Palo Santo: The 1 Thing About This Wood Nobody Talks About

Our ancestors knew much about the surrounding world long before scientific evidence proved them correct.

Through observation, folklore, and oral traditions, the benefits of palo santo have been passed down from medicine man to shamanic healer all across central and South America…

… and now it is gaining popularity in the west

Like most things to come from the jungle, palo santo has been used for thousands of years to treat many ailments, but primarily as a tool to cleanse oneself, cleanse a physical space, or prepare for a journey or adventure.

What many spiritual palo santo lovers do not realize are all of the scientific and ecological benefits associated with the tree.

Palo santo provides a useful ingredient to create ceremonial spaces for ourselves, our friends, and community.

Humans have connected around campfires and in ceremonial settings for most of our existence, but city life has made that a difficult practice to maintain.

One of the greatest advantages of palo santo is the opportunity to reconnect with this part of our human past.

What Makes Palo Santo Wood Special

The name and reverence for the palo santo tree are evidence enough of the special relationship native people have.

The Spanish term “palo santo” means “holy stick” or “holy wood”, suggesting from the beginning a great tool to connect with one’s own spiritual practices.

Palo santo is a cross-cultural tool used by people from Mexico all the way to Argentina in the south. Shamanic traditions use palo santo during ayahuasca and other plant medicine ceremonies while plenty of small Catholic parishes do too.

No matter who you speak with in central and south America, what makes palo santo special are the cleansing properties.

After a challenging day at work, struggling with the chaos of city life, many people use palo santo to cleanse themselves (through a practice called “smudging”).

By energetically letting go of the unwanted things beforehand, it allows the recipient to feel more grounded and move on.

Much of the palo santo popularity comes from the rich aroma with notes of pine, mint, and lemon. Some consider the smell to resemble baked apples or burnt sugar.

The tree is part of the citrus family related to frankincense and myrrh, which is more than pleasant… it’s healing.

Palo Santo Tree and Aromatherapy

A major argument against using palo santo cites the “woo woo” nature of cleansing a space with wood.

Detractors or skeptics who seek scientific solutions might not appreciate the spiritually minded language people use when discussing palo santo, but that doesn’t make the wood any less valid from a health perspective.

Numerous studies on aromatherapy [1] and specifically how inhaling the essential oils can reduce stress levels [2] have been published showing just how effective our sense of smell is for altering our brain and body.

Whether we are using the palo santo incense to cleanse the space of “evil spirits” or simply cleanse our own body of stress and anxiety, it is clear there is a physical change from using these types of traditional medicines.

Clearing a Sacred Space with Palo Santo Incense

In central and south America one of the most common problems are bugs. Mosquitos are not only a nuisance, but also carry dangerous illnesses and parasites.

When palo santo is burned around a space, it has the very practical benefit of preventing bugs as well.

The practical value for literally clearing the space free from bugs (which could cause death) has been translated into a more metaphorical and mythical quality, which we now know and appreciate.

There is no telling for sure whether the oral traditions passed from one generation to the next started as a way to maintain this community-saving practice, but it has reached us and thankfully so.

To clear a space with palo santo incense simply:

  • Light one end of the small palo santo stick on fire
  • Blow out the fire to produce smoke
  • Move the smoke near a space or person’s body to cleanse

Ceremony Palo Santo

Palo santo is most often used in order to prepare oneself for a ceremony of some sort.

This may be a more intense psychedelic experience, such as psilocybin or ayahuasca, or it can be a ceremony that you do at home with friends, such as a cacao ceremony.

As part of some ayahuasca experiences that I have attended, the shaman allows us to purity with palo santo before entering the ceremony space.

Then there are a series of cleansing rituals, such as using agua de florida, which further support spiritual preparations.

For some of the skeptical men among our readers, there are plenty of uses for males as well.

In fact, I first learned about palo santo through the Mankind Project [3], which is an organization that brings rites of passage and spiritual practice to men across the world.

Palo santo can also be used as a powerful tool before hunting in preparation to take an animal’s life.

Whether male or female, ceremonies have long since been a part of how humans connected with one another.

Sitting around a campfire is rare from within our urban environment, which is why bringing ceremonial practices into our lives is so imperative lest we become too disconnected from our roots as humans.

Sustainable Palo Santo Sticks

Bringing traditional cultures and practices into modern life can help us rehumanize and connect with a more spiritual way of leading life… but at what cost?

Many of the plants and animals that sustain human life are unsustainable. Even healing plants like the ayahuasca vine or the peyote cactus are not sustainable because they require so much time to grow and an ever increasing population is seeking these tools.

Palo santo is a widely growing tree across central and south America, which means it is exceptionally sustainable compared to many others.

The small palo santo sticks used for the purpose of incense last for a long time and replanting occurs by sustainable farmers consistently.

Even the palo santo essential oil can only be extracted from dead trees and fallen branches, which is done without using chemicals or solvents.

Oyasin is adamant about maintaining ecologically friendly products that support the reharmonization of men and women without harming the planet. Palo santo is one such product where that is easy to do.

One Tree

In order to “put our money where our mouth is”, Oyasin has partnered with an organization called One Tree Planted to help replant a tree for every purchase. If you pick up our palo santo bundle, we plant a tree. Buy one, plant one.

Starting with Palo Santo

Whether you saw palo santo used at a yoga studio, heard about it from a friend, or are simply curious about using our natural environment to improve our well being, palo santo is a great place to start.

This was one of the things our ancestors got right, which we can use in a modern environment to great benefit.