Ancient Incas used it during their ceremonies and even today the wood of Palo Santo, Bursera graveolens belonging to the family of Burseraceae and native to South and Central America, is considered sacred and used in several spiritual rituals and meditations thanks to the belief that it is able to remove negative energies. But it’s not just that, Palo Santo, called in this way because the plant booms in the days around 25th December, Christmas day, is also a remedy characterized by antibacterial and antiseptic properties, useful to get rid of insects and mosquitos, to counteract virus and bacteria that may be found in houses and to heal skin problems, such as acne, eczema and dermatitis, and diseases of the respiratory tract, cough, allergies, cold and asthma.
In order to perform this beneficial action, however, Palo Santo should be at least 10 years old and, when its branches fall to the ground, they should be kept on the ground to become dry in a natural way and only after this they can be harvested. This process guarantees the properties of the plant. You can find Palo Santo into wooden sticks that you can burn in place of incense in order to make the rooms healthier, to hygienize them and remove insects, at the same time a pleasant, fresh and citrusy aroma is released. To burn the sticks you can use a lighter or a candle but keep the flame only close to the wood for a few seconds, then shake the stick and repeat the process for 4-5 times, in this way scent and benefits aren’t compromised. In alternative you can use the Palo Santo essential oil, that you can diffuse with an oil burner to soothe asthma or cough or that you can apply on skin together with a carrier oil, 1-2 drops of essential oil in a tablespoon of jojoba or sweet almond oil, in case of acne, pimples or skin infections or also to do massages on sore joints and muscles.
But the properties of Palo Santo are real or just come from the phantasy and tradition? As in several cases, tradition has just anticipated science that, also for Palo Santo, is now demonstrating its properties. Analyzing its dry branches indeed, the scientists have found antioxidant and anti inflammatory substances such as triterpen-steroids, phenolic compounds, flavonoids, antocyanidines, saponins. Moreover, the extract obtained from dry branches has shown an anti inflammatory action compared with the effect of benzydamine, an active substance belonging to the family of FANS (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) that includes also aspirin and ibuprofen (Manzano Santana et al, Revista Cubana de Plantas Medicinales, July 2009).