I have previously written about dragons, and I recently wrote about the colour red. Let's connect these subjects, albeit in an indirect and nominal way, and discuss Dragon's Blood. Some Medieval sources claim that it is indeed blood from elephants and dragons which have died in mortal combat. But it is a resin or resinous substance, which has nothing real to do with dragons. Apart from the red colour, it has nothing in common with blood either. However, it is a suggestive name and an interesting substance, which has been used throughout history and around the world as medicine, dye, incense, and for colouring varnishes and lacquers. It also has a variety of uses in ritual magic; for power and protection - and dragon's blood ink is sometimes used to write spells.
Dragon's Blood is a blood-red resin, obtained from a number of different tropical and subtropical plants, especially Daemonorops draco, Croton lechleri, and Dracaena draco. However, it can be found in a about a dozen plants of the genera Dracaena, Daemonorops, Croton, Calamus rotang and Pterocarpus. Its composition vary with different species. Dragon's Blood is not one single well-defined substance.
A resin or resinous sap is formed by a plant to protect against pathogens and promote healing. Thus, it is not surprising that resins have often medical qualities. Dragon's Blood has been used as a medicine since ancient times, and modern research has confirmed some of its effects. Resin from Croton lechleri has also proved to be the strongest antioxidant presently known. The only competitor would be purified and concentrated astaxanthin. But you cannot reach that anti-oxidative level by eating natural foodstuffs containing astaxanthin. (Astaxanthin, in salmon and other seafoods, is a naturally occurring xanthophyll with potent antioxidant properties. Successful results have been reported in the treatment of arthritis.)
Let's take a look at the health effects of Dragon's Blood. After all, it is and has been used as a traditional medicine in a large part of the world, although the trees providing it are different in different geographical areas. Thus the health effects differ as well.
In South America, the resin (Sangre de Drago) from Croton lechleri is traditionally used for all sorts of skin problems – with good results. The resin is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and reduces swelling. Proanthocyanidins and taspine, two of the constituents, protect and heal the skin. Cosmetic companies are increasingly interested in this substance and have started to include it in various skin elixirs.
Croton is also anti-diarrheal, and is the active ingredient in a medicine, prescribed for non-infectious diarrhea in HIV patients.
Further, taspine, one of the constituents of Croton lechleri has been studied for its use against various types of cancer. The results are ambiguous. The few studies that have been done, showed good results with melanoma and colon cancer cells, while the taspine seemed to protect leukemic cells from destruction. More research is needed before jumping into conclusions.
Dragon's Blood also has a reputation of being a prohormone and testosterone booster, and for increasing male libido. This might very well be true, there are ample anecdotal evidence indicating that so is the case, but it has not been scientifically studied at all.
Greeks, Romans, and Arabs used resin from Dracaena cinnabari, imported from Socotra since at least Ptolemaic times. They ascribed to it a number of medicinal effects. Most notably, it was used against respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments. A similar tree, Dracaena draco, which grows in Morocco and on the Canary Islands, also provides Dragon's Blood, and resin from these two species of Dracaea was – and still is - used as a source of varnish for violins. (Varnish based on dragon's blood tends to lose its colour quickly. It bleaches out and becomes greenish. It might happen in just a few years. One can see this change of colour on some old violins and other instruments of the same family.)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, dragon's blood is often used. Commercially available Dragon's Blood in contemporary China contains resin from four different species of trees. (According to the Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China.) It has been used to improve blood circulation, to treat chronic colitis, and against serious injuries and pain.
Chinese research with resin from Dracaena cochinchinensis, showed that it had the ability to kill Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria causing peptic ulcers.
How about taking Dragon's Blood as a dietary supplement, for anti-ageing and prevention?
Yes. There is good reason to do that, although one should not take too much. No studies have been made on its safety, especially not in large regular doses. So keep the dose relatively low. I cannot give any specific recommendations, because it depends on which form of Dragon's Blood you take.
As usual with insufficiently studied substances, unless you know exactly what you are doing, avoid taking it on your own if you are pregnant or breastfeeding – or if you have any serious illness. Also, if you are on medication, consult a professional about possible conflicts with medicines before starting a regular intake.
Externally applied Dragon's Blood might have a rejuvenating effect on the skin.
Copyright © 2018, 2021 Meleonymica/Mictorrani. All Rights Reserved.
(The images of this article are in the Public Domain.)
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