Palo Santo Benefits & Responsibility
One of the most beloved fragrant woods of the World, Palo Santo is renowned for it’s beautiful and complex scent. Highly prized for it’s cleansing effects, the smoke from the wood of the dried Bursera Graviolens tree has become a staple for many in our daily spiritual practice. When Palo Santo is burned, the smoke released has a subtle, woody and sweet aroma with hints of mint and citrus that’s both grounding and uplifting.
Native to northern regions of South America and extending into countries like Peru and Ecuador, Shamans would use the sacred wood in healing ceremonies with the widely held belief that the tree carried spiritual healing energy, able to purify and clear negative energies and create a sacred space. Many use the herb in a similar manner today, with Palo Santo’s growing popularity as a “go to,” for smoke cleansing and ritual support. Yet, many who have grown up using the plant ally have used it in more practical applications like mosquito repellent, as a cold and flu remedy or for depression. Indeed, it’s pure white smoke is also thought to have restorative and meditative properties, and is even thought to bring good luck and financial blessings. Whichever way you choose to utilize this ally, it is apparent that doing so should always be done with proper gratitude and respect, including what you call the use of this wood in your spiritual practice.
It’s NOT Smudging. It’s smoke cleansing.
Using Palo Santo to clear the energy in a space is NOT smudging, it’s smoke cleansing. Somewhere in the cacophony of spiritual vernacular the practice of smudging became synonymous with all forms of using the smoke from plants to cleanse a space. This is an inappropriate use of the term, as “smudging” is a religious, cultural and closed practice sacred to Native Indigenous peoples. Using the smoke from plants like Palo Santo and other herbs is therefor more appropriately termed smoke cleansing. This distinction is important as part of any mindful practice begins with having proper respect and reverence for not only what we are doing, but why, and HOW we choose to heal each other and ourselves in the process. This includes respect for the planet so….
A Note on Sustainability
Our ever growing awareness around finite resources and how we can contribute to the cause of sustainability is in the forefront of many conversations. With its increased popularity and use across the population many have expressed concern that Palo Santo is actually considered endangered. This isn’t completely accurate. There are actually TWO types of Palo Santo. Species Bulnesia Sarmientoi is native to regions encompassing Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia. Chosen for its hardiness and beauty its been used as an export commodity for furniture making and similar applications as well as in spiritual practice for centuries. Over use and lack of regulation has landed it on the endangered list. On the other hand, the Palo Santo species Bursera Graviolens, the type typically found in the marketplace is a completely different species and, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in NO current risk of being landed on the list any time soon. Thankfully for our beloved Holy Wood, there are measures in place to ensure sustainability and ethical harvest. For example, Palo Santo(Bursera Graviolens) wood can only be harvested from trees that have died from natural causes or branches that have fallen to the dry forest floor as has been the practice for generations. Countries like Ecuador even have laws in place to regulate the collection and distribution of Palo Santo wood but, its still important to do your own research.
Once you’re aware of how to use Palo Santo responsibly and respectfully, this holy herb can be an incredibly beneficial addition to your spiritual practice. Whether you’ve had a bad day and need to wash the negativity off, are clearing out a sacred space, soothing your nervous system or are in need of rejuvenation, there are so many reasons to love and use this Holy Wood more often.