Uses and Benefits of Palo Santo
Native to the dry forests of Latin America, the Palo Santo tree or Bursera graveolens is an important part of the history of the region’s indigenous communities. Since ancient times, native healers and shamans have used the harvested wood of this tree in traditional and spiritual rituals of cleansing, physical and emotional healing and purification. Our friends from INCAUSA have joined us to share their vast knowledge on Palo Santo and its benefits and uses and you can find our collection of magical Palo Santo items here.
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Palo Santo, part of the citrus family and cousin to frankincense and myrrh, is a mystical and ancient tree and therefore must be treated with the respect it deserves. Learning about its long spiritual history and ancestral uses is a good starting point!
References to the tree date back to the Incan era. According to history, when the Spanish arrived in America for the first time in the 15th century and learned about the properties of its wood, they named it "palo santo" which literally translates to “holy wood” or “the wood of the saints."
For the Palo Santo wood to achieve the highest resin accumulation, a special process must occur: the tree has to die after reaching maturity, and then a period of chemical transformation begins that can last between five to eight years. It is only after these many years on the forest floor that the wood develops its essential oils with their rich properties.
Indigenous communities honor waiting and patience. They believe that this is the time it takes for the spirits of the tree, who are in charge of providing its powerful healing properties, to materialize in the wood. According to shamanic lore, once we come into contact with the smoke of Palo Santo, the spirits of its tree cleanse our energy field, eliminate negative energies and thoughts, remove us from unfavorable situations and help us to enter a state of peace, harmony and balance.
More to the Magic
In addition to being considered magical for its spiritual properties, Palo Santo has been traditionally used for medicinal purposes to treat conditions like headaches, respiratory problems, common colds, anxiety, and stress, among other illnesses.
Palo Santo uses:
- Cleaning and purifying physical spaces
- Meditation purposes
- Energy cleansing
Due to an increase in demand and confusion with another type of Palo Santo (called Bulnesia sarmientoi, which is endangered), controversy has arisen regarding its harvest, cultivation, and distribution. However, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released a review of Palo Santo's conservation status in late 2019, declaring it to be “of least concern.”
The IUCN also said that if sustainable harvesting and ethical sales practices are carried out in compliance with high quality standards and the law, Palo Santo becomes essential for the economic development of many indigenous communities and maintenance of dry forests.
The Palo Santo you’ll find in our Altar Adornments box is from INCAUSA, a social enterprise that has been collaborating directly with authorized Peruvian harvesters and communities for more than nine years. Through its product line and work, INCAUSA supports indigenous heritage and sovereignty, and works to build a sustainable opportunity pathway between producers and final retailers. We thank them for sharing this information and contributing this blog post.
Get your own Palo Santo incense in the Altar Adornments June 2021 box.
If you liked this post, check out Herbal Remedies: Using Spagyrics to Go Deeper with Plants.