Palo santo is an aromatic wood which was traditionally used by the indigenous tribes of South America, in regions such as Ecuador and Peru.
The word ‘palo santo’ translates directly to ‘holy wood’. As such, the wood was used in their ceremonies and religious practices, creating a vibrant (and fragrant) atmosphere for the participants. It also helped keep away the many insects which inhabit the jungles of South America.
However, palo santo has recently seen an increase in global demand due to incense manufacturers, yoga studios and many other groups buying it up at scale due to it’s enchanting fragrance.
Unfortunately, palo santo wood takes a long time to produce, as in order to achieve a proper quality-level, the wood must rest for 4 to 10 years before being harvested. This has led some suppliers to sell low-quality, illegally-harvested wood, or even counterfeit palo santo wood.
It’s important to produce from a sustainably-sourced palo santo manufacturer as it will ensure both quality and safety for the environment, as you can rest assured that the wood you purchase isn’t harming the natural (and declining) palo santo tree population.
Palo Santo Quality Control Issues
While counterfeit palo santo wood certainly exists, it actually isn’t as common as some people believe. Most of the time people think their palo santo wood is counterfeit, it’s usually just a quality issue.
It’s important to keep in mind that palo santo is a natural product, harvested from nature, so every time you buy palo santo wood, you are getting wood from a different tree. The oil content, and even the fragrance, can vary heavily from tree to tree. Some trees simply smell better, due to natural variables.
The wood must also rest for 4 to 10 years after being harvested in order to develop it’s signature fragrance. Sometimes suppliers try to cut corners and send the wood out before it’s ready. This could also happen accidentally.
Lastly, the wood may have simply sat around to long waiting to be sold, thus losing some of the wood’s precious oils.
How to Know if Your Palo Santo is Genuine
As discussed previously in this article, most of the palo santo wood on the market is genuine. Rather, much of the skepticism people have about certain lots of palo santo wood come from a natural variance in quality.
However, if you believe you may be in possession of fake palo santo wood then you should read our tips below to help you discern whether or not your palo santo wood is real or altered.
- Genuine palo santo has a crisp, woody, clean, citrus, musk sort of aroma, but the scent usually won’t be incredibly strong until the wood is heated. Sometimes dishonest suppliers will rub palo santo oil onto the wood to make it smell fresh, but of course, it’s sometimes hard to discern whether a strong fragrance is due to quality or from being rubbed with oil.
- When you light a piece of palo santo wood, the smoke will typically appear black while it is lit, but then the smoke will usually change to white after it is blown out and left to smolder. If the smoke is black even while smoldering, then you may have a low-quality product.
- When palo santo burns, the oils contained within the wood rise to the top and give the wood a bit of a glossy sheen. It does take a little experience to know what the wood should look like, but once you get a bit of experience, you should be able to discern the oil content and know whether it is stale or counterfeit.
- Another good method to know determine whether your palo santo wood is real is to shave some strips off. Be sure to get into the wood a bit. If the inner portion of the wood smells like palo santo, then you know that it is likely genuine palo santo wood, as when palo santo is rubbed with oil, the scent doesn’t typically penetrate very deep.
- Palo santo is a natural product, and therefor the density can vary depending on the season and harvest, but it is softer then many other woods.