Fresh Clips: A Drop of Dragon's Blood to Prevent Memory Loss

| June/July 2009

  • Dozens of dragon's blood products are available in the United States, marketed as dietary supplements or cosmetics rather than drugs.
    ©2009 Steven Foster

Dragon’s blood sounds as though it could ward off most any malady. In the Amazon rainforest, where sangre-de-drago (Croton lechleri) grows, the tree’s blood-red sap is used to treat wounds, tuberculosis, certain forms of cancer, sore throats and intestinal parasites.

Recent scientific studies suggest that dragon’s blood could live up to its potent-sounding name. A chemical analysis of the sap found many phenolic compounds, including the same compound that gives red wine its antioxidant activity. Researchers also isolated the alkaloid taspine, which has been shown to have value for treating abrasions, inflammation, swelling, viral infections and wounds.

Taspine also has anti-acetylcholinesterase activity—in other words, it thwarts enzymes that break down choline and acetylcholine, two compounds the brain uses for storing memories in the right locations. When these cerebral messengers break down, memory loss, such as that associated with Alzheimer’s disease, can result.

Botanist, author and herbalist James A. Duke puts a drop or two of dragon’s blood in an herbal cocktail he imbibes daily to keep his brain functioning at top speed as he approaches his eighth decade. His homemade tonic is not commercially available, but perhaps he should trademark the name: creme de-mentia.

For more information, see Molecules 13:1219-1229, 2008 and Journal of Natural Products 69(9):1341-6, 2006.

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