What Is Ricin?Ricin is a protein that is naturally found in castor beans (Ricinus communis). It is so powerful a poison that the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate the lethal dose in humans is about the size of a grain of salt (500 micrograms injected or inhaled).
How Is Ricin Used as a Poison?Ricin is poisonous if it is inhaled, eaten, or injected. It can be dissolved in water or weak acid and added to a drink. It is not absorbed through the skin, so simply touching ricin or getting ricin powder in your eyes will not cause poisoning.
What Are the Symptoms of Ricin Poisoning?Symptoms of ricin poisoning show up a few hours after exposure. The symptoms depend on the route of exposure.
Symptoms from ricin inhalation would include coughing, shortness of breath, and nausea. Fluid would begin to accumulate in the lungs. Fever and excessive sweating would be likely. Low blood pressure and respiratory failure could lead to death.
Eating or drinking ricin would produce cramping, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea leading to extreme dehydration. Bleeding from the stomach and intestines would occur. The victim may experience hallucinations, seizures, and bloody urine. Eventually (usually after several days) the liver, spleen, and kidneys could fail. Death would result from organ failure.
Injected ricin produces swelling and pain in the muscles and lymph nodes near the site of the injection. As the poison worked its way outward, internal bleeding would occur and death would result from multiple organ failure.