The History of Palo Santo

“World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just the mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of Human compassion.”
​- HH Dalai Lama


Photograph courtesy of Mystic Medusa

Palo Santo, or the holy tree bursera graveolens, is native throughout Mexico, Central and South America, and the Galapagos Islands. It belongs to the same family of trees as the resins Frankincense and Myrrh, and it emits resonant aromas of citrusy sweet, earthy tones.

Palo Santo trees grow in groups of one male surrounded by eight females. The lone male outlives his female counterparts by up to a couple hundred years. Wood from female palo santo trees is golden, solid and heavy, whereas that of the male is white, hollow, fragile, and light. Shamans teach that Palo Santo trees have a distinct spirit that lives in the wood long after the tree’s life has ended, so they strongly consider this tree as a sentient entity.


Photograph courtesy of Ritual Cravt

This sacred smudging instrument has been utilized ceremonially for ritual cleansing, purifying, prayer, and healing for thousands of years. In traditional folk medicine, indigenous peoples and shamans across the Americas use Palo Santo to aid both physical and spiritual ailments ranging from stomach aches to stagnant or repressed energies. It is common for it to be forbidden to harvest the holy wood from live trees, but only collected from fallen branches and twigs, and must be allowed to dry and cure for 3-5 years. During this period, a magical chemical transformation occurs. The sap, once fluid in the living tree, proceeds to crystallize and form deposits, giving the Palo Santo its rich resin deposits that are the very essence wood. Thus, Palo Santo must undergo a metamorphosis beginning with a tree falls under natural circumstances, and remains resting for years.

The Incas of Peru and Ecuador use the rising smoke of Palo Santo to eliminate mala energía, or bad energy, rid negative thoughtprints, and clear misfortune. Indigenous peoples also prepare teas and tinctures from wood shavings to aid indigestion, boost immunity, and reduce inflammation. Essential oils produced from Palo Santo are used as topical emollients to treat arthritis and joint pain, and are widely used in aromatherapy as a pleasurable means to treat coughs and bronchial conditions.

Try a sample of this heavenly scent, and notice the healing properties take hold. How do you like to use Palo Santo? Where is your favorite source to buy it? Submit comments and questions below!


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