CONTACT: Richard Puff, Assistant Director of Public Relations
Albany Medical Center, Albany, NY 518-262-3421
Embargo: Saturday, May 13, 5 pm
In Dr. Mark Miller's estimation, every medicine cabinet and first aid kit in the United States will one day be stocked with medicines containing the sap of a South American tree.
Sangre de Grado (pronounced SAN-gray dee GRAH-doe) is a thick, red sap from fast-growing trees (several Croton species) which grow abundantly throughout the Amazon. It has been used for centuries by indigenous cultures of the Amazon River basin as an herbal medicine to treat wounds, ease pain and, when diluted in water, treat gastrointestinal distress including diarrhea.
In research presented today at the 2000 Pediatric Academic Societies and American Academy of Pediatrics joint meeting, Dr. Miller, a professor of pediatrics at Albany Medical College, Albany, N.Y., and his colleagues showed for the first time scientific evidence that Sangre de Grado is a potent inhibitor of inflammation and pain.
In laboratory tests using animal models, Dr. Miller demonstrated that Sangre de Grado prevents the activation of nerve fibers (sensory afferent nerves) that relay pain signals to the brain. Results indicate that Sangre de Grado is a broad-acting analgesic agent, blocking the activation of these nerve fibers to multiple stimuli.
"Not only does Sangre de Grado prevent pain sensation, but it also blocks the tissue response to a chemical released by these nerves that promotes inflammation. There is currently no other substance that we know of that shares these same activities with Sangre de Grado," said Dr. Miller.
The inflammatory and pain response in the skin from lacerations, insect stings and bites, and plant reactions, also occurs in the gastrointestinal tract in response to ulcers, gastritis and infectious diarrhea.
"It doesn't matter whether it's on your skin or in your gut, the healing and anti-inflammatory response from Sangre de Grado is similar," Dr. Miller noted. "In fact, in our animal models, the sap also promoted intestinal mucosal healing."
Additionally, in a three-month clinical research trial conducted last year, 10 Louisiana pest control workers were asked to use either a balm made with Sangre de Grado or a placebo to treat wounds and insect bites and stings. The workers were blocked from knowing which preparation they were using.
"Sangre de Grado overwhelmingly offered relief to every one of the pest control workers within an average of 90 seconds of its application," Dr. Miller said. "These included bites from fire ants, stings from bees and wasps, lacerations and plant reactions."
Dr. Miller said that on average, Sangre de Grado offered pain relief and alleviated symptoms, such as itching and swelling, for up to six hours.
This research indicates that as little as a single drop of Sangre de Grado shows excellent promise as a first aid treatment for a wide variety of insect bites and stings, lacerations and possibly even burns. Furthermore, the research showed that the sap was effective in even highly diluted concentrations.
Dr. Miller, whose colleagues included researchers from the University of Calgary, believes that this research shows that Sangre de Grado could offer assistance in treating pulmonary diseases such as asthma and cystic fibrosis, and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. He also sees the cultivation of Sangre de Grado as a tremendous benefit for peoples in the Amazon.
"We hope that this work might one day help stimulate commercialization of this Amazon resource in a sustainable manner and improve both the economic and health-care conditions in Amazonian communities," Dr. Miller said.