.

How to make ricin
Author: admin Filed under: Uncategorized Date: Feb 29,2008 (ads by google)
Hereís the formula for Ricin. The reason I place this on here is because if you try to make this poison (kills in 4 days, no good cure and the cure is rare) you will probably get some on your skin and die. I wanted the fomula just so I could know it. This stuff is extrodinarily poisonous ó arsenic takes 100 granuals to kill someone, ricin takes 1-2 granuals.

Procedure:

Obtain some castor beans from a garden supply store.
Put about 2 ounces of hot water into a glass jar and add a teaspoon full of lye. Mix it thoroughly.
Wait for the lye/water mixture to cool
Place 2 ounces of the beans into the liquid and let them soak for one hour.
Pour out the liquid being careful not to get any on exposed skin.
Rinse the beans off with cool water and then remove the outer husks with tweezers.
Put the bean pulp into a blender or coffee grinder with 4 ounces of acetone for every 1 oz. of beans.
Blend the pulp/acetone until it looks like milk.
Place the milky substance in a glass jar with an airtight lid for three days.
At the end of three days shake the jar to remix everything that‚€™s started to settle then pour it into a coffee filter. Discard the liquid.
When no more liquid is dripping through the filter, squeeze the last of the acetone out of it without losing any of the bean pulp.
Spread the filter out on a pan covered with newspaper and let it dry stand until it is dry.
The final product must be as free of acetone and other contaminants as possible. If it is not powdery but still sort of moist and pulpy it must be combined with the appropriate amount of acetone again and let sit for one day.
Then repeat steps 9-12 again until a nice dry powder is produced.
Donít ask me where to get the beans I donít know but its a semi-common plant (as in a large greenhouse will have it) Now you see why kids back in the day didnít wanna drink that castor bean cough syrup.

October 7, 2011 at 11:53 pm
(5) Kobieta says:

To say that ricin is toxic is a understatement. To say it is easy to make it is so, but it will contaminate your entire surroundings. Only a fool would experiment with it. There are recipes for it out there and is easy to make, so is standing in front of a fast moving freight train at a RR crossing and much quicker. Alexis

March 4, 2010 at 10:59 pm
(6) Aaron says:

The author has a Ph.D., in chemistry, and you random internet numbnuts know better than she does?

March 6, 2010 at 4:57 pm
(7) No One says:

Re: Aaron (2/4/2010)

I’m sorry to say buddy you are sadly mistaken. Perhaps you are an older generation, perhaps you’re simply not intelligent.

Your argument is fatally flawed because you equate the author’s having a PhD with the ability to efficiently use the internet. The author does NOT have a PhD in using the internet. I’m sure she knows MANY thing about about chemistry I don’t know (I’m recalling my high school chemistry final!), however I know many things she doesn’t about using the internet.

There are certain places readily open to the public where this information can be found. You just have to know where the “other side of the tracks” is online. If you include secret groups who operate on closed channels, really anything is available online.

It’s simply a matter of knowing how to use the internet to find the information you want. I found the information within 90 seconds of starting my search.

May 11, 2010 at 8:55 am
(8) Doc Z says:

This guy is mad as a hatter i spent 20 bucks on a book on amazon online and got all the info you need.yes you can make ricin.Easily at home with little to no problems!

August 29, 2010 at 1:05 pm
(9) Me says:

Castor grows wild all over my area. No need to buy it.

September 29, 2010 at 11:40 am
(10) Chainsaw says:

It’s not SUPPOSED to be factual information. It’s supposed to be integration propaganda to comfort the general population and get them to stop worrying about it. After all, if you understand how easy it is, it make it more likely you’ll suspect it in the case of mysterious politically-motivated deaths that are advertised as causeless suicide, and conversely, you’ll be more likely to be afraid of a large secret conspiracy when someone DOES show up with weapons-grade ricin.

September 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm
(11) chemistry says:

There’s no conspiracy, Chainsaw. Yeah, it’s possible you could make it, but more likely you’d just poison yourself. The toxin is a lot easier to deactivate (accidentally or on purpose) than you seem to think.

December 22, 2010 at 2:26 pm
(12) You people are dumb says:

The Complete manufacture process for ricin is given in a patent.

Preparation of Toxic Ricin”, U.S. Patent 3,060,165, assigned to the U.S. Secretary of the Army, inventors: Harry L. Craig, O.H. Alderks, Alsoph H. Corwin, Sally H. Dieke, and Charlotte Karel (granted October 23, 1962)

Google it if you want to know.

Hoozah for you Ms. Anne Marie.

October 4, 2011 at 5:29 pm
(13) johnny bench says:

eeeh, not available?!?! Wikipedia links to the patent documents filed back in the 50s which in detail explains the VERY simple procedure to produce ricin poison… but u know, whatever…

March 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm
(14) legolas says:

I made ricin and killed a cow of about 300 kg.

