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Palo Santo Incense Benefits & Ways To Indulge In The Mystical Scent Of The Holy Forest

Updated: Oct 6, 2022


Palo Santo is a type of wood that has been used since prehistoric times for its healing and spiritual properties. The name "Palo" comes from the Spanish word for "tree".

Palo Santo Bursera graveolens trees in the dry season on Galapagos Islands

Bursera Graveolens is a wild tree native to the Yucatán Peninsula, Peru, and Venezuela. It is also known as palo santo ("Holy Wood" in Spanish). It's delightful musky, citrusy perfume has made it a must-have fragrance for all those practising smudgings.

The History of Palo Santo Incense.

Palo Santo incense is a very rare and precious product that has been used by the Incas of Peru for more than 1000 years. It is made from the resin of a number of different species of trees such as Palo Santo, Myrtle, Chamaecyparis Obtusa, Lapacho and others.

It is believed to have originated in South America during the time when people lived in caves or huts with no heating systems or electric lighting. They would use firewood to cook food and keep warm at night. The wood was also used for making fires for ceremonies or rituals where they believed that their ancestors were present within the sacred smoke which rose up from the flames to help them communicate with them. This way they could get messages from their ancestors who are known as "Wak'a" (or Guardians).

The most important ritual performed by these shamans was called "Chicha". In this ritual, they drank chicha which contained the juice of the bark, leaves and flowers of their sacred trees. The traditional Inca people believed that drinking this mixture would bring them closer to their ancestors who they believe we're still alive within the smoke.

Two women in peruvian attire standing infront of the great Andes mountain range in the Inca valley

It was used in a variety of ways by these ancient Peruvians. Firstly, it was burned as incense or smudged on food, clothing or walls to ward off evil spirits when sickness occurred during a person's life or when someone died in their family. Secondly, it was also used for healing purposes and to help with fertility and childbirth problems. Lastly, it was burnt for purification rituals after death ceremonies had taken place to release the soul from its body into heaven where it will live forever and be protected by Wak'a (spirits).

The most well-known use of Palo Santo is at funerals and wakes where mourners rub sticks over graves before lighting them on fire as they leave the gravesite so that they can continue being protected.

Varoius forms of Palo Santo

Palo santo wood is available in the form of sticks, chips, or powder. It normally comes from the tree's branches, thus it's 100 per cent wood. It is also available in resin & oil form.

Palo Santo Bursera graveolens, essential oil, solid resins, smudge sticks displayed on a wooden platter

How Is Palo Santo Incense Made?

Palo Santo is a type of Incense that is made by the process of burning and smoking the bark, wood or leaves of the tree. The smoke contains thousands of aromatic compounds including terpenes, flavonoids and tannins. Terpenes are responsible for most of the scent out in nature, especially that which comes from trees and plants like Pinecones, Cypress and Birch. Tannins are also present in most plant life where they help to keep their leaves intact against harsh weather conditions. Flavonoids are responsible for giving many fruits their taste as well as being part of what gives flowers their colour and scent.

How does it work?

The best way to explain how Palo Santo incense works would be to compare it to your favourite perfume or cologne. It is really important that you understand this so I will try my best to make it clear: Each individual molecule has an odour but when combined together we can create smells that seem much stronger than the individual molecules themselves. In the same way, a scent can be created by combining different types of incense together, for e.g. palo santo & rosemary, palo santo & white sage and palo santo with lavender.

The fragrance we are after is not necessarily the smell but rather the effects they have on us as humans. Essential oils in Palo Santo incense can help to relax, calm, and soothe us when used correctly. They also stimulate and invigorate our senses which makes them great for meditation or energy work (where you will want your mind to be clear). When used in excess these essential oils can cause irritation in some individuals so it is best to use them sparingly at first until you find out your tolerance level for the same.

Palo Santo comes from the dry tropical forests of Mexico and other parts of South America where it has been growing wild since ancient times. It was first brought over by Spanish missionaries who planted it near churches and shrines because they believed that if one could survive their trials then they were destined for something great.

Benefits of Palo Santo Incense

Use to clear negative energy from your home also known as "Spiritual Healing"

Burning palo santo wood act as a good air purifier due to its high resin content. The most important benefit is its ability to cleanse beings, places, and objects of bad energy. South American indigenous tribes state that it is the most effective and powerful of all the plants used in the cleansing process and also brings good fortune. That is why most shamans utilise it to cleanse negative energies and ward off evil spirits.

Palo Santo stick burning in a wooden tray displayed on a rustic wooden background

Simply light one or two palo santo incense sticks and then extinguish the flame by gently waving the stick in the air or waving your hand over the stick to purify the energy of any place. The smouldering stick will release white smoke, which will scatter about you or your surroundings.

A cathartic ritual can be created by smudging palo santo.

A ritual can also assist us to transcend our unhelpful attachments to stuck thoughts or emotions. It enables a thoughtful and intentional energy release and shifts.

Palo Santo smudge stick burning in an abalone shell kept next to the ledge of a white window

Headaches can be relieved by sniffing palo santo essential oil.

Sniffing the diffused or smudging a stick will assist in "release neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, while also promoting the production of endorphins and enkephalins, the body's natural pain relievers."

Works as bug & insect repellent too

Due to its chemical composition that is particularly high in limonene, which is also found in citrus fruit peels. "Limonene is a component of the plant's insect defence." It is also supposed to keep ants, termites, and flies at bay.

Helps prevent cold.

Its oil, when mixed with hot water and inhaled, helps reduce congestion, throat soreness, and inflammation, all of which are symptoms of the common cold and flu.

Helps with stomachaches.

The fragrant property also found in citrus peels and cannabis, d-limonene, helps to reduce bloating, nausea, and cramping.

To reduce stress levels and help relax

Burning palo santo sticks have a pleasant and relaxing smell that in turn has a calming effect, it promotes a shift in energy and raises the mood. When inhaled, the perfume travels via the brain's olfactory system, creating a soothing response in the body and aiding in the treatment of sleep disorders.

A women meditating in the presence of a lit Palo Santo stick incense on a ceramic holder

Sipping it in tea form, like any other cup of tea, may help soothe an anxious mind.


You can either hold it in your hand or place it on an incense holder. Smudging can be done at home, beginning at the front door and working your way around the house from the left side. With a specific aim in mind (typically to clear your home of negative & bad energy), concentrate on the corners of each room where energy tends to stagnate.

White Sage or Palo Santo?

I recommend Palo Santo for smaller places because it does not burn as long and must be re-lit numerous times, which can be inconvenient when clearing larger spaces.

palo santo smudge sticks and white sage layed out on an old vintage leather coat along with a red feather

Sage, on the other hand, produces a lot of smoke and will make it easier to clean a broader area.

Wrapping Up

The incense is made from Palo Santo wood, which has been used in the sacred rituals of many cultures for centuries. Whether you're using it to celebrate, meditate or pray, Palo Santo incense is a powerful tool that can help you connect with your spiritual side.

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