The Health Benefits of Blood of the Dragon

Health Benefits, Uses, Tips, and More

Croton lechleri, also known as Blood of the Dragon, Sangre de Grado, or Dragon’s blood
Croton lechleri, also known as Blood of the Dragon, Sangre de Grado, or Dragon’s blood. Lynn Johnson/Aurora/Getty Images

Blood of the dragon (Croton lechleri) is a liquid sourced from a tree found throughout South America. Sometimes referred to as dragon's blood or sangre de drago, blood of the dragon bears a dark red color.

Long used in South American herbal medicine, blood of the dragon has been found to offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in a number of studies. Widely available in dietary supplement form (including liquid extracts and capsules), blood of the dragon is also used as an ingredient in skin-care products.

Uses for Blood of the Dragon

In alternative medicine, blood of the dragon is sometimes touted as a natural remedy for the following conditions:

In addition, blood of the dragon is said to prevent cancer and fight off viruses. When applied topically, blood of the dragon is purported to moisturize the skin, alleviate symptoms of eczema, and promote wound healing.

Benefits of Blood of the Dragon

Although research on the health effects of blood of the dragon is limited, there's some evidence that it may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at several key findings from the available studies:

1) Diarrhea

Blood of the dragon may aid in the treatment of traveler's diarrhea, according to a 2002 study from the American Journal of Gastroenterology. For the study, 184 U.S. residents who acquired diarrhea while traveling in Jamaica or Mexico were assigned to two days of treatment with a placebo or with a product containing blood of the dragon.

Study results revealed that the blood of the dragon product was effective in shortening the duration of the travelers' diarrhea by 21 percent.

In addition, a report published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2003 found a number of clinical trials showing positive results for the use of blood of the dragon in the treatment of diarrhea.

In their review of scientific evidence supporting traditional uses for blood of the dragon, the report's authors also determined that blood of the dragon may help treat wounds and the itching, pain, and swelling of insect bites.

Crofelemer, a compound isolated from blood of the dragon, is approved by the FDA as a prescription drug for the treatment of diarrhea associated with anti-retroviral therapy drugs. 

2) Ulcers

Blood of the dragon may be a potent, cost-effective treatment for gastrointestinal ulcers, suggests a study published in the American Journal of Physiology in 2000. In tests on rats, researchers found that blood of the dragon helped speed up the healing of ulcers, possibly due to its anti-inflammatory effects.

3) Cancer

In preliminary research, tests on animals and on human cancer cells suggest that blood of the dragon may help slow the growth of tumors and induce apoptosis (a type of programmed cell death essential for stopping the proliferation of cancer cells).

In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, for example, tests on mice and on human cancer cells demonstrated that compounds found in blood of the dragon may help inhibit the growth of tumors.

Additionally, a 2002 study on human gastrointestinal cancer cells found that blood of the dragon may help induce apoptosis. Publishing their findings in Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the study's authors state that blood of the dragon "should be evaluated further as a potential source of anti-cancer agents."

Possible Side Effects

Use of blood of the dragon may result in flatulence, increased levels of liver enzymes, and localized burning (with topical application). Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of supplements containing blood of the dragon. However, it should be noted that self-treating a condition with blood of the dragon and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. 

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

The Bottom Line

More studies need to be conducted before blood of the dragon can be recommended for cancer prevention or treatment. If you're considering using any natural remedy, make sure to talk with your primary care provider first.

For help in boosting your cancer defense, try consuming antioxidant-rich foods like turmeric, green tea, and garlic on a regular basis. Some preliminary studies indicate that each of these remedies may provide cancer-fighting benefits.


Alonso-Castro AJ, Ortiz-Sánchez E, Domínguez F, López-Toledo G, Chávez M, Ortiz-Tello Ade J, García-Carrancá A. "Antitumor effect of Croton lechleri Mull. Arg. (Euphorbiaceae)." J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Mar 27;140(2):438-42.

DiCesare D, DuPont HL, Mathewson JJ, Ashley D, Martinez-Sandoval F, Pennington JE, Porter SB. "A double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of SP-303 (Provir) in the symptomatic treatment of acute diarrhea among travelers to Jamaica and Mexico." Am J Gastroenterol. 2002 Oct;97(10):2585-8.

Jones K. "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." J Altern Complement Med. 2003 Dec;9(6):877-96.

Miller MJ, MacNaughton WK, Zhang XJ, Thompson JH, Charbonnet RM, Bobrowski P, Lao J, Trentacosti AM, Sandoval M. "Treatment of gastric ulcers and diarrhea with the Amazonian herbal medicine sangre de grado." Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2000 Jul;279(1):G192-200.

Sandoval M, Okuhama NN, Clark M, Angeles FM, Lao J, Bustamante S, Miller MJ. "Sangre de grado Croton palanostigma induces apoptosis in human gastrointestinal cancer cells." J Ethnopharmacol. 2002 May;80(2-3):121-9.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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