You’ve watched your yoga teacher light it and wave it around the room before class. You noticed it in the crystal shop, stacked inconspicuously with the cones of incense and bundles of sage. You even saw that girl on Instagram had some burning in the background of her last flow video. But what is it?!
If you’ve been to a yoga studio or metaphysical shop lately (bonus points for going to both), you may have noticed the uplifting presence of Palo Santo. Most often found in natural wood form, Palo Santo is sold as individual wands or small bundles for burning. It can also be found as an essential oil, popularly used in aromatherapy and massage.
Well, What Is It?
Translated from Spanish to mean “Holy Wood,” Palo Santo comes from the Bursera graveolens tree, which is native to Mexico and Central and South America, where it grows wild along the coastline.
Bursera graveolens falls under the broader Burseracae family, commonly referred to as the “incense tree” family, where it is accompanied by its fragrant siblings Frankincense, Myrrh and Copal.
With a light, aromatic smoke, Palo Santo produces a beautiful scent reminiscent of citrus, pine and mint. The first time you smell it, you’ll immediately understand why it’s so popularly used as incense.
However, Palo Santo is much more than a good smelling stick. It has been used for thousands of years in Central and South American culture for both physical and spiritual healing. It is believed that its origins of use date back to the Incan empire, and have continued over time within many indigenous cultures.
As explained by Energy Muse, shamans and medicine people have used Palo Santo for “spiritual purifying, energy cleansing and healing. Some of the most well-known Palo Santo uses include inspiring creativity, evoking protection, infusing blessings and bringing both love and good fortune.”
Translating into the modern age, Palo Santo is widely used today for its metaphysical properties of purification and cleansing negative energy. When burned, the sweet-smelling smoke is believed to clear your personal energy field and the space around you.
Along with burning Palo Santo ritually to maintain your own energy field, people use this sacred wood to cleanse their living spaces and astral energy sources like crystals.
Palo Santo raises your vibration and allows you to create a deeper connection with the Earth and your Source Energy, making it a common accessory in meditation as well. With its grounding influence, it increases your ability to focus in an energizing and uplifting way. It’s like an instant divine boost!
A Bit of Science
Let’s get nerdy for a second. While these metaphysical traits have been culturally accepted for thousands of years and are enough reason for people to use Palo Santo regardless, there is also actual science behind these claims!
Terpenes are naturally occurring compounds that exist in plants and produce a strong odor. They’re commonly extracted for use in essential oils, perfumes and makeup. The two terpenes that exist in high concentrations in Palo Santo are called limonene and a-terpineol.
Limonene, in different forms, produces scents similar to…take a guess…citrus, pine and mint. But it doesn’t just smell good – scientific studies like this one conducted on these compounds show that limonene is an anti-inflammatory that regulates the immune system and even shows signs of fighting cancer.
How cool is that? Am I the only one nerding out? Granted, the smoke from burning Palo Santo in small amounts may not produce the above effects in an individual, but the presence of these terpenes undoubtedly plays a role in the high-vibe reaction your body does have. And in high concentrations (like as an essential oil), Palo Santo is used to treat arthritis, boost immune function and reduce inflammation.
OK, I’ll Calm Down…
If you skipped ahead because the science doesn’t interest you, here are a couple other fun facts about Palo Santo you will want to know about:
- It’s reusable – unlike most wood and organic materials that only burn once, Palo Santo will burn again and again (#magic)
- It’s a natural insect repellant – you can burn it to keep the bugs away!
Where Can I Get Some For Myself?
While the Bursera graveolens tree does grow well in the wild and has been sustainably harvested for centuries, the rising popularity of Palo Santo over the past few years has also led to a rise in wasteful and illegal harvesting practices.
If you are interested in purchasing Palo Santo, please be sure to use a responsible source. Third Eye Wood obtains their product from Peru, where the collection of Palo Santo wood is regulated by the government and is restricted to fallen trees and branches, which “respects the sacredness of the wood and allows for the continued life of the tree.”
Palo Santo from Mountain Rose Herbs comes from a 50-acre, family-run farm in Ecuador, where they replant thousands of trees as they harvest what is naturally occurring.
And if you decide to purchase from your local shop, ask them to confirm that they use an ethical source.
To learn more about high-vibe resources like Palo Santo, sign up below to join The Lime Tree Tribe!
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