Palo Santo – (Bursera Graveolens)

Palo Santo (Bursera Graveolens) is a tree that grows on the coast of South America, and is related to Frankincense, Myrrh and Copal.    The words, Palo Santo translated from Spanish, literally means “Holy Wood”, which seems to show it’s importance.  It is highly sought for use in metaphysical rituals and activities today due to its known history. We can trace it back to the Inca, where it was revered and used in native ritualistic medicine, being preferred by shamans and healers for it’s metaphysical properties of purification and clearing negative energies.  It is also used for ritual prayer, different pagan ceremonies and general healing.

Palo Santo is used for cleansing and healing, in a similar method as White Sage, Cedar, or Mullein.  Small sticks are burned and the smoke is spread using a feather or fan.  The scent is unique and known to also keep insects away.  It is used to cleanse an individual’s energy field, thereby enhancing their ability to deflect and repel negativity.

How Does Palo Santo Work?

The secret to Palo Santo is found in its chemistry.  The tree has high levels of brain-oxygenating terpenes such as limonene and a-terpineol, which gives it an uplifting and positive effect.   It’s also been known for it’s grounding and focusing effect which can enhance creativity, productivity and increase good fortune.

Instructions for Smudging With Palo Santo

Palo Santo usually is sold in small sticks, about four or five inches in length.  To use, simply light a stick, holding it at a downward angle until burning.   Wait about thirty seconds for it to get hot and then blow it out, much like you would with incense.   Carefully walk around the area you want to cleanse while keeping a close eye on the glowing end of the stick.  Use a feather or your hand to help spread the smoke to every corner and crevice of the space.  Alternately, you can place the burning stick in a fire-safe burner to smolder.  The smoke can be directed with your hand as it rises from the burner.  If necessary, relight the stick carefully and proceed as shown above.  Upon completion of the cleansing, please extinguish the stick and do not leave it burning unattended.

Endangered or Not

It’s common to hear claims that Palo Santo use has caused the tree to be endangered.  It’s a claim that is partially true, and needs some clarification.  There are in fact, two different types of Palo Santo trees.  One of these species, Bulnesia sarmientoi, is in danger due to over-harvesting.  What is commonly used for smudging, Bursera graveolens, is not in danger.  The main difference between the two species is the color; the former is a dark reddish-born, while the latter is a golden-brown or tan.  The Bulneisa sarmientoi is in danger because its wood is in high demand as it produces long straight board, with few blemishes.  It’s also used a firewood by the indigenous population.  

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