Palo Santo (meaning “holy wood” or “wood of saints”) has gotten a lot of press in the past few years, but do you really know what is? Let’s talk about palo santo. What is it? How is it harvested? How do you use it?
What is Palo Santo?
The palo santo tree, known botanically as bursera graveolens is native to Ecuador, Peru, Guatemala, and other coastal regions of South and Central America. Wood from the palo santo tree can be complicated to process in its wild natural state. That’s because the tree needs to die naturally – usually after 70 years or so – with its wood left on the ground for several more years to age in order to produce the best quality oils. This lengthy process has tempted unscrupulous middlemen and others to prematurely harvest younger trees. Shady players have also marketed a synthetic form of the plant -- along with its characteristically warm sweet scent -- to unsuspecting consumers.
Multi-Faceted Benefits & Uses of Palo Santo
For centuries, indigenous tribes in South and Central America have burned palo santo wood in ceremonies. Its aromatic smoke is reputed to clear a space of negative energy when used in smudging and is considered as a “sister” to sage in spiritual clearing. Reported benefits of palo santo include:
- Neutralizing bad energy from your personal spaces including home and office
- Relieving stress, anxiety, and depression
- Lifting the mood
- Massage work (using palo santo oil)
- Natural alternative to insect repellent
Ethical Considerations for Palo Santo
Thanks to the demand for palo santo and the numerous properties attributed to it, sellers can’t seem to keep enough in stock. While the bursera graveolens variety of the plant is not currently endangered, some irresponsible harvesting practices by greedy middlemen may be putting the future of the plant at risk.
To add to the confusion, there is another related species that goes by the same name but whose botanical name is bulnesia sarmientoi. This species is used in making essential oils and furniture and it is indeed endangered.
Genuine Palo Santo Wood and Oil
So, how can you know the real palo santo from an imitation and avoid products that haven’t been responsibly harvested?
- First, read the label! If your oil is not pure palo santo oil the label should read “synthetic” – meaning that you’re getting a cheaper imitation.
- According to an article in the New York Times, if the “palo santo” wood sticks don’t easily break, or smell more like a regular tree than the exotic, complex palo santo scent, it’s probably not the real thing.
- To ensure that you are not getting wood from endangered local trees, when possible ask where and from which botanical species the palo santo product was sourced, as well as harvesting methods.
Incorporating Palo Santo Into Your Life
If you’re ready to explore the world of Palo Santo, check out these products. Use palo santo as often as you feel you need to.
This Anima Mundi Herbals Palo Santo Oil is ideal for a variety of occasions including ceremonial events or simply before sleep to help induce lucid dreaming.
You can take it a step further and delight in the fragrance of Palo Santo with a Woodlot Amour Collection Candle in Rose and Palo Santo. This candle is crafted with natural ingredients featuring a base blend of renewable coconut wax, GMO-free soy wax, a lead-free cotton core wick, and pure essential oils. This blushing and earthy blend offers a floral escape that cleanses your space with pure, potent, sustainably-sourced ingredients.
The Anima Mundi Herbals Protection Myst is convenient and easy to use. This 100% sustainably crafted hydrosol is a natural air purifier with anti-bacterial and anti-microbial benefits. Mist, mist, mist the space around you.
For a true act of self-care, try the Woodlot Everyday Mist in Rose + Palo Santo. A simple mist will relieve stress and lift your mood while boosting your skin’s hydration.
Stay confident and fresh all day while enjoying the therapeutic aroma of Palo Santo with Routine Cream All-Natural Deodorant in Reuben & The Dark & Stormy.
Go ahead and start smudging today with Palo Santo for better mood and clear energy.