What exactly is Palo Santo?
Palo Santo a.k.a. Bursera graveolens is a wild tree native to the countries of Ecuador & Peru. It is most often encountered in the form of its native heartwood or essential oil. The wood is commonly burned in a nature similar to incense by allowing the smoke to cleanse an area. Its essence is believed to energetically clear a space of any lingering stagnant energy. Diffusion of the essential oil may be used for those sensitive to smoke. The essential oil can also be externally applied to the body via dilution with carrier oils to activate its pleasantly therapeutic qualities and increase one's relaxation. This powerful tool has been used as a form of indigenous medicine for generations, and we now work passionately to bring it back into the collective consciousness of modern times.
Kingdom: Plantae | Phylum: Angiosperms | Class: Eudicots | Sub-class: Rosids
Order: Sapindales | Family: Burseraceae | Genus: Bursera | Species: B. graveolens
Tea- The sticks can be used to prepare tea, which is an effective supplement in the treatment of flu, colds, inflammation, and other various ailments. Please see our Recipes Page for a link to our favorite Palo Santo tea recipes. As a general rule of thumb: start with a smaller quantity & increase amount as desired.
Mosquito Repellent- Wood chips, sticks, and essential oil blends are all used as repellents to discourage mosquito bites. This is one of Palo Santo's most common and well known applications in its native environment.
Skin Topical- Many people find the essential oil and blends thereof to be an effective supplement in the treatment of physical pain and discomfort in areas such as wrist and knee joints, stomach, neck, back, legs, hands, and feet. Whether it's inflammation due to swelling or general discomfort, many find a certain level of relief when externally applying the Palo Santo essential oil in direct contact with the skin. We generally recommend a dilution of 30% Palo Santo essential oil to 70% carrier oil for frequent topical application, however this ratio is entirely up to the individual!
Meditative Aid- The aromatherapeutic qualities of Palo Santo stem directly from its natural chemical composition. A number of people use as it a meditative tool, as there is a connection between stimulating the senses with the powerful aroma and the body's release of natural endorphins. Spiritual types from all around the world use Palo Santo as an aid in their meditation practices, with the tree's magic stretching well beyond the borders of its native habitat and culture.
Below you will find a comprehensive FAQ page on Palo Santo. There is a lot of inconsistent information floating around regarding Bursera graveolens. Our intention is to educate others as to what is taking place during the growth, collection, and distribution of this amazing botanical product, and to learn how we can all be responsible participants within this rapidly growing agricultural industry.
We support the diffusion of accurate information and would love for you to put any relevant sections of this page on your own platforms with proper source accreditation. May the following clear up some of the confusion that currently exists in the educational foundation of this niche industry, and to help guide us all into a more sustainable future.
Please note that these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases. You should always consult with a certified medical professional for issues pertaining to your health.
Q: What does ethically wildcrafted really mean?
A: It entails entering the native environment of a plant species, and sourcing it directly from its organically occurring place of origin without the interference of its natural growth process. Generally wildcrafted products are of the highest quality, as they are the closest embodiment of a plant's natural essence. Now here is where the ethical part comes into play. There are people, for example, who may enter a forest and find fallen Palo Santo trees that are not actually ready to be collected for harvest. Perhaps they still need a year or two of the curing process before they are sufficiently ready to be gathered for use as sticks or essential oil. Technically, they are "wildcrafting" in their collection of the wood, but they are not doing so in an ethical manner. A global demand for Palo Santo products has brought an all-time high awareness to the value of this product, which grows wild in the backyard of people living in mountainous communities where poverty is often prevalent. For this reason, it is extremely important that you source from ethical wildcraft sources. By supporting sustainable practices, we in essence make it necessary for things to be done in the right way.
Q: What does the ethically wildcrafted collection process of Palo Santo actually entail?
A: A lot of hard work in extremely hot environments. We're talking thousands of pounds of raw wood being cut via hand with machetes, and then brought down steep mountainous terrain on the backs of dedicated, hard-working men and women. Often times, the branches and trunks actually need to be carried to the bottom of a mountain before they can be loaded into a truck for delivery to their final processing destination due to the highly isolated and remote collection sites.
Q: Are these hard-working people being adequately compensated for their work?
A: Yes! When they work with lawfully sanctioned processors, they receive pay that is more than most others generate doing all other types of work where they live. This burgeoning business of Palo Santo has provided work opportunities to many families in the rugged and remote regions of the mountains where poverty runs rampant. By operating in a sustainable fashion, they are able to generate sustainable incomes.
Q: We've noticed a slight coloration difference with the Palo Santo sticks, why is that?
A: There are a number of variables at play. First and foremost, the internal coloration of a heartwood will be affected by the region from which it was sourced. Even within a single province, there can be many variations in the color of a tree's heartwood depending on factors such as proximity to the ocean, elevation, etc. In addition to these factors, just like most living creations, Palo Santo too has a distinction in gender. Although it is not always the case, here is the general rule of thumb: the whiter sticks are usually cut from trunks of male trees, while those with a more yellow finish are generally derived from the female tree. This is not an absolute guideline, as a hundred cuts from the same trunk can yield a hundred different color variations from a single gradient, simply depending on the natural composition of the tree.
