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If you were to hear that there is dragon's blood in your skincare product, what sorts of images would be conjured up? Knights in shining armor slaying winged beasts and cloaked wizards brewing steamy cauldrons? Or, if you are the pragmatic type, would it call to mind scientists extracting mysterious juices from modern-day four-legged reptiles? Do not fear- no fantasy creatures or zoo animals were harmed in the making of your cream.
Dragon's blood actually bears no relation whatsoever to the animal kingdom. Technically speaking, it is not blood at all, but rather tears. As a dark red, sappy resin, or latex, dragon's blood oozes from a particular species of South American tree when its trunk is cut, giving the impression that it is bleeding. Native to the upper Amazon region, the croton lechleri tree has a long history of indigenous use throughout the tribes of Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador. Besides being applied as a coloring agent in varnishes and lacquers, dragon's blood has a long history of medicinal use.
For centuries, the curative sap has been painted on wounds to staunch bleeding, accelerate healing, and seal sores from infection. It has also been used internally to treat fevers, inflamed gums, and intestinal and stomach ulcers. Traditional medicine in South America today relies on dragon's blood, or sangre de grado, in much the same manner as ancient herbal practices. In Peru, it is commonly recommended for hemorrhaging and cancer treatments, as an antiseptic vaginal douche, as an antiviral for upper respiratory and stomach viruses, and as a therapy for skin disorders.
When applied topically, the sap dries quickly to form a barrier, much like a second skin. This protective shield helps regenerate the skin and prevents further damage with its anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and antioxidant qualities. Defending the skin against oxidative free radicals, dragon's blood may ward off genetic alteration within the DNA of the skin cells. Dragon's blood also has exceptional anti-inflammatory properties that have shown to stimulate human skin fibroblasts, which ultimately helps to heal the skin when marred by acne or injury.
Dragon's blood is a chock-full storehouse of phytochemicals including proanthocyanidins (antioxidants), diterpenes, phytosterols, simple phenols, and biologically active alkaloids and lignans. The most well-known active components in dragon's blood are an alkaloid named apsine and a lignan named dimethylcedrusine. Tapsine has been documented to have anti-inflammatory and wound-healing actions, and when combined with the proanthocyanidins, also shows anti-viral activities.
Though each component plays a beneficial role, it is the combination of elements within dragon's blood that makes it so special. In a Belgian lab test on rats, dimethylcedrusine, pycnogenol, and tapsine all were shown to effectively heal skin lesions. But the crude resin of dragon's blood was shown to speed healing four times faster (or 10-20 times faster than using nothing at all). Unlike its isolated chemicals, dragon's blood was able to stimulate the contraction of wounds, help in the formation of a scab at the wound site, regenerate skin more rapidly, and assist in the formation of new collagen. As articulated by ex-USDA economic botanist Dr. James Duke, "The whole was better than the sum of its parts. Synergy makes the whole herb stronger; diversity makes the rainforest stronger."
In 2007, researchers in China identified eight new flavonoids and 14 known compounds in dragon's blood extract. After pitting the dragon's blood compounds in test tubes against ulcer-causing H. pylori bacertia and thromin (a blood-clotting agent), the scientists discovered that many of the compounds were successful at combatting these bacteria. Once additional experiments lab experiments verify these findings, dragon's blood may eventually be prescribed to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Today, practitioners are reporting that preparations made with dragon's blood have shown to be beneficial for stomach ulcers, ulverative colitis, and Crohn's disease when taken internally.
Externally, the unique properties of dragon's blood make it an excellent addition to cosmetic applications targeting protection, anti-aging, and general wellness of skin. Because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects, dragon's blood plays a starring role as one of the active ingredients in Dermaxime's Problem Skin Range. Its appearance in mainstream American cosmetics, however, is relatively rare. As an alternative, pure dragon's blood can be purchased for concocting your own potions at home from herbal retailers such as this aromatherpy site or this Amazonian specialty site.
Modern research has confirmed many of the indigenous uses of this powerful plant. As a sustainable rainforest resource, dragon's blood may one day be universally adopted to serve a broad spectrum of applications, not only as an external healing agent for scrapes, bites, wounds, stings, rashes, and skin problems, but also as an internal therapy for gastrointesinal disorders and viral diseases. Perhaps dragon's blood is deserving of those mythical attributions after all.