Palo Santo Essential Oil: Benefits, Uses & Side Effects

Palo Santo, also known as “Holy Wood,” is one of the most exciting products used in the wellness industry. But what is it exactly, and what are some of its benefits and uses?

Palo Santo is an essential oil that has numerous health benefits and can be used and enjoyed in multiple ways – as an essential oil, incense, or tea product. It is also believed to have healing and positive spiritual properties.

Let’s take a dive into this wonderful naturally-occurring product and examine the multitude of ways it can be enjoyed.

Two palo santo oil incense cones burn alongside pieces of palo santo wood

The History and Background of Palo Santo

Palo Santo comes from a tree species known as Bursera graveolens, which belongs to the family of incense trees. Incense trees are a category of trees that are better known to produce frankincense and myrrh – two traditional forms of incense. The essential oil of the Palo Santo tree comes from its resins.

There are two different types of Palo Santo trees – male and female. The male Palo Santo trees have a significantly longer lifespan than female trees. Palo Santo trees usually grow in clusters, and female Palo Santo trees usually outnumber male trees by a ratio of 8 to 1.

Palo Santo is commonly found in the Americas, especially South America. Examples of countries that are well-known for having this tree species are Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, and Costa Rica.

Palo Santo has been used for centuries in spiritual healing rituals as its aromatic scent is believed to ward off negative energy. Its use is believed to be dated back to the times of the Incans. Shamans would burn the incense to clear the air of evil energy that is believed to be causing trouble and unhappiness.

Out of respect for the sacred Palo Santo trees, shamans never cut them down but only harvest them when they have died naturally. This is also practical because Palo Santo is said to be the most therapeutic and aromatic when harvested from dead trees instead of trees that are still living.

The Palo Santo trees are still revered to this day. Many people still believe in its healing properties. People who believe in the spiritual element of Palo Santo believe in its ability to create positive energy and drive away negative energy.

Palo Santo is beloved for its sweet, woody smell that is reminiscent of frankincense. It is particularly enjoyed in its essential oil form. Palo Santo essential oil is colorless or pale yellow and blends well with agarwood, cedarwood, cinnamon, jasmine, sandalwood, rosemary, rose, and eucalyptus.

How Authentic Palo Santo Essential Oils Are Harvested

Authentic Palo Santo is harvested in a particular way to preserve its quality. The bursera graveolens tree species live to about 50 to 70 years old. Once the tree dies, it is left alone for a few more years to allow the resins in the tree to migrate to the heartwood before the wood is harvested. This allows the oils to mature. After this period, the fallen wood is ready to be processed into sticks to produce incense.

This is the only method to harvest authentic Palo Santo essential oils; however, synthetic Palo Santo oils exist as well. Synthetic Palo Santo is not harvested from mature and fallen Palo Santo wood. Instead, it is produced chemically in a laboratory. It is produced to smell like Palo Santo wood, but never quite matches it. Synthetic Palo Santo is usually labeled as ‘synthetic’ on the packaging.

What Are Other Ways to Tell if Palo Santo Is Real?

Sometimes, synthetic Palo Santo is not labeled as such, so it is good to know a few tricks to tell if the Palo Santo you have purchased is authentic or not.

Real Palo Santo breaks very easily. They also have a signature fragrance with a hint of the smell of musk. They only stay lit for a few seconds before the flame goes out and it continues to smoke.

Fake Palo Santo tends to be tougher in texture and smell like burnt wood (missing the signature fragrance of real Palo Santo). They also tend to burn longer than Real Palo Santo.

Another way of differentiating the two is to check the color of the wood. Real Palo Santo tends to have amber streaks in the wood, which are the essential oils embedded in the wood. Fake Palo Santo tends to be lighter and more uniform in color.

Is Palo Santo Endangered?

Palo Santo is in great demand and is heavily harvested. Although there are reports that suggest Palo Santo is at risk of being endangered, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has examined whether this is the case and has issued a statement stating that its status is ‘of least concern,’ meaning that the overall supply of Palo Santo is not endangered.

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However, just because the Palo Santo tree species as a whole is not endangered does not mean that they are not endangered in specific regions or countries. Peru, for example, listed Palo Santo as a critically endangered tree species in 2005. Where Palo Santo is under government regulation, it is illegal to cut down living trees.

To ensure that the Palo Santo you have purchased has been harvested according to best practices, it is worth checking on the label to determine whether it is ethically sourced. Ethically sourced Palo Santo means that Palo Santo is not just harvested but also reforested for long-term sustainability. 

The Multiple Uses of Palo Santo

Palo Santo essential oils mainly consist of a chemical known as terpene. Among the terpene chemicals found in Palo Santo, limonene and alpha-terpineol are the most common. These chemicals are responsible for many of the benefits of Palo Santo.

Palo Santo is harvested for a variety of uses. One of the uses mentioned earlier in this article is for spiritual and ceremonial purposes. This was especially the case in ancient times but is still practiced today. For example, smudging is a spiritual practice in which the Palo Santo is allowed to burn until it begins to smoke and is taken around the room to fill and purify the space.

