History & Magic of the Sacred Palo Santo Tree

Palo Santo Introduction

The holy palo santo tree has a deep and rich history within North and South America. Some would often refer to it as Holy Wood due to it’s direct translation, as well as it’s notable aromatic fragrance and herbaceous qualities. It is native to South America and grows mostly within dry forests.

This tropical tree comes from the same family (Bursera) as frankincense and myrrh.

One of the most fascinating facts about palo santo and similar resin producing trees such as aloeswood is that the dead wood often grows more fragrant as it ages in the wilderness. The wood often rests for 4 to 10 years in it’s natural state before it is sought out by local shamans and exporters. A significant metamorphosis takes place during this aging process which brings out the inherent fragrant qualities.

Palo Santo Wood
Palo Santo Sticks

Curanderos of South America

In South America, in specific regions of the Andes, and within certain indigenous communities, shamans and healers are often referred to as Curanderos. They have been utilizing palo santo for thousands of years in a similar way that the Native Americans of North America used white sage and other smudging herbs. It was used to purify the air, dispel evil spirits, and to negate the negative scents of which everyday life comprised of in those times. Some even thought that burning the wood could bring good luck or fortune.

Burning Palo Santo

The scent is often considered to be fresh and evocative. Invigorating, although usually not overly pungent, often with hints of pine, citrus, and mint. Although the quality often varies, the scent of thought by many to be uplifting in nature and South American natives often considered it to have mystical properties, allowing them to more easily connect with the world on a spiritual level. Additionally, burning the aromatic wood was known to keep insects at bay.


Currently, the wood is most often harvested it’s original habitat in nature. However, the demand for palo santo is quickly increasing and eventually palo santo will have to be cultivated in order to fulfill it’s demand throughout the world. It is listed on Appendix II of CITES and those interested must acquire permits in order to legally trade it from harvest.

Traditional Palo Santo Incense Recipes


A traditional incense intended to honor the Incan goddess of health and happiness.

Mix the following ingredients:
  • 10 Grams White Copal.
  • 5 Grams Mayan Black Copal.
  • 5 Grams Palo Santo Pieces.
  • 1.5 Grams Brazillian Rosewood.
  • 4 Drops White Wine.


A combination of the following ingredients:
  • Palo Santo.
  • Eucalyptus.
  • Rosemary.
  • Alucema (lavender).
  • Myrrh.

This article was last revised on 02/26/2020.

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