With an name like 'dragon's blood', don't you just want to pick some up and play with it? I sure did the first time I heard of it. It sounds like something right out of a fantasy story. Since I grew up with a mom who was a hardcore Ann McCaffrey fan, it was only natural that I had to find out more.


My first exposure, like many, was Walmart incense that I wrote of as just having an overly dramatic name. It was a nice enough earthy spice fragrance that I didn't really fuss about it's history. Years later I found it in a tobacco shop, along with my first frankincense tears and charcoal disks. It took me even longer to figure out how NOT to shatter ashtrays with hot coal, leaving me plenty of time to learn more.


While many of the resins common to incense are either old world or new world, this one is BOTH. There are South American trees that much of what's on the modern market comes from as well as Asian trees that supplied the old world before trade went fully global. This means it was also deemed sacred by cultures with no real contact with each other prior to Columbus, and remains valued the world over.


The name doesn't come purely from it's spicy wood aroma. When the tree sap is collected, it comes out vivid bloody red. Since it stays red as it hardens, it makes for a very flashy addition to coal, once you get the hang of working with the coal. And since it looked like a bleeding tree, this resin got put into all manor of medical treatments for anything and everything blood related. After all, that's got to be a sign from the divine.


It turns out that most of the medical applications were more spiritual than scientific. The resin is fairly non-reactive in the human body. So you can eat all the dragon's blood you like, but it's about as therapeutic as swallowing chewing gum. That said, it did give a nice rosy glow to violins as a popular wood varnish, and is still in use.


There's something else that makes dragon's blood special. It's fragrance compounds not soluble in water or oil. This means that not only are the perfumes with the name imitations, but much of the commercial incense on the market doesn't contain any real dragon's blood. To be fair to commercial companies, since the only way to test the batch fragrance and potency, it's a tricky material to work with, and oil that's close enough is easy.


Given all the imitations, the first thing you should do before even thinking of blending is to light a bit on fire. It's hands down the best way to find out what it smells like as is, and what may accent and enhance it. We all have opinions, and there is little point in making your own incense if you don't factor those in. Plus it bubbles up and looks really neat when it gets hot, and you won't get to see that in combustible blends.


It is a resin, so to keep coffee grinders clean and functional, it's best to hand grind this in a mortar and pestle. It will also stick on the mortar and pestle like tar from friction, but those are much easier to clean than coffee grinders. Oils and water don't help much with this resin, so you'll just have to be patient and work at it till it's ground fine enough for blending.


To get most of the resin in the incense and of your tools, slowly add other ingridients and pound them into the ground resin. This give it something other than your tools to stick to. After, large amounts of hot soapy water or salt grinding will take the last of it out of your mortar and pestle.


Like other resins, it needs a base that will keep it burning, but will need a different approach for fragrance checks. After guessing ratios, collect a small bit of your wet blend on a tooth pick and light it on fire. This will take longer the bigger your sample is, but you really need the heat to tell what the finished incense will smell like.


For non combustible use, I really favor this resin all alone. It looks awesome, I like the smell, and it looks awesome. There are plenty of recipes that blend it with other things all over the net, so you don't need my help for this style.


Happy blending.