What is Palo Santo?

Palo Santo Sticks

Palo santo (bursera graveolens) is a tree native to the tropical forests of Peru, Venezuela and various other South American countries. In Spanish, palo santo means ‘holy stick’. Palo santo sticks have been historically used in purification rituals in many different South American cultures. They have also been used for traditional medical purposes, as the palo santo smoke is said to be able to treat various physical conditions.

Today, palo santo is still used for spiritual and medicinal purposes. Though they are often sold in the form of sticks, palo santo can also be purchased as resins or oils.

In this blog, we’re going to discuss the origins of palo santo. We’ll also explore the supposed benefits of using palo santo both as a spiritual and medicinal herb. Lastly, we’ll discuss the effectiveness of palo santo from a practical and scientific perspective.

Origins of palo santo and its uses

The use of palo santo as a healing herb is said to have shamanic roots in the ancient cultures in South America. The ancient Incans were believed to have buried palo santo to clear spaces of negative and harmful energy. Today, the act of spreading palo santo’s smoke for purification purposes is known as ‘smudging’. As a result of getting rid of the negative energies, palo santo is also able to bring good fortune to the users.

Inhaling palo santo smoke is believed to have beneficial effects on some physical ailments. Some users claim that it can treat stomach aches, arthritis, the flu, bronchitis and so on. Because of these benefits, palo santo is believed to have both spiritual and medicinal properties.

It’s important that you exercise some caution when using palo santo. Studies have shown that inhaling wood smoke for a significant period of time or in large amounts can cause serious health problems. The risk is even greater for those with existing conditions like asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure.

If you’re interested in purchasing palo santo sticks, it’s important that the products that you buy are sustainably and ethically sourced. Genuine palo santo sticks are harvested after the tree has died naturally or has fallen on its own. If palo santo is harvested via deforestation, it not only damages the environment but it also leads to the production of ‘inauthentic’ palo santo sticks.


1. Removes bad energy

From a spiritual perspective, the biggest benefit of palo santo is its energy cleansing and purifying properties. Burning palo santo releases white smoke, which is used to ward off negative energies and attract good luck. Some users even claim that smudging palo santo can also help someone be more creative.

Removing negative energies can help to improve relationships both at the workplace and at home. So, if you’re looking to work with a team in a particular space, you could burn palo santo to clear bad energy. As a consequence, the team might become more collaborative and productive.

2. Reduces stress

By clearing your space of negative energy, palo santo also clears your mind of stress. The ‘holy’ wood is said to be able to uplift your mood and provide you with better emotional and mental clarity. All of this can lead to a relaxed state of mind, which in turn, makes it easier to concentrate and focus on tasks.

The limonene in palo santo oils may have anti-stress properties. In a 2013 study, researchers found that when animals inhaled limonene, the animals showed decreased signs of stress.

It is important to note, however, that more human studies need to be conducted to truly understand the effectiveness of palo santo on the human stress response.

3. Reduces pain

Another supposed benefit of palo santo is pain relief. It is said to be able to help those with arthritis, headaches, stomach aches and throat pain.

According to a mice study from the European Journal of Pain, the ‘systemic administration of limonene reduced nociceptive behaviours evoked by [hydrogen peroxide]’. In other words, when limonene was introduced to the body of mice entirely (as opposed to a local and topical application), the mice showed signs of reduced pain.

4. Repels mosquitoes

Lastly, the scent of burning palo santo is said to repel mosquitoes and other insects. Again, scientific studies suggest that limonene might be the substance responsible for this effect. Indeed, limonene has insecticide qualities and is often used in insect repellents.

As you can see, there is still a lot to learn about palo santo. You might have noticed that the benefits mentioned above are quite general and broad. This is likely because of the limited number of scientific studies that exist on the ‘holy’ wood. Put simply, we don’t know enough about palo santo to make definitive claims about its supposed healing properties.

Because of this, you should be careful when you buy palo santo sticks online. You need to make sure that the store you’re buying from is reliable and sells ethically sourced products.