Palo Santo, literally meaning “holy wood”, is found throughout Central and South America and is used in much the same way as White Ceremonial Sage is used in North America; to combat negative energies and to cleanse spaces and people. Palo Santo comes from the same family of tree (Burseraceae) that includes frankincense and myrrh. So sacred is this tree, that its harvesting is protected by the Peruvian government. Only branches that have naturally fallen may be harvested, with the wood reaching its highest potency 4 years or more after it has fallen.
The use of Palo Santo is different than many other smudging materials as it is fragrant in its raw form and therefore does not necessarily need to be lit to feel its benefits, although it often still is for ceremonial purposes. The rising smoke of the lit sticks has been used for centuries, dating back to the Inca period and is believed to enter the energy field of ritual participants to clear misfortune, negative thoughts and to chase away evil spirits. It uses also extend to inspiring creativity, evoking protection, infusing blessings and bringing both love and good fortune.
Regarding physical healing, Palo Santo has been said to relieve symptoms of common colds, stress, headaches, anxiety, inflammation and in its oil form supports the nervous system.
How to use Palo Santo to cleanse a space.
Light your Palo Santo stick; once the stick has caught fire allow it to burn for about 30 seconds and then gently blow out the flame leaving the stick smouldering.
Start by the front door (or main entrance) and from there walk clockwise through the space letting the smoke reach each corner. For a specific effect you can add an intention to this process and hold it in your mind as you move through the space.
When you are finished, place your Palo Santo stick in a fireproof container. The glow at the end of the stick will eventually go out on its own. Unlike an incense stick which will burn out completely after lighting it, your Palo Santo wood may be relit many, many times. One stick can probably be used 20 times or more.