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Essential Oils

Palo Santo Essential Oil – Holistic Benefits of Holy Wood

Palo Santo essential oil is derived from a tree native to South America and is similar in scent and chemical structure to frankincense . It is also closely related to myrrh and copal. The word Palo Santo means “holy wood,” and it has been used in spiritual practices for hundreds of years. 1

This oil is considered to be grounding and calming and is clear to pale yellow in color with a sweet, woodsy, citrusy, and slightly minty aroma.

Additionally, Palo Santo essential oil provides a wide range of wellness benefits, like reducing stress, supporting a meditative mindset and for purification purposes.

Palo Santo The History of Palo Santo

The origins of Palo Santo use by humans can be traced all the way back to the Inca empire, where it was commonly used in ritualistic medicine, ceremonies, and for purifying the environment of negative energies. 2

Historically, the primary purpose of using Palo Santo was in incense to promote positive energies and diffuse bad ones. It was also burned in order to repel insects, and its wood shavings were collected and brewed in teas used to promote digestion, support a healthy immune response, and ease inflammation.

Today, Palo Santo is primarily imported from Peru where the collection of wood from the tree is regulated by the Peruvian government. This type of regulation maintains respect for the sacredness of the tree and ensures that live trees are never cut down. Only fallen trees and their branches can be collected and must be dried and cured for a period of time ranging from three to five years.

During this time, the chemical composition of the wood changes, resulting in crystallization of the sap deposits which become orange or gold in color.

Chemical Properties Palo Santo

This essential oil is composed of a combination of potent chemical compounds which are responsible for its highly sought after wellness benefits.

The most abundant category of compounds found in Palo Santo essential oil are monoterpenes, which make up about 65 percent of the oil. Ethers, monoterpenols, and sesquiterpenes make up the rest of the oil.

The primary chemical compounds found in Palo Santo essential oil include:


This terpene is responsible for the citrusy undertones in the scent of Palo Santo oil. In addition to contributing to the scent of this potent essential oil, limonene offers a wide range of health benefits. This terpene has been shown to assist with stress, free radical damage, and relieve discomfort. 3


The primary purpose of this aromatic compound is providing the slightly minty scent found in Palo Santo essential oil. 4


Though this terpene is most commonly found in pine essential oils, it is also found in smaller quantities in Palo Santo oil. This terpene is believed to bring warming and uplifting effects, in addition to cleansing and purifying. 5


Classified as a sesquiterpenoid, germacrene-d is best known for its antibacterial properties. 7

palo santo Uses for Palo Santo Essential Oil

The primary health benefits in Palo Santo essential oil come from the high limonene content, as well as the a-terpineol and carvone.

The combination of these compounds provides a range of benefits ranging from antioxidant to anti-inflammatory properties. 8

Some of the top benefits of Palo Santo essential oil are highlighted below.

Repels Insects

As seen in one of its most common historical uses, the scent of Palo Santo essential oil has been found to be particularly unappealing to insects. This means that diffusing the oil outside or in your home can keep mosquitoes and other pests at bay. 9

Removes Odors

Though this essential oil has historically been used to remove “bad energies,” its properties span far beyond simply the removal of negative energy. For instance, diffusing this oil throughout the home can remove bad odors, as well as germs. 10

Helps You Feel More Rested

Palo Santo essential oil is well-known for its relaxing effects. Try applying a few drops of the oil diluted with a carrier oil to your chest, neck, and temples before bed to help you get a good nights sleep. Not only will the properties in this oil allow you to unwind at the end of the night, but they will help you to wake up feeling more refreshed the next morning. 11

Alleviates Stress

Many of the aromatic compounds found in Palo Santo essential oil directly affect the limbic system, which is responsible for regulating emotions and promoting relaxation. Therefore, targeting this area of the brain can be beneficial for alleviating stress. 12

Reduces Inflammation

Because of a combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, Palo Santo essential oil has been shown to address areas of discomfort. For optimal anti-inflammatory effects, this essential oil can be applied topically to the affected areas after dilution with a carrier oil of choice. 13

Helps Maintain Proper Immune Function

As mentioned previously, Palo Santo essential oil has been shown to help maintain proper immune function. Part of this benefit comes from the anti-inflammatory properties in the oil: it reduces the inflammatory responses that may be caused by a poor diet, stress or lack of activity. 14

How To Use Palo Santo Essential Oil palo santo

Now that you know the benefits that Palo Santo essential oil can provide when added into your daily routine, knowing the best way to actually use Palo Santo essential oil can optimize the effects of these benefits. 15

    • Add a few drops of this essential oil to a cold compress and apply to sore muscles.

    • Place a few drops of the oil into a bowl of hot water and inhale to open up your breath.

    • Combine Palo Santo essential oil with a massage oil and apply to areas of tension and tightness.

    • Use the essential oil in aromatherapy to relieve stress.

Safety and Precautions

Palo Santo essential oil is safe for topical and aromatic applications but should not be taken internally. Like any essential oil, the potent compounds found within this essential oil have the potential to irritate sensitive skin, so be sure to dilute it in a carrier oil like almond, coconut, or jojoba oil and conduct a patch skin test before using the oil on larger areas of the body.

If you are pregnant or nursing, avoid using Palo Santo essential oil. Additionally, keep Palo Santo essential oil out of reach of children.

If stored correctly in a cool, dry place, Palo Santo essential oil has a shelf life of about three to four years.


The Inca were onto something when they coined the term “holy wood” to describe this essential oil. Given its wide range of physical and physiological benefits, it makes sense that this versatile and beneficial oil was not only revered in the past but continues to provide a wide range of health benefits in the present.

Photo Credits: Semccorm/, JurateBuiviene/, LuisEcheverriUrrea/, BarnaTanko/

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