FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | November 27, 2007

Dragon’s blood slays germs

Science for Kids*

Dragon’s blood slays germs

“Dragon's blood” may sound like part of a magic potion that is used to fend off enemies in an epic battle. It actually is a bright red plant sap — a watery mixture of sugars, salts and minerals — that has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine.

Scientists have recently found several compounds in dragon’s blood that fight disease-causing germs. It’s not at all surprising for a plant to be a medicine. Almost 70 percent of all new medicines in the United States in the past 25 years have come from plants and other natural products. Dragon’s blood fights bacteria that can cause upset stomachs in kids and adults. It is a serious but common problem that affects about 60 million people in the United States each year. Sometimes, the germs even result in a bleeding sore inside the stomach. That sore is called an ulcer.

Scientists from China, led by Weimin Zhao, knew that people used dragon’s blood to help stomach pains. These scientists wanted to find out why it works. Zhao and his team found that two ingredients in dragon’s blood blocked the growth of bacteria known to cause stomach ulcers and inflammation that frequently results in upset stomachs. They also discovered eight other substances that prevent blood from clotting — a natural process of blood changing from liquid to solid.

Dragon’s blood over the centuries has been used as a violin varnish, an ingredient in toothpaste, and even as an agent to strengthen love spells. The scientists hope its effects are as magical in the medical field as the name suggests. They believe these compounds could be useful in decreasing disorders caused by clots, such as heart attacks and strokes. Their study is in the October issue of ACS' Journal of Natural Products, a magazine for scientists.

The American Chemical Society — the world’s largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

— John Simpson

*The research in this press release is from a copyrighted publication, and stories must credit the journal by name or the American Chemical Society.

News media may obtain a full text of this report (“Anti-Helicobacter pylori and thrombin Inhibitory Components from Chinese Dragon’s Blood, Dracaena cochinchinensis”) in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology by contacting Michael Bernstein.

Caption: This wood contains a reddish resin called "dragon's blood" which shows promise for fighting stomach ulcers. Courtesy of Zhizhang Peng, China

Researcher contact information for news media use only and not for publication:

Weimin Zhao, Ph.D.

Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica

Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences

Chinese Academy of Sciences

Shanghai, China 201203

Phone: 86-21-50806052

Fax: 86-21-50806052