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Palo santo, the “wood of the saints,” holds mystical status among indigenous people and religious institutions. For centuries, shamans and priests have burned the dried wood in ceremonies to release spiritual cleansing powers. The sweet, ethereal fragrance has captivated multitudes and grown popular as an aromatic and home-cleansing product. Although research on palo santo is sparse, growing evidence indicates that it lives up to its long-held reputation for therapeutic effects. These findings highlight the importance of maintaining this treasured resource's sustainability. Catch a whiff of the amazing properties of palo santo.

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1. Origins

Palo santo, Bursera graveolens, is a species of trees in the citrus family, related to frankincense and myrrh. More than 40 types grow throughout the world, concentrated mostly in Central and South America. They are native to tropical dry forests in Mexico, Peru, and, especially, Ecuador.

The palo santo tree matures at 50 to 70 years of age. To produce the best quality wood, the tree must die naturally and rest for at least five years before harvesting. This allows the oils in the heartwood to develop. The aged wood can then be processed into sticks for incense or slowly boiled to release the oil.

Galapagos Islands palo santo trees stevegeer / Getty Images
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