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Plants and the chemicals they make. Dragon’s Blood: Is the Risk Worth the Hype?

Let’s discuss Sangre de Drago, Dragon’s Blood, because it sounds so very exciting.

Exciting, yes. But would we use this plant product in SAS produts? No.

Why? Dragon’s blood, the red latex obtained by wounding the trunk of Croton lechleri, is an almost perfect active for a skin care product. It has some attractive properties, a fantastic name and a nice story. This red latex can be used in an emergency as a liquid bandage: apply to an open wound, and it will help stop bleeding and prevent infection. Sangre de Drago (what a beautiful name!) is used by indigenous cultures of the Amazonian basin for it’s wound healing properties.

So, what is in there NOT to like? Plants, in the Amazon or anywhere else, are not there for our benefit. The chemicals they make are either essential to their own metabolism or used to defend themselves from stress, viruses or some other external aggressor. Plus, humans are among the external aggressors plants need defending from.

Don’t be surprised if a chemical present in a plant causes itching, or blisters, or male sterility. Don’t be offended, it is not personal. In the case of Dragon’s blood, I would definitely try it if I cut my finger in the middle of the Amazonian jungle and there was nobody with a bandage nearby. But apply it to my skin every night? No.

Some chemicals in this plant are cytotoxic (toxic to cells). Cytotoxic is not always bad, sometimes you want to kill cells like in cancer. It is worth taking a risk when trying to medicate a serious problem, like some life threatening complications of AIDS (one of the uses of Dragon’s blood). But if your objective is to rejuvenate your skin, go for the proven and safe actives: look at our collagen serum actives, for example, and don’t apply cytotoxic agents to skin that has already suffered innumerable mutations as a result of sun damage.

There are some nice antioxidants in this latex (flavan-ols), and maybe with time it will be possible to purify the beneficial chemicals. Perhaps then you will see Dragon’s Blood in SAS products.


Reference: Lopes, M; Saffi, J; Echeverrigaray, S; Henriques, J; Salvador, M (2004) Mutagenic and antioxidant activities of Croton lechleri sap in biological systems. J Ethnopharmacology. 95: 437-445.