How to Use Palo Santo Essential Oil Spray
There's a slight difference between "Hollywood" and "Holy Wood." As Marilyn Monroe said, "Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul." Holy Wood, on the other hand, is said to clear negative energy and reinvigorate your soul. Well, Hollywood is not getting either our kisses or our souls, so let's talk about Holy Wood instead!
Palo Santo Tree
In Peru, the Incan shamans used the sacred wood of Bursera graveolens to dispel evil spirits, purify energy fields, and create positive energy. Many indigenous peoples of Central and South America have revered holy wood and used it for ritual energy-cleansing rites, its healing properties, and in perfumes for centuries.
Like California holly (Hollywood), the palo santo tree (holy wood) needs full sun and only occasional water. A member of the citrus family and native to the seasonally dry forests stretching from the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico to the tropical savannas of Ecuador, it is an American relative of frankincense and myrrh. Unlike California holly, though, the palo santo tree is not easy to grow as its seeds are activated by passing through the digestive tracts of pigeons!
Actually, one can buy seeds or seedlings online, so if you live in the tropical dry forests of Ecuador, Peru, Baja California, or the southwest United States you're in luck! It is a relatively fast-growing species that especially loves rocky outcroppings. The wood has been traditionally burnt as incense and mosquito repellent because it possesses aromatic resins and oils. In recent years, these resins and oils are being extracted from the wood by the perfume industry.
Not only does the tree produce a commercially valuable product, it has the potential to be used in the ecological restoration of tropical dry forests, mine-lands, and abandoned quarries. However, using the palo santo tree presents some challenges. This tree has a life cycle of around 30 years and must be allowed to die naturally. Then it must rest for two to four years in its natural environment. It is only then that the sacred wood manifests all its healing properties including large amounts of "limonene," a medicinal terpene known to be a strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic agent.
In other words, the palo santo tree is not harvested in the traditional sense. Instead, it is collected. Because unless it has died naturally, a cut palo santo tree has no value, does not contain its medicinal properties, nor does it smell fabulous! The ethical way of harvesting palo santo is sustainable since no trees are being cut down. However, this very long-term process presents some very tempting alternatives.
The spiritual trend of smudging has increased the demand for palo santo, opening the doors to black-market logging. Profiteers are cutting down trees for immediate economic gain due to the high demand. Governments in Latin America have enacted laws that prohibit the logging of Bursera graveolens since its popularity can risk the endangerment of this tree species.
Nonetheless, it is very difficult to manage logging activity in remote areas. The laws that protect palo santo are stringent, yet corruption is widespread. Poachers sell the wood to large franchises to sell under sexy-sounding brand names, regardless of the harvesting method. The irony is that you might think you're supporting indigenous communities by adopting their smudging techniques, but instead you might be contributing to their decline due to illegal logging.
Fortunately, palo santo is not currently endangered. A New York Times article, Is Palo Santo Endangered?, says that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for the first time released a review of Bursera graveolens’s conservation status and declared it “of least concern.” However, even though palo santo isn’t endangered, its habitat, tropical dry forest is threatened. Because dry tropical forests have a dry period, they are hospitable to human activity. People can go in and log or clear forests to use the land for something else, like cattle ranching.
The point is that collecting palo santo can contribute to local economies and protect dry tropical forests from decimation, so long as it is done purposefully and ethically. You'll want to enquire about the source of the holy wood when purchasing a palo santo product. Of course, as a cruelty-free and sustainability-minded company, we source our palo santo wood from trusted sources.
Thanks to its high resin content, palo santo wood is believed to release its purifying properties when burned. To cleanse any space’s energy, simply light a stick and then extinguish the flame, gently waving the stick in the air or waving your hand over the stick. White smoke will be emitted from the smoldering stick, which can disperse around you or your space.
Smudging is an ancient and sacred indigenous ritual meant to purify and cleanse the soul and your spaces. This ceremony is performed using medicinal herbs and plants, such as white sage, tobacco, sweet grass, cedar, and Palo Santo, and it is often done by gathering these sticks and herbs into a bundle which is then lit. Once lit, it produces a thick smoke that carries energetic and spiritual importance. These herbs are revered in many indigenous cultures for their potent medicinal properties, and many shamans in South America also use palo santo to aid the journey of a dying soul into the afterlife. This practice carries a deep dignity that is associated with the solemnity of religious rites, so a flippant “good vibes” Instagram post is considered disrespectful and inelegant.
Our Sacred Herb Kit contains organically grown sage, sweet grass, and palo santo. It even includes an abalone shell to hold the burning sticks while you invoke sacred space, clear your energy, and invite joy to dwell in your home. Insider tip: carry sweet grass in your pocket when you must interact with folks who work your last nerve!
- Sage: purifying, awake inner guide, clarity, cleanse negativity
- Sweet grass: the hair of Mother Earth, offering love, kindness, and compassion
- Palo santo: sacred wood, invite healing, release stagnant energy, invite vitality
Benefits of Palo Santo
- Has an alluring, woodsy aroma
- Creates a grounding, calming environment when used aromatically
- Evokes positive influences with its inspiring aroma
- Can be paired with massage for its warm, refreshing scent
- Can be used to enjoy the outdoors annoyance free
- Helps relieve headaches
A Healthline.com article, What Is Palo Santo, and How Is It Used Medicinally? lists many uses for holy wood. For instance, traditionally, palo santo is widely used to repel mosquitos. It’s also said to deter ants, termites, and flies. There may be some merit to this claim. According to a 2012 study, palo santo essential oil is mainly composed of limonene, as mentioned earlier. Limonene is a substance with insecticide properties, so it’s used in natural insect repellants.
Many people find the aroma of palo santo relaxing, so it’s commonly used to ease stress. It’s thought to have a purifying, cleansing effect on the body and mind. This might also be due to limonene. In a 2013 study, inhaled limonene exhibited anti-stress and anti-anxiety properties.
To burn palo santo wood sticks:
- Light a palo santo stick with a candle, lighter, or match.
- Hold the stick downward at a 45-degree angle.
- Let the stick burn for 30 seconds.
- Blow out the flame. Place the stick in a heatproof dish to let it burn.
Our Palo Santo Room Spray is another fantastic way to freshen a room either before or after having guests. (Depending on the guests, maybe both!) We love to spritz a room prior to doing yoga, meditation, or just relaxing. It's also helpful to spritz a room you're working in if you have a headache.
- Palo Santo means Holy Wood in Spanish
- It has been used for centuries by indigenous South and Central Americans
- It has healing properties
- It clears negative energy
- It promotes positive energy
- It repels mosquitos and other annoying pests
- It can be grown in certain parts of the US
- It must be collected ethically
- It smells really, really good!