Have you heard of Palo Santo? If you speak Spanish, you might be able to to tell that the name literally means "Holy Wood". This South American tree has been beloved by native people for centuries with properties that can seem like pure magic.
So what can you do with Palo Santo in your everyday life? An easier question might be what can't you do!
It has restorative properties, and is used for illnesses like flu, headaches and colds. It can also help relieve deeper pains, such as anxiety, stress and depression. Plenty of users swear by it for creating a relaxing environment for meditation and massages, and it's also used in an ancient ceremony called "smudging", which helps cleanse a space. Best of all, it's an all-natural mosquito repellent!
You'll find the complete low down on Palo Santo's many uses here on the blog.
The Dark Side Of Palo Santo?
It's no surprise that, with so many uses, the Palo Santo tree has boomed in popularity in recent years. With more and more people around the world interested in buying Palo Santo, questions have arisen about its sustainability.
In fact, you may have seen some documents doing the rounds on social media claiming that the tree is endangered and that nobody should ever purchase Palo Santo, they should wait for it to be given to them by a shaman.
Here at Neat we are well aware that deforestation in South America is a huge issue. The continent that used to enjoy millions of kilometres of rainforest is seeing it shrink year on year - and that's not good news for anyone.
We're not interested in propping up the immoral side of the timber industry. That's why we seek out sustainably sourced and correctly harvested Palo Santo products, to put your mind at ease.
Protecting Palo Santo
Palo Santo, which is also known as Bursera Graveolens, has been recognised by the governments of Ecuador and Peru for its special properties. Both countries have put forest management plans in place to keep the trees safe from outside influences, and to make sure that we'll be enjoying Palo Santo for generations to come.
Legitimate Palo Santo growers need a government permit to work. Those permits are only offered to companies that have reforestation plans. At Neat, we work with reliable, ethical Palo Santo growers. Every year, hundreds of Palo Santo seedlings are planted, ensuring that the trees will thrive well into the future.
One essential thing to keep in mind is this: the name "Palo Santo" doesn't refer to any one particular tree.
Some Palo Santo varieties are endangered, but Bursera Graveolens - the strain that we use for our products - is not. Nevertheless, we support an active reforestation program to keep the numbers of trees high.
Doing Your Bit For Palo Santo
It's a sad fact that there are illegal Palo Santo harvesters operating in these countries. They are cutting down these trees instead of taking only fallen branches or trees that have died naturally, which is what gives this beautiful wood much of its power.
Luckily, the Ecuadorian and Peruvian governments are fighting back - and you can too. If you want to enjoy the properties of Palo Santo, be responsible.
Our suppliers are fully transparent and dedicated to keeping the native forest alive. If you're buying your Palo Santo on dodgy auction sites, you have no idea where it comes from.
So take care when you buy your Palo Santo products. Whether you're after smudge sticks or essential oils, you could be buying them from a legitimate source, with an emphasis on correct harvesting, tree growing and sustainability - or you could be financing poachers and criminal gangs.
The Human Side Of Palo Santo
Sustainability isn't just about keeping the forest alive. If you want the best benefits from your Palo Santo wood items, then you'll probably want to know about the people in the production chain.
It's no secret that Ecuador and Peru are not rich countries. In the western world, we can enjoy their products - but we don't want to exploit their people.
At Neat, we source our Palo Santo products responsibly in more ways than one.
Not only do we buy from companies with a reforestation program, we also make sure that they support the local workers.
Our Palo Santo has been produced with ethical labour conditions. The essential oils are distilled at the source by families who have worked with this magical elixir for generations and we want to be sure that they're getting a fair wage for their work.
What About The Shamans?
Some people have been sharing misinformation on social media, claiming that Palo Santo must be given, never sold and needs a shaman's approval to work effectively.
Let's be honest: the people of Peru and Ecuador deserve better than this. Their native traditions should be respected, just like anyone else's. Whenever we spread these stories about Palo Santo requiring magical shaman influences, we're encouraging the distortion and exploitation of their ancient spiritual practices. Sadly, western tourism in South America often focuses on exploiting ancient beliefs for modern entertainment.
The truth is, the governments of Peru and Ecuador are working hard to keep the Palo Santo industry alive and sustainable. Let's work with them, so that everyone can enjoy the properties of this spectacular tree!