The role of Palo Santo in traditional healing:Traditionally, people living in coastal areas use its smoke to keep away mosquitoes and cleanse the house of “negative spirits”. Since ancient times, shamans and folk healers (curandero) have used it to alleviate colds, allergies, headaches and rheumatic pain. In their spiritual-religious rituals, shamans use Palo Santo as a tool to attract good luck, repel negative energies and communicate better with the spirits.
What makes Palo Santo so special?Palo Santo essential oil is composed of around 112 chemical compounds which make it antibacterial (alfa-pinene), antiseptic (terminen-4-ol), sedative and insecticide (carvones). But the most important element, limonene (62.88%) is said to have chemotherapeutic properties. The Palo Santo tree grows in the dry forest of the coastal Manabi province in Ecuador. While the growth of the tree is slow owing to hibernation in the dry season, it may live up to 90 years. It’s important to note, however, that the wood of Palo Santo is of no use unless the tree has died of natural causes. If we cut a live Palo Santo tree, we won’t obtain any benefit and it will have to undergo at least three years of a natural, alchemical process of breaking down before it releases the precious oil. There is a type of white termite that builds its nest on a living tree. When the tree dies, the termite feeds on it until only the skeleton of the tree is left behind. This natural process allows the essence to be absorbed slowly in the skeleton of the tree.
Native cultures say that the spirits of the Palo Santo trees materialize themselves in the essential oil and are responsible for its potency and healing qualities.
The history of Palo Santo – The Legend of CosakaitAccording to a folk legend, when the world was in its embryonic phase and there were very few human beings, Cosokait, the most handsome and virtuous of men fell in love with a young maid. The young girl didn’t reciprocate his feelings and sadness made him seriously ill. On his death bed he called for the young woman several times to see her one last time, but she didn’t go. “Please tell her that I don’t want to die, but Yago (God) is taking my life away. I’ll be always with her, I will ornate her head with perfumed flowers. I will frighten insects away from her. I will give fragrance to the water that her lips drink. I will go to heaven in the aromatic smoke during the NAREG ceremony. And I will be wherever she is and will give her whatever she asks for…” After these words, he was consumed by fever and died invoking her name. Where he was buried, a tree grew. Its wood had a soft fragrance that when it was burned would release a deep sweet aroma. It was the Palo Santo tree, the symbol of love, kindness and longing for an impossible love. For its elevated value and nobility, the Tobas tribe consider Palo Santo a sacred tree and call it Cosakait in honor of the legend. And for its virtues and values, and its connection to my home, and this legend, Palo Santo oil will always be the fragrance of my spirit.
Benefits of Palo Santo Essential Oil
- As an anti-inflammatory for muscles and joints
- As a decongestant to reduce nasal mucus production and swelling
- As a nervous system tonic, sedative
- Helpful for allergies
© 2011, Cristina Proano-Carrion, Aromandina LLC – Aromatherapy blog This information is based on traditional use of aromatherapy and it does not intend to diagnose or treat any condition. This information should not be used as a substitute for medical counseling with a health care professional. No part of this article may be reproduced in whole or in part without the explicit written permission of Aromandina.