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Palo Santo: Benefits For Your Health

Palo santo is part of a family of protective plants and trees that have been used for centuries to facilitate healing in traditional rituals. Let’s explore how this wonderfully dense and earthy aroma could potentially benefit your health and your surroundings.

Key takeaways:

Where does palo santo come from?

Palo santo is a wood from a sacred tree native to South America called Bursera graveolens. The wood has been burned in ritual ceremonies for many centuries, earning it the nickname ‘palo santo' which translates to ‘holy wood’.

Palo santo potential benefits

Health benefits
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Pain relief from headaches, throat pain, and arthritis
  • Stress, depression, and anxiety reliever
  • Soothes cold and flu symptoms
Potential room refreshment benefits
  • Neutralizes bad smells
  • Leaves a pleasant, lingering aroma in the room
  • Can help to refresh stagnant air in badly ventilated spaces

Where is palo santo used?

Indigenous Latin American cultures have used palo santo for centuries in traditional rituals. Shamans and healers would use different types of palo santo during their practices while performing healing rites in their communities.

It’s still used traditionally, and has become a popular scent for homes, yoga studios, and meditation rooms in the global north, although there is no strong science behind it.

What palo santo smells like

You may have come across the scent of palo santo, even if you didn’t know what it was. The fragrance is quite intoxicating, with notes of lemon, mint, pine, and a woody depth.

How to use palo santo yourself

Palo santo works in one of three ways. The form you use depends on the properties and goal you have.

  • Wood. Small wooden sticks are burned like incense, and the fragrant smoke infuses the space with an intoxicating scent. It’s most often used in this form for smudging, like an incense stick.
  • Resin. Also used to create a wonderful smelling ambience, the resin is placed in a burner on a hot charcoal disk, and the aroma releases into the air.
  • Essential oil. The oil can be extracted from the tree and fruit. The fragrant oil is then mixed with a carrier oil and can be used in aromatherapy massage for stress relief.

What is palo santo used for?

Palo santo has various uses, ranging from creating a wonderful home fragrance to relieving specific ailments.

Palo santo for colds

Palo santo is known for its potential to fight off various viruses that cause colds and flu. The best way to utilize these properties is to add a few drops of palo santo essential oil to a hot bath for a steam inhalation. You can also mix one or two drops with a small amount of coconut oil and rub it on your chest.

Palo santo for room refreshment

When palo santo is used as a room refreshment, a small stick is burned, and you can hold one end or place it on a small heat-proof dish and walk around the room allowing the smoke to infuse the space. It leaves a lingering scent, refreshing a stagnant room that may not have had adequate air flow or ventilation.

Using palo santo vs other plants

Palo santo is among many plants that are used for various health benefits and alluring aromas. Other fragrances can be used in combination with palo santo, but some people prefer to use these powerful plants alone.

Palo santo vs sage

Sage is normally used to fully refresh a room if the air within it has become stagnant. The smell is stronger than that of palo santo, so could be useful if there are musty or damp smells you are trying to get rid of.

Palo santo vs sandalwood

Both palo santo and sandalwood have a dense, earthy aroma. However, while palo santo grows in South America, sandalwood is native to India and other parts of Asia. Sandalwood is more often used as an aromatherapy oil, although it can be used in incense form to create a woody scent.

Palo santo vs frankincense

Frankincense and palo santo are related. They have been used in ancient traditional rituals for many centuries. While palo santo brings anti-viral properties, frankincense is often used in meditation.

The power of palo santo is rooted in ancient cultures and traditions. With a wonderfully dense, earthy, and intoxicating aroma, this wood can be used to refresh your body and home — leaving them feeling clean and fragrant.


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