It is part of the citrus family with a relation to frankincense and myrrh and has sweet notes of pine, mint and lemon. Palo santo has been used for centuries for both its healing and spiritual benefits.
As an essential oil, palo santo can purify the air and the mind. Due to its antimicrobial properties, it tends to calm the nervous system, reduce anxiety and improve overall mood. It’s anti-inflammatory properties can provide pain relief for arthritis and joint pain. It can also be used to treat a variety of physical ailments, such as colds, flus, asthma, bronchitis and headaches and congestion. The d-limonene compound helps to relieve stomach discomfort, such as bloating, nausea and cramping.
For centuries, the indigenous people of the Andes have used palo santo for its spiritual benefits. Commonly burned in stick form, it provides a sense of calming in both its delightful aroma and cleansing energy. Due to its high resin content, palo santo wood is believed to release purifying properties when burned and can remove negativity energy, attract good fortune and enhance creativity. It also provides an uplifting scent that can prepare you for mediation and allows for a deeper spiritual connection, restoring tranquility and stillness.
Burning palo santo is also a natural non-toxic way to ward off mosquitos in the summer. It features volatile oils and aromatic resins that communicate a warning sign to bugs without the harsh chemicals of commercial products such as DEET. You can also find palo santo in essential oil form, so you can mix with a little water and rub on your skin to ward off bugs.
These therapeutic benefits have made palo santo very popular in recent years. One unfortunate side effect of this popularity is the over-harvesting of palo santo trees, which can lead to extinction. According to the United Plant Savers Medicinal Plant Conservation, there are less than 250 mature adult trees in the world, with numbers rapidly declining. In Peru and Ecuador, it is illegal to cut down these trees, but this is a difficult law to enforce. According to sacred belief, the only way to get the full therapeutic benefits of the palo santo tree is by letting it die naturally and allowing it a four to ten year resting period on the forest floor. This allows the highest quality oils to form in the aged wood. When buying palo santo, you should research the brand to ensure that they are stringent in their sourcing methods. This means that the palo santo should be sustainably sourced and the provider should be working alongside Indigenous communities to ensure that working conditions are ethical and the livelihood of these groups are supported and promoted. One company known to live up to this standard is Sacred Wood Essence.
According to Sacred Wood Essence, palo santo should be burned in the following way: “Use a candle, match or lighter to ignite your stick of palo santo. Hold at about a 45 degree angle pointing the tip down toward the flame. Allow it to burn for about 30 secs to 1 minute and then blow out. Move about your workspace, home, car, bathroom or anywhere you would like to clear the energy. The rich smell will also bring peace and clarity to the moment along with good feelings. When finished, place the stick in a fire proof bowl of metal, glass or clay. The glow will end on its own unless you blow on the ember which will keep the smoke going. Always use caution and respect when working with fire.”