There is dragon’s blood, and then there is dragon’s blood. One kind has to do with color, varnish, and medicine; the other has to do with silver mining.
Let’s deal first with the one we might most likely come across today.
Dragon's blood is a bright red resin which is obtained from different species of a number of distinct plant genera: Croton, Dracaena, Daemonorops, Calamus rotang and Pterocarups.
The resin of Dracaena species, "true" dragon's blood, and the very poisonous mineral cinnabar (mercury sulfide) were often confused by the ancient Romans. [I would suggest we not allow ourselves to be confused, and we avoid ingesting or rubbing on our skin anything with “cinnabar” or “mercury sulfide” in it.]
|Dragon's blood, powdered pigment or apothecary's grade and roughly crushed incense|
Dragon's blood was used as a dye, painting pigment, and medicine (respiratory and gastrointestinal problems) in the Mediterranean basin, and was held by early Greeks, Romans, and Arabs to have medicinal properties. In folk medicine, dragon's blood is used externally as a wash to promote healing of wounds and to stop bleeding. It is used internally for chest pains, post-partum bleeding, internal traumas and menstrual irregularities.
Dragon's blood of both Dracaena draco (commonly referred to as the Draconis Palm) and Dracaena cinnabari were used as a source of varnish for 18th century Italian violinmakers. In modern times it is still used as a varnish for violins, in photoengraving, as an incense resin, and as a body oil. There was also an 18th-century recipe for toothpaste that contained dragon's blood.
In ancient China, little or no distinction was made among the types of dragon's blood from the different species. Both Dracaena and Daemonorops resins are still often marketed today as dragon's blood, with little or no distinction being made between the plant sources; however, the resin obtained from Daemonorops has become the most commonly sold type in modern times, often in the form of large balls of resin.
What does this have to do with American history, other than some of these substances continued to be used through time?
|Cornish Miners 1866|
I started my search for more information about dragon’s blood after touring the Lebanon Tunnel mine. Although tin miners from Cornwall had left their mark throughout the world since before Roman times, by the nineteenth century, most of the tin and copper mines in Cornwall were depleted. That left a people with centuries of tradition as miners looking for work elsewhere.
It is estimated that about sixty percent of the miners who worked in the Georgetown and Silver Plume Colorado mines were from Cornwall. With them, they brought their own mining terms and folklore – among them the belief in dragons.
Silver, when it is exposed to oxygen, forms silver oxide – that black tarnish we clean off of our silverware. Silver also dissolves in water over time, which is why miners cannot pan for silver like they do for gold.
With the heat, compression, and movement of the earth, veins of various elements will form in the cracks between sections of solid rock. When a vein of silver works its way to where it is exposed to both oxygen and water – even moisture in the air – it turns into a sludgy semi-liquid called dragon’s blood by the Cornish miners. They accepted it as evidence that a dragon guarded a nearby hidden treasure. The treasure within the mine was a vein of silver.
Since the presence of dragon’s blood indicates that large source of silver is nearby, miners looked for the formation of dragon’s blood as an indicator where they should drill and blast out a test pocket in search of the silver vein.
This particular incidence of dragon’s blood has seeped out and formed fairly recently. If it had existed at the time the Lebanon Tunnel was actively mined, there would be a drift there where ore was blasted and removed. It is estimated this dragon’s blood began showing sometime between 1896 when this mine closed for good and was blasted shut, and 1976 when the SeaBees came to open the mine to turn it into an optional tourist attraction add-on to the historic Georgetown Loop Railroad tour.
I have written seven books for the multi-author series, Sweethearts of Jubilee Springs. Jubilee Springs is a hypothetical silver mining town set in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. My most recent book in the series, Two Sisters and the Christmas Groom, Book 18, is currently available. Please CLICK HERE.
My eighth Sweethearts of Jubilee Springs book, and my next book to be released, Nathan's Nurse, Book 19, is the first book in which I wrote a scene that took place inside the Prosperity Mine.
Nathan's Nurse is currently on pre-order and is schedule for release on December 27, 2019. You may access the book description and purchase link by CLICKING HERE.
Wikipedia: dragon’s blood & silver oxide
my notes from a tour of the Lebanon Tunnel Silver Mine