Q: Male & female trees?
A: Yes! Male trees are generally at least three times as old as the females before they fall, and do not produce an equal amount of overall resin content as their female counterparts. They are larger in size, and can live for hundreds of years, while a female tree generally passes after 50-80 years of growth, and has a much denser collection of resinous oil within its heartwood.
Q: Well if the male trees produce less resin content than the females, does that mean they're less desirable to use as sticks for smudging and aromatherapy?
A: The essence of Palo Santo is embodied by the collective connection between the male and female. Any batch of sticks you will encounter in the marketplace is a natural blend of male and female trees. Not every stick is going to look and/or smell the exact same, as each piece is a unique shape and energy, and such is the beauty of its nature. Rest assured that all of our Palo Santo sticks are of equal quality!
Q: Some of the sticks seem to crackle when burning?
A: Yes, this is simply the nature of a powerfully dense oil in a small stick of wood. When you hear the occasional crackling or popping sounds, this is indicative of a concentration of resinous oil. Crackling or popping in no way is indicative of inferior quality product or a chemical residue.
Q: Once a tree has fallen, what is happening during this natural curing process of multiple years?
A: The tree is being eaten away. Caterpillars, ants, termites, beetles, and anything else that feels like taking a bite out of the tree. This is one of the most beautiful parts of the entire process. These insects actually eat away a large amount of the wood content, while navigating around the densest concentrations of oil. This is why we see these beautiful star-shaped formations when slicing the most select branches for example. What doesn't get eaten away are the trunks and branches with the densest concentrations of oil within their heartwood.
Q: Do you cut trees?
A: Yes! We, as well as everybody involved with the business of Palo Santo, cuts trees. The processing of a tree trunk to a nicely presented package of sticks entails using machetes to cut down the wood. The more appropriate question that most people actually intend to ask is...do you cut living trees down? And this answer is NO...absolutely not. Any Bursera graveolens tree that has been cut prematurely before its natural death and multi-year curing period, simply put, does not produce the same abundance of resin, and will not serve as adequate material for quality smudge sticks and essential oil.
Q: Are there any chemicals used in the distillation process of the essential oil?
A: The method of distillation used in the extraction of Palo Santo essential oil is steam vapor. It involves a distillation system that circulates hot water heated via a gas powered burner. Identical to boiling a pot of water on the stove top. Except this pot of water has multiple filters and a bunch of pulverized Palo Santo dust in the pot...much more our fortay than the conventional pasta dish. This is, hands down the most natural and organic system of essential oil distillation one can use for extraction. Once the oil is collected from the distiller, it naturally separates itself from the remaining water content produced within the machine, and is then filtered down to the remaining hydrosol into one bottle, and the 100% pure golden oil into another. It then undergoes an additional energy enhancement process which we will discuss later. The end product is 100% pure essential oil that is then cured for a minimum of 90 days in a light sensitive, stable temperature environment. Zero chemicals and carrier oils make for the finest product in the world.
Q: What distinguishes your essential oil from the many listings all over the internet?
A: If the educational aspect of our website is of any testament to our passion and dedication to the world of Palo Santo, you can only imagine what goes into the actual production of the magic. One may think it is as simple as throwing some dust in a distillation machine with water and cranking out an essential oil...we assure you this is not the case. Want to know what makes the difference? We'll toss out a few key points just to start to give you an idea of the intensity involved.
The ratio of male to female trees that occurs in the natural forest habitat is reproduced in the production process of the essential oil. This is roughly 10% of male trees matched to about 90% female. We believe that by reproducing this naturally occurring gender ratio found in the native habitat, we are able to ultimately derive the most organic, highest quality, and truest essence of the Bursera graveolens tree possible.
Experiments have shown that the oil production for Palo Santo has a threshold limit. A larger distillation does not necessarily equate to more oil. One can actually use double the amount of material and wind up distilling an equal amount of essential oil, had they only used half the weight. And yes, that means you would essentially double your output with the same amount of input material by simply distilling in smaller quantities. Bigger is not always better, and sometimes less is more. This rings very true with the nature of Palo Santo, and for that reason, the artisanal approach has proved to yield more successful results than the larger facilities used for commercial production.
It's quite interesting that through years of many different anecdotal studies, it has been discovered that there is a connection between the lunar cycles and the quantity of oil produced. Now the connection between living plants and the cycles of the moon are nothing new, as farmers have been using these systems for agricultural practices since the beginning of civilization. However what is very interesting in this case, is that the material being processed has not been "living" per se for a number of years, so why would there be any difference between distilling under a new moon versus during a waxing gibbous? Who knows. What we do know, is that there most certainly is a difference. So to achieve the ultimate quality and truly organic embodiment of the Palo Santo's natural essence, each batch of oil is connected to a corresponding lunar period. At the end of every lunar cycle, all batches that have been brewed throughout the course of the entire month are then collected and intermixed to represent the truest natural essence of Palo Santo possible. After this point, the essential oil undergoes its final bottling, labeling, and long-term storage to cure for a minimum of an additional three months before heading to the market for distribution all around the world.
