Pterocarpus officinalis

Pterocarpus officinalis

The dragonsblood tree (Pterocarpus officinalis Jacq.) Is an arboreal species belonging to the Fabaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Magnoliophyta Division,
Magnoliopsida class,
Fabales Order,
Fabaceae family,
Faboideae subfamily,
Genus Pterocarpus,
Species officinalis.
The following terms are synonymous:
– Lingoum officinale (Jacq.) Kuntze;
– Moutouchi crispata (DC.) Benth .;
– Moutouchi draco (L.) Benth .;
– Moutouchi suberosa Aubl .;
– Pterocarpus belizensis Standl .;
– Pterocarpus crispatus DC .;
– Pterocarpus draco L .;
– Pterocarpus hemipterus Gaertn .;
– Pterocarpus moutouchi Lam .;
– Pterocarpus moutouchi Poir .;
– Pterocarpus sanguis-draconis Crantz;
– Pterocarpus suberosus (Aubl.) Pers ..

Etymology –
The term Pterocarpus comes from the Greek πτερóν pterόn ala and from carpos fruit: with winged fruits.
The specific epithet officinalis comes from a medieval laboratory workshop: as plants usable in pharmaceuticals, herbal medicine, liqueurs, perfumery and the like.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The dragonsblood tree is a plant native to southern Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. It is found on a natural range that includes: Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador and to the north through the Caribbean and Central America to Guatemala.
Its habitat is that of the humid tropical forest, humid premontane forest and occasionally forms pure populations next to the mangroves in coastal habitats of fresh or slightly brackish water where it usually grows at altitudes below 350 meters, but occasionally up to 800 meters.

Description –
Pterocarpus officinalis is a tree 15 to 35 m high.
It has a trunk with roots well developed at the base, with a diameter of about 30 cm which can occasionally reach up to 90 cm.
The outer bark is black or gray in color. The inner bark of the trunk produces a red sap.
The leaves are imparipinnate and alternate, with 6-9 leaflets, alternating on the rachis; they have leaflets 7-15 x 3-7 cm wide, ovate to oblong in shape, with acute apex, entire margins and rounded base. The stipules are and the petiole is 3-9 cm long and pulvinated at the base.
The flowers are yellow, collected in axillary or terminal panicles.
The fruits are asymmetrical and suborbicular, 3-5 cm long, obtuse or sharp at the apex and oblique at the base, thick and wingless, green in color, tending to brown or black when ripe.
It blooms in central Panama from April to October, but mainly in June and July. The fruits ripen from August to October (sometimes until December). The leaves fall off at the beginning of the dry season.

Cultivation –
Pterocarpus officinalis is an evergreen tree that grows in its natural state and was occasionally planted in the past in Cuba and other areas to obtain the medicinal drug ‘sangre de drago’, although there is currently little trade in this material.
The trees are ornamental and have also been planted to provide shade.
It is a plant that grows in mainly flat areas of humid tropical areas and its seeds are dispersed by water currents.
This species has a symbiotic relationship with some soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is used by the growing plant, but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

Customs and Traditions –
Pterocarpus officinalis is one of many plants that provide a red resin from their stem. This resin, often known as “Dragon’s Blood”, is often used as an external application to treat a variety of skin problems and injuries and was once exported in large quantities from Colombia to Spain for medicinal use.
Dragon’s blood can in fact be obtained from different species of this genus, as well as from three other distinct genera: Dracaena species, Croton species and Daemonorops species.
On the other hand, no food uses are known.
The bark of this plant, when incised or, through wounds, produces drops of red juice which soon harden into crimson colored drops which are collected under the name of Dragon’s Blood; these are astringent and hemostatic. They find use in the treatment of diarrhea, mouth ulcers and thrush.
Furthermore, in the traditional medicine of the areas where it grows, the bark and wood are taken to procure an abortion up to the third or fourth month of pregnancy.
An infusion is obtained from the bark which is used to treat dysentery.
Among other uses, it should be remembered that when the bark is cut, it gives off a blood-red juice that quickly solidifies and forms a red, tasteless and odorless resin.
The heartwood is dark brown or purplish with a wide band of sapwood ranging from whitish to light yellow. It has medium gloss; medium to coarse consistency; straight grain, sometimes irregular.
The wood is light, very soft and weak; it stains easily during drying, is subject to decay and susceptible to attack by termites.
The wood was used for fishing net floats, life belts and inexpensive furniture as well as for construction.
Once pieces of the thin buttresses served as pans for washing or weaving gold.
Wood is also used as a fuel. It has the unusual property of being combustible even in a fresh state.
Its timber is also marketed.

Preparation Method –
The bark of Pterocarpus officinalis is used for various medicinal purposes.
This is engraved to obtain the so-called drops named Dragon’s Blood which are astringent and hemostatic. They find use in the treatment of diarrhea, mouth ulcers and thrush.
Furthermore, in the traditional medicine of the areas where it grows, the bark and wood are taken to procure an abortion up to the third or fourth month of pregnancy.
An infusion is obtained from the bark which is used to treat dysentery.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Photo source:
https://www.gbif.org/occurrence/2573828261
http://plantillustrations.org/illustration.php?id_illustration=205358&SID=ao883jcvg0thba27tga8bbtlvr&mobile=1&size=0&uhd=0

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.




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