May 9, 2012 at 7:20 pm
(15) Unapowder says:

Ricin is for kids … I’d like a easy recipe to cyanide poison …

June 20, 2012 at 4:47 pm
(16) spinalkill says:

Donnot mess with the stuff. This is not science lab or mr wizard. This is serious. Handling the beans in an illmanner is enough to take your life. Just donnot dabble. usmc

July 19, 2012 at 11:38 am
(17) Mandy says:

Dear Legolas

Can you advise the way and whether you mixed with the food or injected it.

July 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm
(18) Vlad the Impaler says:

Has it occurred to you that the author is not going to admit whether or not there is an accurate process out there to make it safely? She is merely trying to scare you by planting doubt.. It’s out there, do some research…and you might want to hurry…the revolution is not too far off.

August 19, 2012 at 4:32 pm
(19) BelieveAnythingAsLongAsIt'sBad says:

All of you are posting responses saying that these recipes are freely available, but the author didn’t say they weren’t available, she said they were incorrect. Has anybody actually tried them??

October 9, 2012 at 10:37 pm
(20) jam says:

just tried the batch i made on someone, works great

October 9, 2012 at 10:38 pm
(21) jam says:

nvm didn’t work

October 11, 2012 at 12:12 pm
(22) dala51 says:

will this foul a water hole?

November 3, 2012 at 1:01 pm
(23) jeevan g says:

making ricin with the help of acetone is a joke… forget about acetone. Producing crude ricin is not a difficult thing but purifying is somewhat difficult thing and dangerous also. to produce crude ricin all you require is to prepare acid with ph value of 3.8 . in fact just two drops of H2So4 for a mug of water is enough. mix the paste of castor seeds to this acidic water. the ricin gets melted itself in acidic water. filter it and throw away the solid matter. then use 17% of NaSO4 (one tea spoon of NaSo4 for a mug of water) to get the crude ricin by precipitation. remove the floating waste matter and discard. do it two times. you will have non-purified ricin at the bottom of the jar. purifying is just another matter.

December 29, 2012 at 2:57 am
(24) Neil Murphy says:

At Starfleet we stopped using ricin-Mr Spock.
One can claim anything. That doesn’t make it true or false.

January 26, 2013 at 1:13 am
(25) rahul mahajan says:

i thin that castor beans are not so poisonous as it boasted on many sites
because i fed eight pieces of these bean’s inner most white pulp to a dog. the dog is still alive

April 18, 2013 at 9:30 am
(26) hmmmm says:

All righty then!….

April 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm
(27) savant says:

The author is wrong.

(I, too am a chemist – and found a correct recipe in under 5 min.)

But will you find the right one? Will you never make a mistake, and thereby not harm your loved ones?

Probably not.

April 22, 2013 at 4:56 pm
(28) Carley says:

savant says:
“But will you find the right one? Will you never make a mistake, and thereby not harm your loved ones?

Probably not.”

Isn’t harming the “loved ones” the point?

Well, seriously, I always thought ricin was a San Francisco treat. But, I was wrong. Maybe the mailer was mistaken as well: it is not a Hawain treat! All a mistake, really.

May 2, 2013 at 5:56 am
(29) will says:

Reading Silent Death by Uncle Fester is more revealing.

The extraction process is similiar but the purification process goes way above and beyond simple Acetone/Lye Defatting.

I think the author is partially right the internet recipes are incomplete not inaccurate.

Good old Uncle explains more plus many other gases and poisons :)

October 21, 2013 at 6:09 pm
(30) logan says:

Sorry people who think that ricin purification can be done at home, the random procedure of lye and acetone and a random blender is not protein purification. If the procedure involved heat denaturing, ion exchange chromatography and gel filtration that would be a protein purification. We don’t put protein in a blender and expect it to continue to have any enzymatic activity. Also don’t make ricin unless you have a reason. And a lot of money to spend on buffers and equipment.

February 5, 2014 at 5:36 am
(31) mockingbird says:

Just done with my batch. Hope it works

March 22, 2014 at 8:32 am
(32) Wayne says:

I believe making ricin from Castor Beans cannot be that easy, or we would have people dying as they make castor oil from the beans.

But, after another student has been caught (Georgetown U.) making ricin in his dorm room, I wonder if it not easier than I thought it would be.

Where are people getting the data to make ricin from?

April 3, 2014 at 3:44 pm
(33) You stupid f*** says:

Dear Logan,
You have got to be kidding me. I’m a sophomore in HIGH SCHOOL and I know that a substance has to have a ph level above 7 to be an acid. You are talking about a base, idiot.

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