Palo santo, which means “holy wood” or “wood of the saints,” is a fallen wood from a sweet, fragrant tree that grows in South America. It belongs to the citrus family, and is related to both frankincense and myrrh. For centuries, the Incas, Shamans, medicine people and Indigenous communities in South America have used this powerful form of tree medicine for energy clearing, healing and spiritual cleansing.

According to The Healing Art of Essential Oils by Kac Young, PhD, palo santo is so sacred in Ecuador that it’s illegal to chop down the trees. In fact, the act of even harvesting a dead palo santo tree requires a special government permit, which is rarely given out in order to protect the trees and their potent properties. It’s also said that the wood of the palo santo tree is of no use unless it died of natural causes.

Both the wood and the precious essential oil it produces are considered important conduits for healing. Indigenous cultures believe that the palo santo tree possesses magical qualities and that palo santo oil is a representation of the ancient spirits within the tree that produced it—which is why it’s such a deeply rooted age-old remedy.

Palo Santo’s Benefits

Please note: This information is not intended to provide medical advice or diagnose or treat any health conditions. If you’re experiencing issues with your health, please visit your doctor or a licensed medical professional as soon as possible. Also, if you’re pregnant, please avoid the use of palo santo essential oil during your pregnancy.

Spiritual Cleansing

When burned, the clarifying smoke released from smudging herbs like sage emit negative ions that can uplift our mood and purify people, places and even objects from negative energy. But of the many sacred plants that have been used around the world for this purpose, indigenous cultures in South America believe that palo santo is the most powerful. It’s used for clearing negativity in the same way as Native Americans in North America have used white sage. Much like washing your hands before the start of a meal, smudging with palo santo is the act of cleansing your aura before you feed your soul through ceremony or ritual. That’s why shamans in the Amazon burn sticks of it during sacred plant-medicine ceremonies to cleanse the energy of the participants and ward off evil spirits.

Healing & Pain Relief

Traditionally, palo santo has been used for remedying various conditions, such as common colds, flu symptoms, stress, asthma, headaches and inflammation by smudging and making teas and tinctures with the wood and essential oils. It’s a rich source of antioxidants and phytochemicals, also known as terpenes, such as limonene and α-terpineol. In concentrated oil form, palo santo is effective in fighting free radical damage, and helping to relieve arthritis pain, stomach aches, and a host of other ailments. And a Cuban medical study found that components in the essential oil slowed the growth of a type of breast cancer, MCF-7.

Relaxation

Often used for emotional and spiritual guidance, palo santo is an effective natural anti-anxiety remedy. When inhaled, it moves directly through the brain’s olfactory system, where it helps to stimulate the body’s relaxation response to combat worry, anxiety, sleep disorders and depression.

Purification & Detox

When used as an herbal tea, palo santo assists in supporting the immune system and shuts down inflammatory responses caused by diet, pollution, environmental stress and illness.

How to Make a Soothing Cup of Palo Santo Tea

  1. Cut one stick of palo santo into four separate squares.
  2. Place one square into a pot for every four cups of water.
  3. Bring the water to a boil. Tip: Cover the pot with a lid for faster boiling.
  4. Turn off the stove and let the hot water simmer with a lid on top for another five minutes.
  5. Use a strainer to transfer the water into your cup.
  6. Let the tea cool for three to five minutes, depending on how you take your tea.
  7. Add any extra elements to enhance the flavor, like honey, cinnamon or fresh herbs, like rosemary or lavender.

Insect Repellent

When lit, palo santo releases a purifying smoke that repels mosquitoes and other insects, which is one of the many ways people in Ecuador and Peru have used the smoke from this sacred wood.

Household Cleaner

Palo santo essential oil has potent antibacterial properties, making it the perfect addition to your household cleaning supplies. In a spray bottle, simply add a few drops of the oil to water. You can also add in other essential oils, like lemon, grapefruit and rosemary, to enhance the scent and antibacterial effects.

Read Attracting Balance and Harmony with Space Clearing.

Explore Our Smudging Essentials Gift Box  

Featuring a stick of ethically harvested palo santo wrapped in a purifying bundle of certified organic, sustainably farm-grown and-harvested California white sage and a seed crystal that’s charged to promote healing and wisdom, a sustainably farmed abalone shell, a vial of 100% natural non-toxic sand, a wild turkey feather and a simple smudging ritual — all for $35 + free shipping.

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About the author

Naima Abdi is a writer, Reiki practitioner, tarot reader and crystal-healing expert who’s passionate about astrology, meditation, philosophy and metaphysical studies.