The Palo Santo wood is also used to construct wood products, such as wooden boxes, wooden furniture, and wooden barrels for storing aging wine. The smoke of Palo Santo can also be used as an insect repellent, repelling insects like mosquitoes and ticks. It is also used traditionally to ward off bats from attacking and feasting on cattle.

As an essential oil, Palo Santo also has a variety of uses. It is used as beard oil, body oil, perfume, massage oil, and candle oil blend. They are known to be very effective beauty products when used on the face and hair.

As a product used in aromatherapy, it is known to promote good mood, improving psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, stress, and insomnia. A 2013 study suggests that the limonene chemical in Palo Santo has anti-anxiety properties. Palo Santo can also be used to alleviate headaches and migraines, as well as general pain and discomfort, including psychosomatic illnesses such as fibromyalgia.

The chemicals in Palo Santo are also known to have antiviral and anti-bacterial qualities and are able to boost the immune system. These qualities make them useful for helping combat colds and flu. They are also known to be useful in reducing allergies in some people.

The limonene found in Palo Santo gives it some anti-inflammatory qualities, making it a useful accessory while your body combats inflammatory diseases such as bronchitis, tendinitis, and arthritis. This chemical is also known to have some anti-cancer properties, making it somewhat useful in fighting against diseases such as leukemia and lung cancer.

It should be noted here that you should always consult your doctor when using Palo Santo for its medicinal qualities, and that no studies have found it to be a cure for any illnesses listed above.

Does Palo Santo Have Any Side Effects?

Palo Santo is not known to result in any serious side effects, but like any new product you are trying for the first time, it is important to keep a lookout if you experience any new discomfort. If you are using Palo Santo essential oils on your skin or scalp and they become irritated and itchy, you might have sensitive skin and should probably discontinue using them.

Although Palo Santo is known to improve respiratory conditions, some people do not tolerate the smoke from Palo Santo incense very well. If you start feeling discomfort in your breathing when using Palo Santo, you should probably stop. Also, avoid using this product if you have asthma.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should avoid using Palo Santo. This is because the chemicals in the product might result in unforeseeable side effects, so they are best avoided.

Palo Santo essential oils are also never meant to be ingested, so you should never take them orally. Doing so can result in serious damage to your health.

It should be noted that Palo Santo contains a chemical known as d-limonene, which can be toxic to pets such as dogs and cats. It is recommended not to use Palo Santo diffusers or incense near these pets if you keep any. 

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Reviews of Palo Santo Essential Oils Online

Palo Santo essential oils can be purchased online, and below is a selection of Palo Santo products that have received high independent reviews: 

Wild Harvested Botanicals Palo Santo Essential Oil

This Palo Santo essential oil is wild-crafted and is 100% handpicked from wild botanicals in Peru. The aroma of this product has a slightly minty and woody citrus scent, reminiscent of frankincense. Wild Harvested Botanicals is also a fair-trade company, meaning that the oils are obtained from fair business practices that pay workers from origin countries fairly.

Customers love this product’s calming and pleasant aroma. However, some customers have complained that the product pours out too easily from its bottle and thus finishes quickly. At $25 for 15ml ($50 per Fl Oz) at the time of this writing, it is a slightly pricey product, but its authentic sourcing makes it a standout offering.

Energy Cleansing Palo Santo Essential Oil 

This Palo Santo essential oil is 100% pure and undiluted, with no added ingredients. It is produced from naturally fallen trees in Ecuador only. It is also a therapeutic grade product with a certification of authenticity. Its aroma is described as fresh, woody, and intense with hints of citrus.

At $8.99 for 5ml ($56.19 per Fl Oz) at the time of this writing, it is slightly more expensive than the previous product. This product has received mostly positive reviews from customers who love its strong and fresh aroma. However, some customers do not think that it smells enough like authentic Palo Santo.

How to Make Palo Santo Soap

If you’re crafty, you can use Palo Santo essential oils to make your own soap. There are many ways to make homemade soap with essential oils, and you can mix and match different essential oils to achieve the aroma you want. Let’s look at the basic steps you need to take to make your very own Palo Santo homemade soap.

To make homemade soap from scratch, you will need a few essential ingredients: lye, distilled water, soap-making oil, essential oils, as well as any fragrance, additives, or color you want to add in. For safety purposes, it might be a good idea to have safety goggles and rubber gloves when making homemade soap.

You first need to mix the lye and water together to create a lye-water solution. Be careful doing this step because raw lye can be caustic and dangerous. Next, weigh your soap-making oil. Examples of soap-making oils are cocoa butter, palm oil, and coconut oil. The amount of soap-making oil you need varies according to the recipe that you are using.

After you have enough soap-making oil, it is time to melt it. You can do so by pouring the oil into a soap-making pot and gently heating it over the stove. Stir the mixture until all the oil is melted.

