If your Instagram feed has been looking anything like ours lately, you might be feeling concerned about the sustainability of palo santo. This is due to a flood of recent articles stating that palo santo is endangered and that sales of it are leading to deforestation. As a company that prides itself on holding the utmost respect for the earth, and because palo santo oil is a key ingredient in our popular "Vata Spritzer" palo santo spray, we felt that it was important to personally address this concern and hopefully alleviate your worries.
Much of the confusion about palo santo is due to the fact that there are actually two distinctly different genus species called palo santo. One of these species is the endangered tree Bulnesia sarmientoi, also known as guaiacwood. It grows in the Gran Chaco area of South America and, unfortunately, it is threatened with overexploitation and deforestation. The second tree that goes by the common name of palo santo is Bursera graveolens. It is native to the coastal dry forests of Ecuador. We are happy to let you know that the palo santo essential oil used in our products is Bursera graveolens NOT the endangered Bulnesia sarmientoi.
Our Ethically Sourced Palo Santo
Much research, consideration, and care goes into sourcing all of our ingredients. This is why we made the decision to source our palo santo from Oregon based, Mountains Rose Herbs. They obtain their palo santo essential oil from a sustainable 50-acre palo santo tree farm in Ecuador. The farm has both naturally occurring, as well as replanted palo santo trees, with the farm replanting over 5,000 palo santo trees to date. The replanting of palo santo is essential for adequate future supply. This process is defined as agro-forestry and your purchase of our "Vata Spritzer" palo santo spray is in fact helping to ensure sustainable palo santo for future generations to come!
How Palo Santo is Grown
The growth and maturation of the palo santo tree is quite interesting. It takes 50-70 years for a tree to mature and around the time of maturation, the tree will naturally die, leaving part of it standing, while other parts, like its branches, fall to the ground. It is at the time of death that the medicinal essential oil of Palo Santo begins to strengthen, taking 4-8 more years after the tree’s death until the oil can be harvested for medicinal and/or herbal use. If one was to chop a branch from a living palo santo tree, one would not receive any medicinal benefits nor experience its intoxicating aroma. Furthermore, it is illegal in Ecuador to harvest living trees and a special permit is even required to harvest dead Palo Santo trees. Thankfully, Ecuador’s environmental protection laws are helping to preserve the existence of this holy tree; however, laws can only do so much. As Palo Santo continues to be in high demand, this drives people to illegally harvest it’s wood, causing immediate harm to palo santo tree populations. That is why it is tremendously important, and our duty, as palo santo consumers to only purchase palo santo grown from a sustainable farm which protects, propagates and conserves this sacred tree through agroforestry efforts.
Palo Santo Benefits
Now that you understand the sustainability of Bursera graveolens, let us take a look at palo santo's many beneficial qualities.
One of our favorite aromatherapists and co-founder of Floracopeia, David Crow, explains that palo santo wood has been used for many generations for its multiple protective qualities. Traditionally, it was made into incense cones by indigenous communities as a mosquito repellant. Indigenous communities also called upon palo santo to protect them when they had to travel from their villages. David explains that one would place their hand upon the palo santo tree and ask for protection on their journey and for a safe return home. It is no wonder that palo santo literally translates in Spanish to “holy wood.” Our "Vata Spritzer" palo santo spray utilizes palo santo essential oil in a similar way. This aromatherapy spritzer is an excellent companion to keep you safe, protected, and grounded during travel. When you breathe in the palo santo, you connect with the vital and sacred essence of the plant medicine and also with a community of people who honor and revere the palo santo tree.
Another way that palo santo protects us is through its ability to release negative energy. When negative energy is released, positive energy is what remains. Thus, palo santo has the intuitive wisdom to unveil the harmonious aspects of vata dosha which include clarity, creativity and prana (life force energy).
In today’s modern world, the use of palo santo in the home has become widely used and it is for good reason. For instance, when one lights a palo santo smudge stick, the essential oil is released. Palo santo essential oil is wonderful to smudge or diffuse in your aromatherapy diffuser. Due to its protective energy, palo santo can also foster harmony in relationships and thus the home.
The chemical component of palo santo which provides antioxidant, antiviral and purifying actions is called limonene. Thus, when one smudges, diffuses or uses our "Vata Spritzer" palo santo spray, one receives a healthy dose of palo santo essential oil which helps keep our environments safe from unwanted pathogens that can lead to the cold, flu and/or respiratory ailments.
Palo santo has been cited to be a beneficial plant ally specifically for people suffering from vata type emotional imbalance such as: panic attacks, anxiety, depression and/or people living in hectic, urban areas. It is able to quickly calm the nervous system and promote feelings of stability, positivity and also creates a connection with nature and thus the earth element.
Palo santo is considered an analgesic in herbalism which means it is an all-natural pain reliever. One can simply breathe in its aromatherapy or use topically. For topical application, combine 10 drops of palo santo essential oil and 5 drops of frankincense essential oil with two ounces of carrier oil (we recommend organic sesame oil) and apply to the temples. This may help reduce the pain associated with headaches and/or migraines.
Palo Santo Skin Benefits
The antibacterial properties of palo santo do not just positively affect the air we breathe, it too can help clear the skin from infections, acne and/or blemishes. A simple at-home recipe for this would be to combine a half-ounce of organic, cold-pressed hemp seed oil with 5 drops of palo santo essential oil and 5 drops helichrysum (also known as immortelle) essential oil to help heal and purify the skin.
The Future of Palo Santo
As conscious consumers and plant allies, it is our responsibility to understand the facts and current status of each plant, tree and/or herb that we utilize for health and wellness. With a growing interest in using herbal medicine throughout the world, it is especially important, now more than ever, to become aware of how these plants regenerate and grow and whether or not they are at risk. There is a Latin aphorism “scientia est potentia” which translates to “knowledge is power” and this aphorism, or observation, certainly rings true when one fully understands the state of palo santo or Bursera graveolens in the twenty-first century.
To ensure you are not using the endangered palo santo (also known as guaiacwood) Bulnesia sarmientoi, it is important to read all ingredient labels and inquire with companies about which genus species of palo santo they use and where they are sourcing it from. The internet is an unbelievable tool which offers us a plethora of information but we must be discerning and make sure we are consulting with qualified aromatherapists, herbalists and farmers that understand the science and facts behind each plant that they harvest, cultivate, formulate with and/or recommend to their clients. The future of palo santo is largely in our hands as consumers. We implore all of you to take a stand and only purchase palo santo from companies that support sustainable agroforestry systems. This supports not only the livelihood of palo santo but also builds a sustainable future for local communities and farmers alike.
*To learn more about the status as well as conservation of plant species please visit United Plant Savers and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).