How to use Palo Santo and why you will LOVE it!
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Though Palo Santo and the tradition of smudging has been around for a very long time and passes through many cultures in a variety of ways, it has recently had a renewed invigoration in our modern day society, and many people from all walks of life are harnessing the energy of this holy wood to improve their daily lives - we’re here to share how you can too!
Now I hear you screech - BUT WTF IS PALO SANTO!?
Palo Santo is a beautiful, fragrant wood, traditionally referred to as Holy Wood or Saint Wood and when it is burnt and smudged it is believed to be medicinal and healing to those in its presence. It is grown in South America and has been used since ancient times to purify and cleanse energy during times of ceremony. It is said to bring positive energy, good fortune, and is a tool used to clear up energetic space, ward off evil spirits, and expel negative energies! So powerful stuff!! This is not a fad or something new and cool, but something that has passed through generations of families who have felt its benefit and its beauty, and now is spreading around the world as more and more people experience it, and start their own palo santo traditions and ceremonies!
This South American tree - Bursera Graveolens - belongs to the Burseraceae family - the same as Myrrh and Frankincense, and is sustainably harvested (especially the sources we use!!), taking only naturally fallen branches and trees that lie dead, rather than purposely cutting a healthy tree down in its prime. Once harvested the larger branches are cut right down to smaller Palo santo sticks, roughly the same size as the average middle finger! Hey, maybe there’s something in that, as we use palo santo to ‘give the middle finger’ to energies that don’t align and don’t feel good - replacing it with a positive, peaceful energy in its place.
More about the tree itself
Bursera Graveolens means ‘bag of oil’, and this tree has been discovered to have both female trees, and male trees - growing 1 male to 8 females, with the male outliving the females by about 150 years, as the ladies fall down after 40-50 years with the males towering on for up to 200 years. Each has distinct characteristics that mean you can tell them apart with the male variety having lighter and brighter white-toned wood, while the female has denser and darker yellow shades of wood. And while some may think you could cut this tree down and harvest Palo Santo at your will, it is actually the process of naturally falling dead, and lying for years on the ground, that develops the distinct and healing oil and aromatic spirit that this smoke takes on. So it is important to understand how your Palo Santo has been harvested, as its’ natural metamorphosis on the forest floor, is what gives this beautiful wood much of its power.
BUT, How do we use this magic stick?
The most common way to use it is to burn palo santo when it is in a smaller stick form about 10cm in length and 1cm width. You simply set it alight at one end so it gets a good flame, and then allow it to go out - leaving a wafting plume of smoke, similar to how an incense would burn in a lingering way. However it is also available as essential oils for times when burning is not appropriate or possible, and you could mix it with distilled water in a sprayer and bless the space and cleanse the energy by atomising the palo santo potion.
The essential also oils are actually beneficial in so many ways as well because they can be used topically to aid in easing asthma and headaches, while also reducing cold and flu symptoms, and inflammation, and also having the ability to affect the emotional centre - relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression.
So many good reasons to use palo santo on the daily…
Going from level zero woo-woo to maximum-woo-factor!
There are so many ways in which palo santo can be used in our day to day lives, aside from those already mentioned above. It is a natural insect repellent and the smoke repels mosquitoes, ants, and insects, and it can be used similarly to citronella in that way.
You can use it when you just feel in a funk you can lighten the mood and cut through stagnant energy using palo santo smoke in your surroundings. After doing the housework, vacuuming, or spring clean - re-energise your home and surroundings with this beautiful wood - and it lets out an incredible aroma when burnt so is also like a safe and natural home fragrance option and alternative to chemical spray air fresheners.
We may use it when we enter a new space or are holding space for others - it can be beneficial to cleanse energies between people, by wafting the smoke around each person before and after their interaction, especially in moments of sharing or healing.
We can use palo santo as a form of intention setting and focus, and as a tool utilised before and during meditations, and when we are about to do things like yoga or a cacao ceremony.
We can use palo santo as a way of blessing space and people, while speaking prayer or affirmation, and where any good intent for others is being expressed.
Does it always have to mean something?
NO! We can also just light the damn stick and waft it around because hubby farted - we don’t always have to be so freakin woo-woo about it - just light the stick whenever you like, just because you love the smell of palo santo over dog hair and ball-bags… that too is a perfectly acceptable reason to decide to try palo santo - you may just want to freshen up the room! Don’t think too hard about it, just get some and give it a try! I know once you smell it, you will fall in love with this hearty wood and find ways to bring it into your day for a moment of peace and intentionality! Shaman’s believe those who are drawn to its aroma display emotional spiritual stability… and we can all welcome more of that!
Sit back with your cup of Cacao and sniff your burning little stick of wood. That’s an average Saturday night for me in my mid-thirties. It’s bloody blissful.