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Knowledgebase record #779

PAL Question

Someone told me about an herbal remedy called Dragon's Blood which is made of the resin of Daemonorops draco. It's supposed to be good for relief from pain and headaches. Can you tell me more about the plant, including its medicinal uses?


The plant in question, Daemonorops draco, is a type of palm (Family: Arecaceae). Here is the USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network page about this plant.

The common name Dragon's Blood can refer to a number of different plant resins (such as those derived from Dracaena cinnabari, Dracaena draco, and Croton). The product you mention says it is derived from the palm Daemonorops draco. The resin of this plant has a history of use in folk medicine. Some of the plants are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Dracaena cinnabari is listed as vulnerable, as of 2009). This may be of interest to you because often the products you find for sale are not well-regulated, and there may be no way of verifying that the list of plant ingredients is either valid or complete.
Here is an excerpt:
"Few commodity dealers properly distinguish the various botanical origins of Dragon's Blood items, and over-exploitation is starting to threaten some sources."

As for medicinal and other uses of substances called Dragon's Blood, here is more information from Cropwatch.org:
"The term 'Dragons Blood' refers to a product obtained from the resin layer consisting of diterpene acids found on the surface of fruits of the climbing palms of the Daemonorops genus found in SE Asia, and often sold out of Sumatra, Malaya & Borneo. These reddish resinous products (usually encountered as granules, powder, lumps ('cakes'), or sticks ('reed') used in folk medicine as an astringent and for wound healing etc., and in other applications for colouring essential oils red to dark brown, in varnishes, staining marble, for jewelry and enameling work, and for photo-engraving. Mabberley (1998) suggests Dragons Blood was produced originally from Dracaena cinnabari, later from D. draco and more recently from Daemonorops spp.; Zheng et al. (2004) confirm this view and suggest substitutes for Dracaena spp. include Pterocarpus spp., Daemonorops draco and Croton spp."

There is also an article by Jane Pearson published by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (2002) on the uses of Dragon's Blood.
"The term 'Dragons Blood' is interchangeably used to refer to plants from three quite different families: Dracaena cinnabari (Socotra) and Dracaena draco (Canary Islands) in the Dracaenaceae family; the palm genus Daemonorops (Malaysia), and the genus Croton (South America) in the Euphorbiaceae family. [...] Although Daemonorops resin is similar in appearance, its origin and preparation are different to Dracaena resin. The fruits are covered in small imbricate scales through which the resin exudes, forming a brittle, red resinous layer on the outside of the fruits. Collection occurs just before the fruit is fully ripe. [...] Although used in the same way as Dracaena, the powdered form of Daemonorops was used extensively, especially in America, as an acid resist by photo-engravers up until the 1930s. It also appears to be used in both traditional Chinese medicine and Chinese herbal folk medicine. Daemonorops is traditionally used to stimulate the circulation, promote tissue regeneration by aiding the healing of fractures, sprains and ulcers and to control bleeding and pain." [My note: Daemonorops draco is referred to as Xue Jie in Chinese medicine.]

Please note that we are not medical professionals, so if you are considering using a substance which claims to contain Daemonorops draco, you should consult your healthcare provider. However, I can tell you that there are ongoing concerns about contamination of patented herbal remedies. University of Minnesota has information on traditional Chinese herbal medicine and related safety concerns.

Keywords: Quirky, Daemonorops draco, Medicinal plants
Date: 2010-04-29

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