Medicinal Garden Series: Out for Blood

Navigating my way through the UGA Costa Rica San Luis Botanical Garden’s medicinal plant garden alongside several tourists, I came across a tree that had been sliced, battered, and bruised. Someone was clearly out for blood.

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Croton draco, or Dragon’s Blood

Before an explanation, a demonstration by the resident naturalists. One slice of the bark and, to my surprise, the tree was, in fact, bleeding!

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Blood or sap from the Dragon’s Blood bark?

A few resident naturalists began to explain that this plant was croton draco, or Dragon’s Blood. We embarked on a quest for Dragon’s Blood. There has to be a fantasy film storyline in that somewhere. Nevertheless, Dragon’s Blood, targuá in Spanish, is a plant native to Central America and found at altitudes ranging from 125 meters to 1200 meters. Trying to find a remedy for those pesky bug bites? The sap, when applied topically, is commonly used to alleviate skin irritations. When rubbing it into the skin, the deep red sap becomes white in color and pasty in texture.

When rubbed into the skin, the sap changes color and texture.

Beyond its external uses, it is also said that the sap can be used for oral care. In very small doses, the sap can be used to combat issues like cavities and sores. A word of caution, tenga cuidado and avoid ingesting too much of the sap because in large doses it can be toxic.

Blog post contribution by Bilan Haji-Mohamed, UGACR Photojournalism Intern

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