During a recent stay in Ojai, I discovered the magical and mystical Palo Santo. It’s warm, delicately sweet and woodsy aroma filled me with a sense of peace and tranquility. Intrigued, I learned that Palo Santo grows on the coast of South America and is related to Frankincense, Myrrh and Copal. In Spanish, Palo Santo literally means “Holy Wood.” The magic is in the alchemical process that happens after the death of a limb or tree. In order for the Palo Santo to gain its healing properties it must die, but not just any death – only a natural death of a wise old limb or tree. The Palo Santo trees live for 80 to 90 years. After this death, the tree must remain in its natural habitat for 4 to 10 years to complete its metamorphosis. Only then do its sacred, medicinal and mystical properties come alive.
Palo Santo is burned in ceremonies by Shamans for its energetically cleansing and healing properties similar to Sage. It creates a pleasant, fresh smelling smoke with hints of mint and citrus that work well in keeping away mosquitoes and other flying insects. Its uplifting scent raises your vibration in preparation for meditation and allows for a deeper spiritual connection. It is also said that Palo Santo enhances creativity and brings good fortune. I keep a bowl in my living room. Even unlit, its beautiful aroma fills the space.
Palo Santo is traditionally used for relieving common cold and flu symptoms, asthma, allergies, migraines and headaches, stress, anxiety, depression, inflammation, sea sickness, arthritis and more. In aromatherapy, Palo Santo essential oil is considered to be antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. It is said to have excellent absorption properties and can be used in massage therapy to relieve pain and inflammation of the muscles and joints, regenerate skin conditions, and promote skin nutrition. It also contains high levels of D-Limonene and Monotropenes, which scientific researchers are studying for their anti-cancerous effects and chemotherapeutic properties.
Sustainable & Non-Toxic
Palo Santo is wildcrafted and ethically harvested with sustainable practices, coming solely from naturally fallen trees. The essential oil can also only be extracted from dead trees and fallen branches using “Vapor Distillation” without the use of dangerous chemicals or solvents. It’s also a wonderful non-toxic alternative to insect repellants.
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 seconds to 1 minute and extinguish the flame by gently waggling the burning piece of wood. Move about your workspace, home, car, bathroom or anywhere you would like to clear the energy. It’s good to travel with and I keep some in my doula bag for attending births. When finished, place the stick in a fire proof bowl of metal, glass or clay. The one pictured above is a vintage Edith Heath ceramic ashtray. The glow will end on its own unless you blow on the ember which will keep the smoke going. Unlike conventional incense which burns completely after lighting, Palo Santo may be relit many times.
This information should not be used as a substitute for seeking the guidance of a health care provider. Always use caution when working with fire and never leave your smudge stick unattended. Photo by Love, Adorned.