Fast-growing tree reaching 49 ft (15 m) in height. It has large, heart-shaped leaves and greenish-white flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Dragon’s blood is a rainforest tree native to northwestern Amazonia (from Bolivia to Colombia), preferring riverbanks and sites with disturbed soil. It is cultivated by the indigenous peoples there as an environmentally sustainable crop.
Latex, sap, resin (fresh or dried), bark.
Key constituents within dragon’s blood include proanthocyanidins, mono- and diterpenes, an alkaloid (taspine), and a lignin (dimethylcedrusine). Many constituents, notably taspine and dimethyldedrusine, have potent anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. Taspine also has cancer-fighting and antiviral activity.
History & Folklore
Dragon’s blood derives its name from the deep red sap or latex that oozes from the tree when the bark is cut. A prized rain forest medicine, the latex is applied to wounds, fractures, skin infections, and insect bites. Internally, it is taken to treat diarrhea and dysentery, stomach ulcers, viral infections, and as a vaginal bath before and following childbirth. The first written record of its use was in 1653 (Bernabe Cobo, Historia del Nuevo Mundo).
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Dragon’s blood is a first-rate wound healer and has been described as a “liquid bandage.” Tissue healing and repair is strongly stimulated, while the chances of infection developing in open wounds and sores is minimized due to the marked antiseptic action of the latex and its ability to seal off the wound from the open air. The latex (fresh or dried) is a key remedy for herpes, including shingles and genital herpes, and fungal skin infections.
Taken internally, it helps to treat and prevent gastrointestinal infection and peptic ulcers, and to control diarrhea in conditions such as ulcerative colitis. A patent U.S. medicine (Crofelemer) derived from dragon’s blood is licensed for the treatment of chronic diarrhea, typically in patients with HIV.
C. lecheri is most commonly used to make dragon’s blood, although similar Croton species grow in Central America. C. flavens (Yellow balsam), a traditional Mayan and Aztec remedy, is used for fever and infections, and as a wound salve. Dragon trees, such as the Socotra dragon tree (Dracaena cinnabari), are desert trees and unrelated to dragon’s blood, though some also produce a red latex.
Can permanently stain clothing.