IMAGE: Towa Corporation
May 15, 2000: Dr. John Wallace of the University of Calgary's Faculty of Medicine predicts that every medicine cabinet and first aid kit in North America will one day be stocked with medicines containing the sap of the South American tree Croton lechleri.
Known as Sangre de Grado, Spanish for "Blood of the Dragon," because of its thick red sap, Croton lechleri grows throughout the Amazon. Its sap has been used for centuries by indigenous peoples of the Amazon as a herbal medicine to treat wounds, ease pain and relieve gastrointestinal distress. Wallace and his research team are conducting experimental research on Sangre de Grado as a potent inhibitor of inflammation and pain.
“Not only does Sangre de Grado prevent pain sensation, it also blocks the tissue response to a chemical released by nerves that promotes inflammation. There is currently no other substance that we know of that shares these same activities,” says Wallace. In laboratory tests, Wallace’s research team has demonstrated that Sangre de Grado blocks the activation of nerve fibers that relay pain signals to the brain, therefore functioning as a broad-acting pain killer.
In a clinical trial performed with pest control workers in Louisiana, a balm made from Sangre de Grado was found to provide relief from the bites and stings of a wide variety of insects within 90 seconds. The study further shows that Sangre de Grado offers pain relief and alleviated symptoms - itching and swelling - for up to six hours. Similar types of pain and inflammation can occur in the gastrointestinal tract - with gastritis, ulcer disease and infectious diarrhea. Wallace says, “We find that in animals with these conditions, the sap promotes gastrointestinal healing.”
Sangre de Grado has antibacterial actions, showing excellent promise as a first aid treatment for insect bites and stings, lacerations and even burns. Wallace, who performed these studies in collaboration with researchers at Albany Medical College in Albany, NY, says that isolation of the active ingredient in Sangre de Grado could lead to new therapies for a wide range of inflammatory diseases, including asthma, arthritis and ulcerative colitis.
This research is supported by the Medical Research Council and the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.