The name of Palo Santo or Bursera Graveolens, a wild tree popularly used as incense, has been popping up recently as being endangered. ReedHandmadeIncense, an importer and curator of high-quality incense sticks looked into this rumor to unveil the truth.
Native to Peru and Venezuela, the Palo Santo tree is of high cultural and traditional standing. It has been in use since the Incan era for its spiritual and physical cleansing properties. It is popular in folk medicine for relief in ailments like rheumatism and stomach ache and is also part of traditional purification ritual.
The Palo Santo wood is said to remove bad energy from its surroundings. For this reason it is widely used by locals in their houses for good luck and to keep the bad energies out of their lives. It is used in the form of incense sticks and light shavings and burned to spread a soft smoothing fragrance similar to that of caramel and baked apples.
People also use the oil extracted from the Palo Santo wood to relax their bodies. When applied to the human body at the base of the skull or on the spine, Palo Santo oil gives relaxation to the mind and body. It is said to get you in touch with your spiritual side and is widely used in yoga studios and other spiritual places.
In 2006, the Peruvian government listed the Palo Santo tree species as “In Critical Danger” as unethical harvesting had led to a significant downfall in its numbers. The government placed a ban on cutting of live Palo Santo trees in the country and allowed wood harvesting only from dead or naturally fallen trees.
The main reason discovered behind mass destruction of Palo Santo before 2006 was rapid urbanization, construction, and development. People sold the trees and the land for construction projects to turn huge profits. Upon ban the prices of the Palo Santo wood started rising because of the limited supply.
Ban on cutting of live trees also increased the quality of the product available in the market. Ethical harvesters only use properly aged Palo Santo wood from the forest to make incense sticks, oils, shavings, and other products. The high demand and prices ensured decent sustenance to the natives and helped in increasing the numbers of the Palo Santo trees in the forests.
In 2010, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) changed the status of the Palo Santo tree to “Stable”. This event marked that the population of the Bursera Graveolens or Palo Santo trees was no substantial and sufficiently growing in the area.
Still, only ethical sourcing is allowed and cutting of live trees is discouraged. Furthermore, the Venezuelan government also runs reforestation projects to increase the number of Palo Santo trees to cater to the increasing demand in the international market.
ReedHandmadeIncense assures that the Palo Santo tree isn’t technically endangered and the enthusiasts will continue to make use of its incredible aroma to bring positivity in their lives.