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The Low-down on Palo Santo

What? Palo Santo's endangered?! There has been lots of noise about how this "holy wood" is going extinct and that people should not buy them anymore. There's a lot of misinformation in this, so let me clear this up for you, as well as provide other basic information on this holy wood.

Disclaimer: This post and all my blog posts contain my opinion. If it helps you, great. If you don't agree, no worries. Just take what you need from it. :)

What is Palo Santo?

Palo Santo (literally means "sacred wood" in Spanish) is a type of wood that can be found in a natural range from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico all the way to Ecuador in South America. It has been used for centuries for magical and shamanic rituals, ceremonies and spiritual healing. It has a sweet, subtle and fresh smell with hints of mint and citrus.

What are some benefits/properties of Palo Santo?

  • Spiritual purifying and energy cleansing

  • Inspiring creativity and bringing love and good fortune.

  • Bringing a deeper connection to the divine source

  • Energetic protection and the removal of negativity

  • Vibrational cleansing and renewal for crystals

  • Calming the mind, the immune and nervous symptoms, aiding fast recovery from ailments and illnesses, such as cold, flu, anxiety and depression, etc.'

  • Natural Mosquito and insect repellent

Is Palo Santo Endangered?

“Palo Santo” is actually a name that covers a range of different botanical varieties like Bursera Graveolens, Bulnesia Sarmientoi (also known as Verawood) and Guaiacum (often abbreviated to Guaiac). While Verawood and Guaiac, indeed, are listed as endangered species, the most common type of “Palo Santo” - Bursera Graveolens - is not.

However, there is always danger in unsustainable harvests as demand grows and large quantity of the wood is sought after. In Peru & Ecuador, it is illegal to cut down live Palo Santo trees and only naturally fallen branches and dead trunks are used.

What happens if we all stop buying Palo Santo?

In the regions where Palo Santo grows, poverty was endemic but the gathering of the wood, distillation of the oil and handicrafts made from the wood provide income and livelihood for local communities. If people stop buying Palo Santo all of a sudden, we're taking away the livelihood of some of these families.

One large tree can give up to 20 litres of oil, which is worth about $4,000.00 USD wholesale to international clients; it will also provide about $2,000.00 in medicinal sticks and another $1,000.00 in incense. This is enough to support seventeen families for one month on normal wages.  This is especially significant for women who are the majority of the people working with Palo Santo.

However, I'm not trying to say we should all go crazy and buy lots of Palo Santo to help those families. I just want to point out the economic impact if the Palo Santo industry drastically declines.

When to use Palo Santo?

Whenever you want! When you feel that you need to clear out negative energies, when you meditate, when you want cleanse your crystals, or simply for refreshing a room in your home after you’ve had guests or visitors to stay.

How to use Palo Santo?

  1. Open your windows so that the smoke can flow out along with any negative vibes! I also like to open cupboards and drawers to allow smoke to go to any dark corners with stagnant energy

  2. Light one end of the Palo Santo stick with a candle, match or lighter for about 30-60 seconds, then carefully blow out the flames

  3. Take a deep breath and as you inhale set an intention while let the smoke encircle your body. Allow the scent pull you into the present moment

  4. Move around the space where you wish to clear the energy while holding the Palo Santo low and recite your intention (e.g. "I ask that the plant spirit of Palo Santo please infuse this space with blessings"). Focus on doors and windows, as well as the corners of each room, allowing the smoke raise the vibration along with the rising smoke. Besides space clearing, you can also use Palo Santo smoke to cleanse your crystals and tarot & oracle decks!

  5. You may need to re-light the Palo Santo from time to time, which is normal if you need to cover a big space. In comparison, White Sage smoke tend to be smokier and easier for smudging large spaces. However, to each their own. I personally prefer Palo Santo scent, so I do enjoy clearing spaces with it.

  6. Once you feel you have cleansed your space, place the Palo Santo stick in a fireproof bowl and allow the embers to burn out. Remember to always exercise care and caution when working with fire

Is it true to Palo Santo only works when given by a Shaman?

While this is the practice in many indigenous communities, I suppose it's gonna be a personal judgement call. For me, I believe that plants and herbs have spiritual properties on their own. I have no doubt that once blessed by a Shaman, Palo Santo would perhaps be more "powerful", but I also believe that there are healing properties from the plant itself.

Isn't using Palo Santo when you're not from an indigenous community considered Cultural Appropriation?

There are definitely some people who frown upon the use of Palo Santo by people outside of indigenous communities and consider it cultural appropriation. Again, this will have to be a personal judgement call. I am going to compare it with non-Chinese people getting Chinese tattoos or in the case of NBA star Jeremy Lin, a Chinese sporting a dreadlock.

I think Jeremy really said it well when former NBA start Kenyon Martin commented in a YouTube video “Do I need to remind this damn boy that his last name Lin?... Come on man, somebody need to tell him, like, ‘Alright bro, we get it. You wanna be black.’ Like, we get it. But the last name is Lin.” To which, Jeremy replied on social media, "Hey man. Its all good you don't have to like my hair and definitely entitled to your opinion. Actually I legit grateful you sharin it tbh. At the end of the day I appreciate that I have dreads and you have Chinese tattoos bc I think its a sign of respect. And I think as minorities, the more we appreciate each other's cultures, the more we influence mainstream society. Thanks for everything you did for the Nets and hoops... had your poster up on my wall growin up." YAAASSSS!!!! So classy, Jeremy!

So yeah, we're all gonna have different opinions and this is probably another "is the glass half full or half empty" type of scenario. I'd just make sure you check in with yourself if you are coming from a place of respect and appreciation of the culture, and whether you would have double standards if another ethic group were to take on certain elements from your culture. I am Chinese, and I personally don't have problems with non-Chinese having Chinese tattoos or wearing clothes with Mandarin collars, so I'm definitely not one to judge.


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