Palo Santo (Holy Wood) (Bursera graveolens)
physical, mental, emotional, spiritual
The essential oil (linked as it is to death, resurrection, and metamorphosis) lends itself well to meditation and study, and contemplation of spiritual matters. As with all essential oils distilled from the wood (in this case, the heartwood) Palo Santo lends us strength and firmness in our core beliefs. Essential oils derived from woods also create for us a safe shelter in which to heal and from which we may venture forth to achieve. Palo Santo is used to relieve stress, panic, anxiety, and to generally lift and change mood. The aroma can help us calm down and let go of negative emotions such as anger or fear.
Being a member of the same family as frankincense, palo santo has caught the attention of western scientific researchers because of its chemical composition and structure. It is being studied for possible efficacy in the fight against cancer and in the recovery from chemotherapy treatments.
Palo Santo is used to treat arthritis, neck pain, and muscle aches and spasms. This essential oil is also an effective insect repellent, but is a bit expensive for that application.
Palo Santo is a member of the same botanical family as Frankincense but the essential oil is made from the heartwood of the tree and not from a resin. This, of course, affects the healing properties of the oil. A tree must be at least 2 years old for the oil to be in sufficient concentration in the trunk to be harvested. By mandate of various South American governments, only branches that have fallen naturally to the ground may be used to extract the essential oil. Even the harvesting of dead branches can be done only with a government issued permit.
The name of this essential oil means holy or sacred wood in Spanish. Palo Santo was used by the Incas during ceremonies and rituals to cleanse and purify. It is believed that the essential oil produced from the dead limbs is actually of better quality. The belief “handed down by legend” is that the medicinal properties are linked to death and only to naturally occurring death. By tradition, harvesting would not be done until the tree or branch had been dead for several years.