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Dragon’s Blood: An Ancestral Treatment for Wound Healing

Dragon’s blood, commonly known as sangre de drago, is a powerful phytocomplex used by indigenous people in South America due to its therapeutic applications including wound healing. Over the years, this ancient knowledge has crossed the boundaries of shamanism and has been widely spread among the population. Therefore, this “botanical medicine” has easily reached the shelves of the local markets. But how can this exotic household remedy work efficiently in the treatment of wounds? Let’s find out the answer by getting immersed into the ancestral wisdom and science.

Sangre de drago is a reddish latex obtained from Croton lechleri, a tree of the Euphorbiaceae family. "These trees grow in the Amazon rainforest specifically in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia and their height can reach 15 meters" [1,2]. Imagine standing up next to that tree, that is impressive! Many of you may be wondering why does it call sangre de drago or dragon’s blood? When the bark is slashed, it looks like the tree is “bleeding” a bright blood-red sap that has a variety of medicinal uses.

The sap is rich in different secondary metabolites including phenolic compounds (proanthocyanidins, flavonols and dihydrobenzofuran lignans), alkaloids and terpenoids (diterpenes and steroids) with concentrations that vary according to the geographical area.

What properties does sangre de drago have

that make this sap an amazing healing agent?

It has been demonstrated that proanthocyanidins and alkaloids are the most active constituents in this phytocomplex [3]. Its abundance in secondary metabolites grants to sangre de drago anti-inflammatory and antipruritic properties together with antibacterial and antioxidant effects.

The wound healing process involves the release of substance P (SP), a neuropeptide that is found in local sensory nerve terminals in the skin, therefore SP promotes the inflammatory phase and itching by activating different immune cells [2]. A study using an in vitro model has measured the effects of sangre de drago on SP release in a co-culture of primary keratinocytes and dorsal root ganglion neurons in order to mimic the innerved skin. The results showed that this red sap inhibits in a dose-dependent manner the release of SP, efficiently reducing inflammation and pruritus [4].

This fascinating remedy is also known for its antibacterial and antioxidant effects [2,5]. Studies have reported that Croton lechleri inhibits in different percentages the growth of escherichia coli [1]. Moreover, an in vitro study demonstrated the antibacterial properties of sangre de drago by measuring its activity against 36 strains of bacteria. The researchers found out that this sap has a minimal inhibitory concentration less or equal to 0.03 mg/mL for staphylococcus aureus, pseudomonas aeruginosa, proteus mirabilis among others [6]. The growth of these bacteria causes wound infection and a delay in the wound healing process. Since oxidative stress impacts negatively on the treatment of wounds and considering that sangre de drago acts as a potent scavenger against hydroxyl and peroxyl radicals preventing lipid peroxidation and plasma membrane damage, it is feasible to validate the outstanding effect of this sap for healing purposes [2].

I know, at this point, you might be surprised with all the medicinal benefits that this “magic” sap has. Its anti-inflammatory, antipruritic, antibacterial and antioxidant properties not only heal wounds but also accelerate this process. Nowadays, it is possible to find different products containing sangre de drago in the south american markets like soaps, lotions, shampoos and pure extracts. However, more studies are needed to determine optimun concentrations, dosage forms, frequency of treatment, and find more sustainable ways to obtain this latex from Croton lechleri without jeoperdazing the Amazon rainforest diversity.


[1] Jones, K. (2003). Review of Sangre de Drago(Croton lechleri) - A South American Tree Sap in the Treatment of Diarrhea, Inflammation, Insect Bites, Viral Infections, and Wounds: Traditional Uses to Clinical Research. In The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Vol. 9, Issue 6, pp. 877–896). Mary Ann Liebert Inc.

[2] Pona, A., Cline, A., Kolli, S. S., Taylor, S. L., & Feldman, S. R. (2018). Review of future insights of Dragon’s Blood in dermatology. In Dermatologic Therapy (Vol. 32, Issue 2, p. e12786). Hindawi Limited.

[3] De Marino, S., Gala, F., Zollo, F., Vitalini, S., Fico, G., Visioli, F., & Iorizzi, M. (2008). Identification of Minor Secondary Metabolites from the Latex of Croton lechleri (Muell-Arg) and Evaluation of Their Antioxidant Activity. In Molecules (Vol. 13, Issue 6, pp. 1219–1229). MDPI AG.

[4] Pereira, U., Garcia-Le Gal, C., Le Gal, G., Boulais, N., Lebonvallet, N., Dorange, G., Lefeuvre, L., Gougerot, A., & Misery, L. (2010). Effects of sangre de drago in an in vitro model of cutaneous neurogenic inflammation. In Experimental Dermatology (Vol. 19, Issue 9, pp. 796–799). Wiley.

[5] Bogdan, C., Iurian, S., Tomuta, I., & Moldovan, M. L. (2017). Improvement of skin condition in striae distensae: development, characterization and clinical efficacy of a cosmetic product containing Punica granatum seed oil and Croton lechleri resin extract. In Drug Design, Development and Therapy (Vol. Volume11, pp. 521–531). Informa UK Limited.

[6] Roumy, V., Gutierrez-Choquevilca, A.-L., Lopez Mesia, J., Ruiz, L., Ruiz Macedo, J., Abedini, A., Landoulsi, A., Samaillie, J., Hennebelle, T., Rivière, C., & Neut, C. (2015). In vitro antimicrobial activity of traditional plant used in mestizo shamanism from the Peruvian amazon in case of infectious diseases. In Pharmacognosy Magazine (Vol. 11, Issue 44, p. 625). EManuscript Technologies.

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Second image's author: Erika Gutierrez

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