Dragon's blood (FAO, NWFP 6)

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Coppen, Gums, resins and latexes of plant origin, 1995

  • See the main page Copal (in French)
  • Extract from : NWFP 6. Coppen J.J.W., 1995. Gums, resins and latexes of plant origin. FAO, Rome. 142 p. (Non-Wood Forest Products, 6). on line





The term "dragon's blood" has been applied since ancient times to the red coloured resin obtained from a large number of plant species of different geographic and botanical origin: from the Middle East, Southeast Asia and South America, and from amongst several different families of plants. The resin of commerce is in the form of powder, granules, sticks or friable lumps with a deep, dull red colour.

Traditionally, dragon's blood has been, and still is, used for medicinal purposes, whatever the source. In the past it has found minor use in coloured varnishes, lacquers and wood stains, although its use for this purpose (other than locally) is now largely confined to very specialized markets, such as violin varnish.



It is extremely difficult to estimate the size of the market for internationally traded resin, but it is probably not more than a few hundred tonnes annually, and may be much less.

Domestic consumption in those countries where dragon's blood is popular as a traditional medicine is equally difficult to estimate, but demand in countries such as Peru and Ecuador, where Croton is the botanical source, is believed to be significant.

The main source of dragon's blood of commerce is Indonesia, and exports from Indonesia for the period 1988-93 are given in Table 22. Apart from Pakistan in 1991, all recorded exports went to Singapore and Hong Kong, so the final destinations - assuming most is re-exported - are not known.

Supply sources

Indonesian exports, probably originating in Sumatra, averaged just over 50 tonnes/year during 1988-93, with a peak of almost 90 tonnes in 1991. The scale of domestic consumption is not known so it is not possible to say by how much production might exceed the levels of exports.

Resin from plants growing in Yemen, the Canary Islands and sources in South America are not believed to enter world trade.

Quality and prices

Dragon's blood of Indonesian origin is available as sticks ("reed") or cakes ("lump"). In mid-1995, Indonesian dragon's blood was quoted by one London dealer at US$ 60/kg for small quantities (cf US$ 42/kg in 1992). Another dealer quoted US$ 33/kg for No. 1 grade and US$ 5/kg for No. 2 grade, both of Middle Eastern origin.



Botanical/common names

Family Palmaceae:

Family Agavaceae:

Family Euphorbiaceae:

Description and distribution

Daemonorops spp. are climbing jungle palms and the source of cane in Southeast Asia. In Daemonorops didymophylla, spiny stems bear bunches of scaly fruits which are covered in the red resin. In the past, the main areas of exploitation for resin have been the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, and some parts of Peninsular Malaysia.

Dracaena spp. are mostly trees of the Old World. Dracaena cinnabari is endemic to the island of Socotra, Yemen. Dracaena draco occurs on the Canary Islands.

Numerous Croton spp. which yield a blood red latex (Sangre de Drago) occur in Mexico, Central America and South America (e.g., Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil).


Dragon's blood resin obtained from Daemonorops is present as a brittle layer on the surface of the immature fruit. After picking, the fruits are dried and placed in bags, which are then beaten to dislodge the resin. The resinous powder thus obtained is then sifted and warmed so that it can be moulded into sticks or formed into irregular shaped lumps.

Resin from Dracaena and Croton is obtained by making incisions into the stem of the plant and collecting the exudate.


No information is available on yields of resin from any of the botanical sources.



No further processing is carried out until the resin is ready for formulation by the consuming industry.


Apart from local use as a source of cane in Southeast Asia, no other products of economic value are known to come from the species which yield dragon's blood.


Unless some of the traditional medicinal uses of dragon's blood are developed into more widely used products, there appears to be very little developmental potential for the plants or the resins they produce.


  • HIMMELREICH, U., MASAOUD, M., ADAM, G. and RIPPERGER, H. (1995) Damalachawin,

a triflavonoid of a new structural type from dragon's blood of Dracaena cinnabari. Phytochemistry, 39(4), 949-951.

  • MILBURN, M. (1984) Dragon's blood in East and West Africa, Arabia and the Canary Islands.

Africa, 39(3), 486-493.

  • PIETERS, L., de BRUYNE, T., MEI, G., LEMIERE, G., VAN DEN BERGHE, D. and VLIETINCK, A.J. (1992) In vitro and in vivo biological activity of South American dragon's blood

and its constituents. Planta Medica, 58(7), A582-583.

  • PIOZZI, F., PASSANNANTI, S. and PATERNOSTRO, M.P. (1974) Diterpenoid resin acids of

Daemonorops draco. Phytochemistry, 13, 2231-2233.

  • RAO, G.S.R., GERHART, M.A., LEE, R.T., MITSCHER, L.A. and DRAKE, S. (1982) Antimicrobial agents from higher plants. Dragon's blood resin. Journal of Natural Products, 45(5), 646-648.


Table 22. Dragon's blood: exports from Indonesia, and destinations, 1988-93 (tonnes)
1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993
Total 26 59 71 87 47 25
Of which to:
Singapore 19 56 59 36 38 23
Hong Kong 7 3 12 20 9 2
Pakistan - - - 31 - -

Source: National statistics