Palo Santo – the Sacred Wood

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Palo Santo

The Sacred Wood

Palo Santo is attributed with the ability to transform negative energies into positive ones or to drive away evil spirits. For centuries, palo santo has been burnt or cooked by indigenous peoples in South America. The strong ethereal-aromatic scent of the wood makes it particularly popular. Palo Santo contains hundreds of different aromas, which make the smell very diverse. Besides being fumigated, palo santo can also be boiled to obtain an essential oil.

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What is Palo Santo

The Palo Santo tree is a gnarled and strongly branched balsam tree from South America. The tree forms yellow flowers and a hard, resinous wood. The botanical name is Bulnesia arborea. The sacred wood is said to have healing, protective and beneficial properties. Negative thoughts and stress are also said to be overcome by burning Palo Santo as incense. The aroma of the wood depends on how it is harvested, stored and dried. The wood contains many essential oils that unfold their effect through burning. The dark tree resin also spreads the characteristic scent of Palo Santo.

Where does Palo Santo come from?

Originally, the tree comes from the Antilles, Central America and northern South America. Today, Palo Santo grows almost exclusively in rainless forests in South America. Indigenous peoples use the bark of the tree to cure syphilis and other diseases. In Peru, the tree is a protected species. This means that only naturally dead wood may be collected and used to make incense.

What is Palo Santo used for?

Palo Santo is considered a traditional panacea. The aromatic wood is said to have a calming and digestive effect. Palo Santo is cooked and the vapours inhaled to treat asthma or bronchitis and to strengthen the immune system. As incense, palo santo is also used in rituals to drive away evil spirits and negative energies. Thus, rooms can be cleansed on a (meta-)physical level through the smoke of Palo Santo. Furthermore, incense can support the spirit during prayer or meditation.
In aromatherapy, palo santo is often found as an oil in fragrance lamps to additionally promote concentration and creativity. The scent has a harmonising and heart-opening effect.

How is Palo Santo used?

The use of Palo Santo can be traced back to millennia-old traditions of the shamans. The wood is burnt or boiled as a remedy or for spiritual purification. This releases ethereal vapours that can be inhaled.

There are different ways to incense the natural wood. You can light the wood directly or burn wood chips on a sieve. Due to the essential oils, it burns immediately with a bright flame. Let the wood burn for about 30 to 60 seconds, then blow out the flame and let the wood glow. The most comfortable and safest way to burn incense is with Palo Santo incense sticks.

The aroma of Palo Santo is very complex and contains many different fragrance components. For example, it smells sweet, woody, limey, cinnamon, minty, vanilla, coconut and lavender.

Palo Santo Incense Sticks

Incense sticks with Palo Santo aroma are usually made from 100% natural substances. A high proportion of Palo Santo oil and wood is particularly important. The wood is pulverised and processed together with oil or resins into a paste, which is rolled onto bamboo sticks and dried in the sun.

On occasion, masala incense sticks are produced, which contain sandalwood or nag champa in addition to palo santo. This results in a pleasant aromatic mix for incense burning.

The advantage over natural Palo Santo wood is the simple and safe handling. Incense sticks do not burn, but glow. They can be extinguished and reused at any time. However, a disadvantage may be that incense sticks are usually made from a mixture of other aromatic resins, spices or dried flowers.
Natural Palo Santo has a pure aroma, but usually produces a very strong incense. This can occasionally be quite intrusive and the smell overpowering.

The effect of Palo Santo

On a physical level, the incense of Palo Santo has various properties. These include: aphrodisiac, muscle relaxant, concentration enhancer and sedative. Various diseases are also treated with the vapours or smoke.
The meta-physical effects of Palo Santo are equally diverse. Shamans use the incense to drive away evil spirits, negative energies and to cleanse the soul or the environment.

This should be noted

Palo Santo is in great demand due to its effects and properties. When buying it, make sure that it comes from sustainably managed plantations. These are linked to reforestation projects. In this way, one can ensure that the natural stock is not endangered. Also, the female trees, which die after 40 to 50 years, are used. They are then stored for about 4 years to develop the aroma and form essential oils.
As mentioned at the beginning, the Palo Santo tree is protected in parts of South America. Only naturally dead parts may be collected. In addition, the scent quality is generally said to be better when the tree has died naturally.


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