What is Palo Santo Wood?
Palo Santo is a wood from the Bursera Graveolens tree which grows across South America. Palo Santo means “holy wood” when directly translated and was given this name due to the many reported benefits it provides. The tree naturally produces an aromatic and fragrant resin as it grows. The composition of this wood and the fragrance it produces when burned is why it has been used as a sacred incense similar to sage for centuries, primarily in medicinal and spiritual practices. They have also found several day to day uses for the tree.
Interestingly, Palo Santo trees are protected by South American governments, and it is often illegal to fell these trees for any purpose. This includes those who seek to produce healing products from it’s wood. The wood that is gathered to create the products you can purchase is either sourced from fallen branches that have sat on the forest floor. The branches typically sit for a few years prior to being harvested. This process allows the incredible concentration of resin seen in the Palo Santo tree that is desired by its users. If you harvested a living tree for wood, you would not obtain the same product. The tree needs to die naturally and sit for several years before it is desirable to a farmer. It is therefore worth noting that the strong sustainability of farming Palo Santo wood is unique.
Forms of Palo Santo Wood
Palo Santo wood is typically sold in one of several forms.
Wood: Palo Santo is often sold as a plain unrefined wood, which comes directly from the tree after being cut into small, usable, sticks. These sticks can be used for smudging, similar to frankincense or myrrh rituals. These rituals are believed to clean bad energy from a space and invite good energy to enter. The other primary use of the wood itself is lighting chips from the sticks to create an incense that will burn for a longer period of time, creating a lasting barrier for negative energy and providing a fragrant and desirable aroma with notes of citrus.
Resin: You can also use resin from this tree which is extracted from the wood into a concentrated product. This process takes aged chips from the branches of the trees and extracts the resin using heat and pressure. The resin is then added to small chips of wood to make a long lasting incense. It is also used on it’s own, topically.
Oils: Palo Santo oils are quickly becoming one of the most popular and convenient ways to gain the benefits of this sacred tree due to their ease of use and compatibility with oil diffusers. Oil diffusers provide a slow release and long lasting scent from a small amount of product and do not produce smoke. Oils are typically used in home or office settings where you may not be able to burn the wood itself but still wish to indulge in the benefits of using Palo Santo. It is said that in order to extract these oils via steam alone, the tree must have been dead and left on it’s own for ~40 years. The purest extractions use these well aged branches.
Spiritual and Healing Benefits
Apart from it’s enticing aromatic scent, Palo Santo wood is renowned in the spiritual community for producing an overwhelming amount of beneficial effects. Those who use the wood for spiritual purposes claim that it can be used to remove negative energy in your life and invite positive energy. The most common spiritual use of the wood is its use in smudging rituals. Using this wood for this purpose allows the user to clear spaces of negative energies. Typically the end of a stick of wood is lit and extinguished, allowing for the healing smoke to waft throughout the space. Users who inhale this smoke indirectly report a centering of their mind and calmness of spirit. It is for this reason, that this wood has been used in traditional shamanic rituals as well over the years to assist in centering of one’s mind resulting in increased positive vibrational force crucial to many a ritual’s success.
Among those that use Palo Santo wood for healing, users report that use can relieve anxiety, headaches, stress, and create a new positive headspace. It has also been reported that Palo Santo wood helps relieve symptoms of colds, influenza, and inflammation. These effects, along with a general sense of well being and increased blood flow, are the primary reasons this wood is held in high regard among indigenous populations. The oil extract itself, used topically, is said to provide relief for arthritis and joint pain.
While these effects have been reported for centuries, it is only recently that the science for these claims has been uncovered. The resin in the Palo Santo tree was found to have a high concentration of limonene and a-terpineol terpenes. Limonene and a-terpineol are terpenes that have been studied to produce most of the effects listed above. These terpenes produce an anti-inflammatory effect in the user and have antioxidant benefits as well. While these findings require further research to solidify, they are in line with the findings of the people who have used this tree medicinally over the years.
On the subject of healing and disease prevention, Palo Santo wood has also been used as a mosquito and fly repellent for centuries. The smoke from the resinous wood alone is effective in combating unwanted mosquitoes. It was assumed that the high resin content was the main reason for it being effective in this way. After further research, it has been proven that limonene is a key component in how effective it is at repelling mosquitoes. Limonene is used in commercial grade pesticides and is proven to repel mosquitoes and other flies. This compound is also found in citrus trees and is typically extracted from those trees as they are not subject to the same sustainability measures as the Palo Santo tree. Both produce this all natural powerful mosquito repellent.
Palo Santo wood, resin, or oils, are therefore a great choice when looking for natural remedies to a wide range of symptoms related to your overall well-being. If you are feeling down, under the weather, require a mood boost, or simply want to indulge yourself with a pleasant dose of aromatherapy, the Palo Santo tree should be high on your list of things to try.
Please note that this content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor or qualified health professional regarding any specific questions you might have.