Lately people have been talking about Angelina Jolie keeping her looks fresh with something called Dragon Blood.
Dragon’s Blood sounds downright magical — doesn’t it? Like something you’d find at an apothecary stand in a Shakespearean plan, not an actual ingredient being used in skin-care products. But it is real, and its origins aren’t quite as dramatic as “dragon blood” would make it seem.
Dragon’s Blood, also known as Sangre de Drago, comes from the Croton Lechleri tree in South America. The red, viscous resin extract has been used for diarrhea and wound healing in traditional medicine (Sloane-Kettering Memorial Center, New Beauty).
How Does It Work as an Antioxidant?
Dragon’s Blood contains powerful antioxidants called catechins that are like those found in green tea. They’ve been proven to reduce neurogenic inflammation and may also treat skin inflammation (Experimental Dermatology). It’s also been found to have a high phenolic content (BMC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine).
There are studies that show positive effects on oxidative damage as well. On in vitro study found that it effectively treated oxidative stress and inflammation (Phytomedicine). It has been found to be effective as an antioxidant, but only at high concentrations (Journal of Ethnopharmacology).
How Does It Work for Wound Healing?
Another component of Dragon’s Blood is alkaloid Taspine. This works to heal wounds by increasing the migration of fibroblasts to the wound site because it acts like a chemotactic factor for the fibroblasts (Planta Medicina). Taspine has been found to be a cicatrizant, which means it promotes wound healing by creating scar tissue. In studies with mice it was found to be non-carcinogenic after 17 months of treatment (Planta Medicina).
In a study with mice it was found to make the found contract and make a crust over it, form collagen and regenerate the epithelial level (Phytomedicine). Dragon’s Blood was more effective at expediting wound healing that synthetic proanthocyanidins.
How Does It Work for Anti-Aging?
The claim is that “the modernized version of the herb forms a protective layer on the skin to shield it against damaging elements and inflammation. A ‘cure-all’ of sorts, antioxidant-rich sap is brimming with phenols and collagen-repairing proanthocyandins” (New Beauty).
While these things are true, that doesn’t mean that Dragon’s Blood works exactly as explained on anti-aging. When there’s a wound, there’s a “damage signal” sent out, releasing cytokins and chemotactic factors. This makes fibroblasts increase collagen production, along with other cellular processes. But wrinkles — which happen because of UV damage, environmental damage, internal stressors, etc. — happen more slowly and subsequently don’t have quite as strong a “damage signal” and thus fewer cytokins and chemotactic factors. So just because Dragon’s Blood has great wound healing doesn’t mean it’s as effective for healing wrinkles. More research needs to be done.
Dragon’s Blood has potency as an antioxidant when it’s in large concentrations in products, but it’s not very effective in small concentration. It acts as a wound healing agent because it speeds up some natural processes that migrate fibroblasts and help produce collagen. However, just because it produces collagen effectively in wound healing doesn’t mean it does the same kind of work for wrinkles. We’ll need to see more studies before we can say that Dragon’s Blood is really effective for anti-aging.