Ethnobotanical Uses and Economic Significance
Croton lechleri is commonly known as Sangre de Grado (in Peru) and Sangre de Drago (in Ecuador) both of which translate to dragon's blood. The common name is due to the red color of the tree's sap, a product of the plant commonly used in the traditional medicine of indigenous peoples in Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador. In addition to functioning as a quick drying liquid bandage, several phytochemicals in the sap, including the alkaloid taspine, the antioxidant pycnogenol, and the lignan dimethylcedrusine, have healing properties for the skin.
The sap is used in traditional South American medicine, both internally and externally, to treat a variety of ailments including: cancer, flesh wounds, fractures, hemorrhoids, intestinal fevers, inflamed or infect gums, as an anti-viral for respiratory and stomach viruses, HIV, in vaginal baths before and after childbirth, as a vaginal douche, for hemorrhaging after childbirth, for skin disorders, and for mouth, throat, intestinal and stomach ulcers.
Several studies have been done on Sangre de Grado starting in the late 1980s. A study done by Belgian scientists in 1993 found that the application of the sap to skin wounds in rats led to healing about four times faster than skin wounds treated with just one of the chemicals, and 10-20 fast than untreated skin wounds. Research done in 2000 and 2002 confirmed it was an effective treatment against gastrointestinal ulcers and that it had an in vitro effect against stomach and colon cancer cells. In 2003 and Italian team reported Sangre de Grado inhibited the growth of a particular cell line of human myelogenous leukemia. Interest in pharmaceutical industry has led to a number of patents being taken out on Sangre de Grado related substances in the last decade.