Oh Holy Wood! Palo Santo Smudge Sticks - Island Thyme Soap Company

Oh Holy Wood! Palo Santo Smudge Sticks

Palo Santo is a mystical tree that grows on the coast of South America. Bursera graveolens, known in Spanish as Palo Santo ("holy stick"), is a wild tree native to Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula to Peru and Venezuela[, the South American Gran Chaco and is also found in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and on the Galápagos Islands. It belongs to the same family, graveolens, as Frankincense, Myrrh and Copal and features sweet notes of pine, mint and lemon.


Now imagine the refreshing fragrance of a shower in the Amazon rainforest. Unfortunately for us, quality Palo Santo essential oil is too costly to use in soap. Our raw cost for the fragrance alone from a trusted source would be more than $325.00 per pound of essential oil.

But there are certainly other more affordable ways to enjoy the amazing fragrance!


When Spanish monks discovered the wood and experienced its ability to cleanse and heal, they named the tree “Palo Santo,” which means “holy stick” or “the wood of the saints.” The scientific name of this tree that grows in the South American rainforest is bursera graveolens, or “a bag of oil” and the naturally aromatic wood from this truly unique tree is used in several ways for energetic and healing purposes. Its primary use is to burn small Palo Santo sticks as incense.

The essential oil can only be extracted from dead trees and fallen branches using “Vapor Distillation” without the use of dangerous chemicals or solvents.  When the wood is burned, it creates a pleasant, fresh smoke that works well in keeping away mosquitoes and other flying insects which is one of the prime uses for the people who live in Ecuador and Peru without the harsh chemicals of products such as DEET.


The use of Palo Santo can be traced back to the ancient Incan Empire. It has a prevalent place in native ritualistic medicine, preferred by shamans and healers for its metaphysical properties of purification and clearing negativity. Shamans, and those seeking a stronger spiritual connection with the world used Palo Santo to protect, experience, and heal.

It is believed that a tree or fallen branches must lie dead for 4-10 years before the medicinal and mystical properties of the wood begin to come alive. It is also believed that the branches of the Palo Santo that are felled by lightning have the highest concentration of medicinal and mystical properties.

An ideal aging process involves a naturally fallen tree aged a minimum of three to five years, and often up to 10 years. Traditionally, only the fallen branches and twigs of the tree are harvested. The longer the wood remains on the forest floor, the wood becomes more oil dense, burns slower and is more fragrant.

There are strict local laws that forbid the logging of Palo Santo in the Amazon rainforest.. Unfortunately, as Palo Santo has become more popular, the illegal harvesting and cutting of trees has also greatly increased. If you are purchasing wild harvested Palo Santo or from an established wholesaler, it is important to do so from an ethical source. The Palo Santo sticks featured in our image above and wrapped with Lavender were sustainably harvested from a 50 acre farm in Ecuador that contains both naturally occurring and replanted Palo Santo. They have replanted over 5000 Palo Santo trees on the land so far to ensure adequate supply for the future.


Smudging is an ancient and sacred tradition that’s been integral to the spirituality of some indigenous peoples for thousands of years. Only in the past couple of decades has it peaked in the Western consciousness. It’s a practice meant to clear a space of negative energy to make it feel like a more comfortable, tranquil space. Traditionally, Native Americans used sage, sweetgrass, cedar or other sacred plants and herbs for smudging. Considered the South American brother to our North American sacred plants, natives customarily use Palo Santo as smudge sticks to shed "mala energia" or bad energy within their homes or around themselves. In ceremonial use, Palo Santo is said to not only clear negative energy, but also attract positive energy.

If you wish to burn Palo Santo sticks as incense in order to “smudge” a space or to simply enjoy its aroma, hold the stick slightly upside down and light the tip until there is a small flame. After 30 seconds to one minute, blow it out so only smoke is produced.  You may need to re-light it several times to allow it to continue to release its essential oils, Move about your workspace, home, car, bathroom or anywhere you would like to clear the energy.  You may want to hold the stick over a fire proof bowl of metal, glass or clay to prevent any ash dropping on the floor. You can gently blow the smoke in different directions to allow it to reach each corner in a room or space.

When you are finished, place the stick in the bowl. The glow will end on its own unless you blow on the ember which will keep the smoke going.  And of course always use caution and respect when working with fire. One 4 inch stick can give you three or more smudging sessions.

Another popular way to enjoy the aroma is to put the sticks in a satchel and place them in a drawer or closet. Some people even use it to make tea!

Our Lavender wrapped Palo Santo Smudge Sticks and our Rose Wrapped White Sage Smudge sticks are available in the Members Marketplace.

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