Palo Santo – Bursera graveolens

Palo santo or “holy wood” is a tree that grows on the coast of Ecuador. The tree belongs to the Burseraceae family which is the same family  as frankincense and myrrh. It is widely used in folk and traditional medicine. Palo santo is rich in monoterpenes such as limonene (75%), sesquiterpenes, alcohols (y-terpineol 6%), ketones and ethers (menthofuran -8%)

The essential oil is  often beneficial to help with the symptoms for asthma, cold and coughs. It also helps to calm panic attacks and anxiety.  Used with other oils like Frankincense it can be effective for headaches and migraines. It is also helpful for alleviating pain from tight muscles and restricted joints as it helps soothe inflammation. Therapeutically it is thought to have anti-infectious, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, decongestant, nervine, sedative, and immune supportive properties.

Palo Santo Essential Oil

  • Botanical Name: Bursera Graveolens
  • Family: Bursereace
  • Part used: Wood (aged dead wood from fallen trees)
  • Safety: Tisserand recommends maximum dermal use of 3.4% due to the menthofuran and pulegone content, which has hepatotoxic concerns. Can oxidize and cause skin irritation. Typically, non-irritant and non-sensitizing.
  • Extraction: Steam Distilled
  • Color: Clear – Pale Yellow but may be clear to a light brown
  • Consistency: Thin
  • Note:  Top to Middle
  • Aroma: Sweet, woody, citrusy and slightly minty
  • Emotional/Energetic uses: Anxiety, Depression, Fatigue, Fear, Grief, Happiness, Insecurity, Loneliness, Panic Attacks, Stress. It supports prayer and meditation. This oil can really comfort during emotional upheavals (you know…life)

The suggested shelf life is 2-3 years.

This tree is protected by the government – so no living branches are allowed to be cut, it requires a permit for harvesting. The dead trees are harvested after they have been laying on the ground for about two years.

In subtle aromatherapy – it is thought to be expansive and have an uplifting effect. It is often used in shamanic rituals.

I like to make a room spray with Palo Santo – it is both delightful to my senses and lifts my spirits.


Robert Tisserand, R. Y. (2014). Essential Oil Safety. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.


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