Q: Bursera graveolens wood of Ecuadorian v. Peruvian origin: what's the difference?
A: There is no quick and easy answer to this question. Like we have discussed above, there are a number of variables at play, which result in a vast number of variations among Bursera graveolens trees growing within even a few miles of each other. Once you spread this distance out over thousands of miles, and over a number of different topographical terrains, the variation is even greater. At the most fundamentally basic, rudimentary level, the general consensus is that Palo Santo of Ecuadorian origin is generally a slightly "sweeter" aroma, while the Peruvian is described as being more "spicy." In addition to the distinction in aroma, coloration is generally described as being a slightly lighter grey bark on the trees to the north, while those to the south have a slightly darker bark, and a more reddish-yellow appearance in the heartwood.
Q: What are the aromatherapeutic applications of Bursera graveolens, and does it actually work?
A: Just like food, drinks, and medicine...every person will have a different reaction to any and every product they encounter. This is especially true of aromatherapy. What is therapeutic for one individual may be entirely bothersome to another. We always encourage you to do your own experimentation and see what works best for YOU!
Q: I enjoy the smell, but I'm allergen sensitive to all types of smoke...are there any non-burnable alternatives?
A: Yes, absolutely! We fully understand that not everybody likes the burning of wood, and especially indoors. Our 100% pure essential oil is derived from an organic steam distillation process that yields the highest quality essential oil in the world. It contains a concentrated essence of Bursera graveolens, rich in the monoterpene limonene. It can be applied directly to the body, or utilized with an essential oil diffuser, which makes for an excellent dispersion of aroma throughout a room while remaining smoke-free. We always recommend diluting the 100% pure with an additional carrier oil if you're applying directly to the skin.
Q: Why is there so much variation in price throughout the internet for the seemingly same products?
A: There are a number of suppliers and distributors of Palo Santo products throughout the world. Palo Santo is an agricultural product, and for that reason, is subject to a more-or-less standardized market price within the supply and distribution chains. As a general rule of thumb, if you find a supplier who is selling at a rate far below what most others seem to be selling at, there is a good chance they are a small rogue distributor who is either attempting to skirt the extensive regulatory system in place by local governments, and/or selling a product that is not up to par. As with most businesses, there will always be competition, and especially with the modern platform of the internet. Some people simply have a superior product, while others may be distributing products that are ultimately from the same source, but have better price points due to the strength of their buying power in the global marketplace. Use common sense when shopping for Palo Santo products, and remember what your mother taught you: if it's too good to be true....well, then it probably is!
Q: Is it safe for my children to use Palo Santo essential oil?
A: Yes, most definitely. Our labels warn to keep out of the reach of children, as adults should always administer essential oils due to their highly concentrated nature. Many kids can appreciate the pleasant aromas and benefits from using essential oils, however they should only be used under the supervision of an adult. In addition, skin topical applications for kids should always be diluted with a carrier oil such as jojoba, almond, or avocado. 95% Carrier oil with 5% Palo Santo oil is a great combination for kids, however we encourage you to experiment to see what ratio works best for you and your loved ones. If any skin irritation appears after applying, immediately discontinue dermal use.
Q: And how about using the essential oil with pets?
A: Some animals thoroughly enjoy Palo Santo! If you have your doubts, just take a look at the many pictures of the palo-centric photo bombers on social media! Yes, it is safe to put a few drops of Palo Santo essential oil in a bath mix for your furry friends, but please do so only for external use. Our essential oils are not intended for internal consumption.
We advise first observing the reaction of your animal when applying a product to your own body before theirs. If they are clearly put off by the scent, then it’s probably safe to say that they don’t want it in their own bath regimen. Always let them become gradually accustomed to any aroma before applying it to their skin. We recommend that you blend a heavy dilution with another carrier oil and/or water if using the 100% pure before applying to your pet’s fur. A couple drops in the bathtub won’t hurt your baby, simply be conscious not to get oil in your animal’s eyes while bathing. If any skin irritation occurs, immediately discontinue use. You should always consult with your veterinarian concerning health issues pertaining to your beloved animals.
Q: How can we get in contact with One Love Holistics?
A: The easiest way to get in touch is through any of the channels listed on our Contact Page.
Q: Where can we find additional information?
A: We are actively in the process of building a global educational network. The intention of this project is to establish a centralized and current online resource to promote the education of accurate information regarding Palo Santo. Keep in touch by signing up for our mailing list to receive updates on the development and launch of this organization.
Love & Light, Namaste, In Lak'ech, Pura Vida, Respect, Blessed Love, & Many Thanks...