Natural potential therapeutic agents of neurodegenerative diseases from the traditional herbal medicine Chinese dragon's blood

J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Mar 28;152(3):508-21. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.01.032. Epub 2014 Feb 5.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Dragon's blood has been used as a famous traditional medicine since ancient times by many cultures. It is a deep red resin, obtained from more than 20 different species of four distinct genera. Red resin of Dracaena cochinchinensis S.C. Chen, known as Chinese dragon's blood or Yunnan dragon's blood, has been shown to promote blood circulation, alleviate inflammation, and to treat stomach ulcers, diarrhea, diabetes, and bleeding. This study investigated an effective approach to identify natural therapeutic agents for neurodegeneration from herbal medicine. The dichloride extract and isolated effective constituents of Chinese dragon's blood showed quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) inducing activity and anti-inflammatory effect significantly, which are therapy targets of various neurodegenerative diseases.

Materials and methods: Multiple chromatography and spectra analysis were utilized to afford effective constituents. Then Hepa 1c1c7 and BV-2 cells were employed to assay their NQO1 inducing and anti-inflammatory activities, respectively.

Results: Bioactivities guided isolation afforded 21 effective constituents, including two new polymers cochinchinenene E (1), cochinchinenene F (2) and a new steroid dracaenol C (16). The main constituent 3 (weight percent 0.2%), 5 (weight percent 0.017%), 4 (weight percent 0.009%), 9 (weight percent 0.094%), 10 (weight percent 0.017%) and 8 (weight percent 0.006%) are responsible for the anti-inflammatory activities of Chinese dragon's blood. While, new compounds 1, 2 and known compounds 5, 11 showed good NQO1 inducing activities. The brief feature of the activities and structures was discussed accordingly.

Conclusion: Overviewing the bioactivities and phytochemical study result, 4'-hydroxy-2,4-dimethoxydihydrochalcone (3) and pterostilbene (5) as effective constituents of Chinese dragon's blood, were found to be potential candidate therapeutic agents for neurodegenerative diseases.

Keywords: 1,2,4,5-Tetrachloro-3,6-dimethoxybenzene (PubChem CID: 13678).; 10-Hydroxy-11-methoxy dracaenone (PubChem CID: 3081034); 3,4-Dihydroxyallylbenzene (PubChem CID: 70775); 4'-Hydroxy-2,4,6-trimethoxydihydro chalcone (PubChem CID: 189670); 4'-Hydroxy-2,4-dimethoxydihydrochalcone (PubChem CID: 5319081); 6,4'-Dihydroxy-7-methoxyhomoisoflavane (PubChem CID: 25014549); 6-Methoxy-7-hydroxyflavone (PubChem CID: 14376438); 7,4'-Dihydroxy-homoisoflavane (PubChem CID: 11708657); 7-Hydroxy-4'-methoxyflavane (PubChem CID: 3483299); Anti-inflammatory effect; Chinese Dragon׳s Blood; Dracaena cochinchinensis S.C. Chen; NQO1 inducing activity; Polymers; Pterostilbene (PubChem CID: 5281727); Therapeutic agents for neurodegenerative diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Dracaena / chemistry*
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional*
  • Mice
  • NAD(P)H Dehydrogenase (Quinone) / drug effects
  • NAD(P)H Dehydrogenase (Quinone) / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Resins, Plant


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Resins, Plant
  • NAD(P)H Dehydrogenase (Quinone)
  • NQO1 protein, rat
  • dragon's blood