If heaven had a smell it would smell like Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens). Palo Santo is a mystical tree that grows on the coast of South America and is related to Frankincense, Myrrh and Copal. In Spanish, the name literally means “Holy Wood.” It is part of the citrus family and has sweet notes of pine, mint and lemon. In fact, Palo Santo oil was believed to first be used during the time of the Incas for its reputed spiritual purifying properties. According to the local customs, Palo Santo oil can help protect from bad energy, known as “mala energía,” so it’s used to clean people’s homes from both dis-ease and spiritual blockers.

Palo Santo is used in South America in much the same way as White Ceremonial Sage is used in North America- to combat negative energy and to cleanse the space. Every time I burn Palo Santo I am back to my center and my happy place. I feel negative energy lift and I’m left feeling peace. It really is holy wood and the energy shift is instantaneous. When I traveled to Peru years back, my husband and I found huge chunks of Palo Santo – this is a rarity. There’s no place I travel to without my Palo Santo. There’s no home I stay in without leaving a piece behind.

For centuries many cultures have used smudging as a way to create a cleansing smoke bath that is used to purify the body, aura, energy, ceremonial/ritual space or any other space and personal articles. Palo Santo is often used by Amazonian shamans in sacred plant spirit ceremonies; the rising smoke of the lit sticks is believed to enter the energy field of ritual participants to clear misfortune, negative thoughts and to chase away evil spirits.



When I am ready to use my Palo Santo, I light a candle and put it in the flame until it lights up. Once it gets going, I blow out the light and watch it smoke. I wave the Palo Santo over my head and smoke out my crown chakra, I put it in front of my third eye, and my heart. I just love to breathe it in deeply and melt away my stress. When I need to cleanse my space, I walk around and wave the Palo Santo in front of whatever object I need to clear.



Traditionally, only the fallen branches and twigs of the tree are harvested, and this practice is regulated by the government of Peru to ensure that the trees do not become overharvested. Unfortunately, as Palo Santo has become more popular, the illegal harvesting and cutting of trees has also greatly increased. Consequently, if you are purchasing wildharvested Palo Santo, it is important to do so from an ethical wildcrafter. The Palo Santo offered by Mountain Rose Herbs comes from a 50 acre farm in Ecuador that contains both naturally occurring and replanted Palo Santo. They have replanted over 5000 Palo Santo trees on the land so far to ensure adequate supply for the future.

Please do be mindful of where you buy your Palo Santo as the more the good word spreads the more we are in danger of overharvesting and taking away from mother earth more than we need to. Palo Santo is sacred, respect it. Another company I really love is Incausa. Their products speak volumes and are an Indigenous Social Entrepreneurship & Mindful Products brand. If you want to have the best shower of your entire life – check out their soaps, they are the best soaps I’ve ever came across. Talk about having a spiritual shower!



“It is believed that a tree or fallen branches must lie dead for 4-10 years before the medicinal and mystical properties of the wood begin to come alive. It is also believed that the branches of the Palo Santo that are felled by lightning have the highest concentration of medicinal and mystical properties.”



Palo Santo Oil will alleviate problems caused by the Vata (Wind) and Kapha (Phlegm) doshas. It also has beneficial uses to alleviate the Pitta (fire) dosha in certain circumstances. Therefore, by balancing “wind,” Palo Santo oil will assist in slowing down the overly active mind and will support tranquility and peacefulness.

By balancing “phlegm,” Palo Santo oil helps to lighten tendencies of sluggishness, complacency, and melancholy. Its mood uplifting and supports heightened energy (prana) in the body. When Pitta dosha infiltrates the joints and muscles, causing pain and tension, Palo Santo oil can be a healing gem. Perhaps most importantly, Palo Santo oil is primarily sattvic. Therefore, when used regularly, it purifies the channels of the mind and elevates the spirit.



If you go through a Palo Santo obsession phase like I did, your next treasure is to try the rainforest grown, plant-powered beauty shampoo The Classic by Rahua. It is made with organic, natural and pure plant derived ingredients. It is a bit on the oily side but it smells divine.

I also have the Floracopia Palo Santo essential oil. You can use  a drop on the bottom of your feet before bed or you add a drop in fractionated coconut oil and use as a body oil throughout the day. You can even add a drop to make your own aroma spray.

If you want to learn more about smudging and cleansing your sacred space, check out The Art of Smudging article.