Not all Palo Santo wood is sourced or delivered ethically, so it’s up to us — the Palo user — to ensure we are selecting wood that has been harvested both sustainably and ethically. This blog will help you understand what makes good quality Palo as well as where to get ethically and sustainably sourced Palo Santo wood.
The Origins of Palo Santo
Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) is a tree that's native to Peru, Ecuador, and other South American countries. It grows in dry tropical forests and produces very fragrant resin. In Spanish, Palo Santo means “holy wood.” For thousands of years, the wood, resin, and oil have been used for medicinal, spiritual, and practical purposes; namely, Palo Santo helps repel mosquitos, reduce pain, improve stress response, among many others (for more information on Palo Santo uses, see our Wellness Benefits post). In 2006, Peru placed Bursera graveolens under protection, prohibiting the cutting of live trees and allowing only for the collection of naturally fallen or dead trees”. This regulation ensures that Palo Santo wood sourced from Peru has been harvested through sustainable and ethical means.
Is It Bad To Buy Palo Santo?
No, as long as your Palo Santo is harvested properly and sustainably, buying Palo Santo is actually good. Experts like those at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) say that more demand combined with responsible cultivation and harvesting is beneficial for the species and its habitat. Nonetheless, in order to be a responsible Palo Santo consumer, it is important to ask questions and carry out the necessary due diligence when sourcing Palo Santo wood that has been harvested ethically and sustainably.
Where to Source Your Palo Santo From
Depending on where you are located, there are many options when sourcing Palo Santo wood — both online and locally. Most importantly, focus on finding a supplier that is transparent in their cultivating and harvesting practices of Palo Santo; or, as Adriana Ayales, a rainforest herbalist who grew up in Costa Rica says “look for companies where they themselves have gone to the area where the trees are from, met the farmers, know their names, know the area and regularly return to the area.”
Where to Buy Palo Santo
- Online shops
- Metaphysical supply stores
- Plant shops
- Gift boutiques
- Health markets
- Yoga studios
How To Tell If Your Palo Santo Wood Is Real
Low quality or fake Palo Santo wood, though not always the case, is often soaked in oil in order to pass it off as higher quality wood than it really is. This will cause the Palo Santo to have an overwhelmingly strong odor. High quality Palo Santo will have a subtle, but distinguishable aroma of crisp mint, hazy citrus, and hush of pine.
When burning Palo Santo, the smoke may be black while it is on fire, but after the fire is put out and the stick is smouldering, the smoke should turn white.
As aforementioned, Palo Santo must be harvested in a very particular way to ensure that it is of the highest quality. If the wood is harvested too early in their lifecycle, it will look lighter in color, burn much faster, and contain fewer beneficial properties. The wood needs time for the natural aromatic oils to develop and mature. Look for darker wood with amber streaks in the grain of the wood.
Thus, when sourcing sustainably harvested Palo Santo wood, seek out smaller businesses that are forward and transparent in responsible cultivation and harvesting practices. Once you have found your supplier, focus on the aromatic qualities as well as the colour to ensure your Palo Santo wood is both real and of high quality. Though perhaps slightly more time consuming, ensuring your Palo Santo is harvested sustainably not only helps protect and conserve the Bursera graveolens tree species, it also helps ensure you get the high quality Palo Santo wood you desire.