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HomeFashionWhat Is Palo Santo? Meet the Mystical Peruvian Wood

What Is Palo Santo? Meet the Mystical Peruvian Wood

It isn’t the only herb used to bring on good fortune. Many are familiar with white sage for its similar functions, but Benedi says they are two completely different plants with one of the biggest differences between the two is the smell. She says that burning palo santo will give off a sweet woody aroma while sage has more of an earthy musk scent. They also differ in their cultural significance. In South American cultures, explains Nair, palo santo is used for purification and healing to bring on the good vibes. White sage in Native American traditions focuses on removing negativity and energy cleansing a space. 

It can be used to boost your mood.

Fans of aromatherapy know palo santo’s uplifting abilities. According to Nair, the essential oil is used to induce relaxation and reduce stress, anxiety, and emotional pain. It is also believed that the scent can stimulate creativity and increase focus, she adds. 

“Palo santo is believed to have cleansing properties that may help clear stagnant or negative energy from the surroundings. Spritzing it on furniture and fabrics could contribute to a fresher and more revitalized environment,” she says. “The aroma of palo santo is often associated with relaxation and stress relief. Spraying it on fabrics like cushions, curtains, or bedding could create a calming ambiance, potentially aiding in relaxation and improving mood.” So whether you burn palo santo on your own or use a diffuser, having it around has many upsides for your well-being.

Some believe it can relieve headaches and provide other health benefits.

Nair says that palo santo has some healing properties and has been used to heal the physical symptoms of certain ailments, such as colds, the flu, headaches, and inflammation. Benedi explains that the smoke may offer respiratory benefits to ease coughs while its aroma induces a calming grounding effect to ease headaches and other discomforts. 

Ace Hotel New Orleans’s King Tut, garnished with flaming palo santo barkPhoto: Courtesy of Ace Hotel

It enhances flavor and adds an alluring aroma to food and drinks. 

While palo santo wood is not typically used directly in food preparation or cooking (it is primarily known for its aromatic properties when burned as incense or used in smudging ceremonies), Nair says that what is starting to be incorporated into dishes or beverages is the essential oil. Derived from the steam distillation of the wood, the oil is used sparingly in some recipes for some unique flavor. “In very small quantities, [it] might be used by professional chefs or mixologists to add a distinctive and aromatic touch to dishes or beverages,” she says. 



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