When the oil is melted, carefully pour the lye solution into the soap-making pot. Stir the solution together so that it mixes well. You can do so using a stick blender. Use the stick blender in short bursts of 3 to 5 seconds. The solution will start to emulsify.

At this point, add the Palo Santo essential oil (or other essential oils) into the mixture. You can also add any fragrance, additives, or color that you want into the mixture. Examples of additives are herbs, flower petals, and spices. Continue to mix well.

The texture of the solution should eventually become thickened. Pour the raw soap into a mold and let it sit for about 24 hours in a safe and dry place to give it time to harden. After it has hardened, take it out of the mold. It is now ready to be used as homemade soap.

By adding Palo Santo essential oil into your soap solution, you would be creating a soap that would have a strong, calming, woody scent. When made correctly, it is a luxurious product that will be great for your skin. 

Spray Recipe for Palo Santo

As mentioned previously, Palo Santo is still used today as a smudge to ward off negative energy.

To create your own Palo Santo smudge spray, you just need a few ingredients. In addition to Palo Santo essential oil, you will need:

  • Water
  • Sea salt
  • Witch hazel
  • White sage essential oil

Follow these steps:

  1. To start, dissolve two teaspoons of sea salt into a bowl of water and pour the solution into a spray bottle. 
  2. Next, add a few drops of Palo Santo essential oil as well as white sage essential oil into the mix. 
  3. Add about half a cup of witch hazel as well. 
  4. Shake well till all these ingredients dissolve in the solution. 
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You now have a Palo Santo smudge spray that should smell wonderful. To cleanse your room the traditional way, simply walk around and spray so that all corners of the room are covered. To complete the procedure, open the windows to allow fresh air to enter, and consider adding plants to brighten up the place. 

Tea Recipe For Palo Santo

Palo Santo is such a versatile wellness product that it can be even brewed into tea. (Keep in mind that Palo Santo tea is made with heartwood and not its essential oils.)

Some people believe that Palo Santo tea provides all the medicinal and healing abilities found in its essential oil form. Palo Santo tea is known to be a great stress reliever and an immune system booster. It is used in traditional South American medicine for diseases such as colds and flu.

To make Palo Santo tea, you need a stick of Palo Santo wood as well as some water.

  1. Shave off the wood into thin, small pieces. 
  2. Next, boil some water and place the wood shavings into the water and leave the tea to steep for a few minutes. You can increase the flavor of the tea by increasing the wood shavings you place into the hot water. 
  3. Next, pour the water through a strainer so that the wood pieces are filtered.
  4. If you enjoy your tea with milk or sugar, you can add them to your Palo Santo tea. 

Your Palo Santo tea is now ready to be served.

Many people enjoy Palo Santo tea for its sweet, musky flavor and its calming properties. Enjoy it at a quiet corner or with a relaxing book to truly unwind. 

Palo Santo Lotion

Lotion is a product used to moisturize and soften skin, as well as prevent dryness and irritation. Health and wellness brands love to infuse lotion with additional ingredients that can cause it to appear more fragrant and provide additional skin-improving qualities. Palo Santo wood is a perfect ingredient to create wonderful lotion.

As Palo Santo has anti-inflammatory properties, it is a great ingredient in lotion as it can help treat skin irritation or redness. Its calming effect is also great to have in a product that is applied to human skin.

Palo Santo lotion is often made in combination with other essential oils, such as White Willow Bark, for example. White Willow Bark, like Palo Santo, is also known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. 

Palo Santo Bath Blend

Many of us welcome a hot bath at the end of a long day as a means to unwind and relax. Nothing makes a hot bath more relaxing than a soothing bath blend that can calm the senses.

This is another place where Palo Santo essential oil can prove useful. To create a Palo Santo bath blend:

  1. Simply add a few drops of Palo Santo essential oil into a tablespoon of your body wash or bubble bath in a bowl. 
  2. Next, fill your bathtub with warm water. 
  3. All you have to do next is to add the bath mix into your bath and enjoy soaking in the calming mix. 

To complete the relaxing bath experience, consider turning on some relaxing music or lighting up a few scented candles. A warm, relaxing bath is just what you need to make your worries go away. 


As we have seen throughout this article, Palo Santo more than deserves its reputation in the wellness industry. Found mainly in the Americas, it has been harvested for centuries for its supposed spiritual healing properties.

Today, the harvesting of Palo Santo is regulated in some countries to prevent overharvesting. Authentic Palo Santo can only be harvested from mature, dead Palo Santo trees.

Palo Santo has a host of health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties that can boost the immune system. It is used to help treat a whole range of diseases, ranging from the flu to fibromyalgia.

Palo Santo is an extremely versatile product, and as we have seen in this article. It can be used as a smudge to ward off negative energy. It can also be used to make many products such as soaps, tea, lotion, and a bath blend.

With its incredible properties and multitude of uses, Palo Santo is a product worth trying out and using in daily life.