Palo Santo – I Tried to Like You But I Didn’t, Sorry

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Palo Santo – I Tried to Like You But I Didn’t, Sorry

The spindly tree Palo Santo pic via

The spindly tree Palo Santo

About this time last year, Palo Santo popped into my world. Within a week or two, a friend had asked about it and one of my readers here on the blog also mentioned it in one of her blends. I’d never used it nor had I really heard much about this oil. So my interest was sparked and I did a bit of research to find –

* it belongs to the Family “Burseraceae” of which frankincense and myrrh also belong, and it definitely shows in its form and the fact that it’s a desert dwelling tree and looks just like a frankincense or myrrh tree

* according to Wikipedia the Burseraceae family has also been called the incense tree family

* its sort of like the South American sandalwood, as the scented wood is used to make incense and of course essential oil

* it is used in the Americas more than in Europe or Asia

* it has been used for healing in communities in South American countries for many years and has a strong place in their folklore too

* spiritual and healing ceremonies often used the smoke of the burning wood to purify bad or stagnating energy (similar to indigenous Australians using tea tree branches, and Native American Indians using sage for smudging)

* my friend who studied in Thailand was told it was good for increasing sexual drive and raising kundalini

The dried wood can be burnt directly

The dried wood can be burnt directly

“It is widely used in folk medicine for stomach ache, as sudorific, and as liniment for rheumatism. Aged heartwood is rich in terpenes such as limonene and α-terpineol.”  Wikipedia

As it is very high in limonene one would expect a lemon scent (if only slightly), but the mix of molecules makes for a very deep, earthy, heady scent indeed!

I bought a couple of bottles from a small environmentally focused company in Ecuador and I was feeling very international and slightly self-important when I placed the order. I was excited to receive and smell this intriguing oil of history and healing in many South American cultures including Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Ecuador, and on the Galapagos islands.

Then it arrived. It probably didn’t help that I was unwell at the time. I ripped open the bag to find a cute little wooden box. Opened the box, cracked the lid, took a huge whiff and almost vomited. It has an earthy, rich, almost truffle scent, which is pungent and warm.

I could end the story right there, but I put it away in the oil cupboard until my friend dropped in for a blend. A week or two later she came by to collect her bottle of oil (she had actually experienced this oil in a yoga teacher training place in Thailand!)

She was excited. I wasn’t.

50 ml bespoke body oil made by me

50 ml bespoke body oil made by me

I made her oil blend and put 6 drops of Palo Santo in 150mls with a few other oils. Months later she reported that her body oil blend was beautiful, but now I’m scarred for life!

The weather is warming up and I’ve started to smell the Palo Santo wafting from my studio. It has managed to penetrate the triple bubble wrapping.


Use with caution!

Ay comments on this interesting oil are welcomed.

copryright SR Banks



16 thoughts on “Palo Santo – I Tried to Like You But I Didn’t, Sorry

  1. Hi Suzanne,

    It’s been so my times already when I felt I should get in touch with you, ever since I discovered your blog last November. There is so much I could tell, but I will try to make it short and reflect to the Palo Santo one you just posted.

    I went to Dublin to attend my first ever aromatherapy event of such – Botanica 2014 conference and that was fantastic. Of course, I could not leave the place without a number of new oils… One of them was Palo Santo (from Ecuador) that I have heard of a few times beforehand, and I guess I did go for it due to its spiritual nature. I say I guess because I literally did not remember the smell of if from the trade show so when I opened the bottle YESTERDAY (!) I was very surprised and had similar feelings as you described in your post TODAY. I did not get to the feel of vomiting, but frankly I was hesitating to go back to Oshandhi (the supplier of the oil) and ask if the bottle was labelled in error or something (I very rarely complain…)? Because after all the readings about Palo Santo somehow I expected it to have more density, and also, next to being very Earthy which it is, still I was missing that tiny bit more of sweetness that was mentioned in its descriptions. I keep sniffing it, and it is still not much more then the smell of fresh paint to me. Which is ok as I have always like the smell of freshly painted things 🙂 Will see how the perception of this oil develops 🙂

    So, thank you very much for your post, I loved that synchronicity, and it is always great, exciting and uplifting to read your releases and every time I read a new post from you I immediately get inspired and confirmed about my way with aromatherapy wherever it is leading me.

    Sending you lots of love, from the beautiful island of Crete! Ildiko

    Email: Mobile Greece: +30 697 9160812 Mobile Hungary: +36 30 9221037

    • Hi Ildiko, firstly thanks so much for leaving such a lovely comment and secondly, I’m sooooooo envious you made it to Botanica in Ireland, I really wanted to go but just couldn’t make it happen.
      Yep it’s a weird smelling oil, but I think used in small proportions it can work in blends – it’s just a matter of trial and error. I have another reader who had a very strong reaction to the oil so I’m going to email her and get her to leave a comment too so you can see how her experience was.
      I love Crete I was there many, many years ago and would love to visit Greece again. Do you do split your time between Greece and Hungary?
      Thanks also for liking my posts on Facebook too. Best wishes from Oz!

  2. Ahhhh….Palo Santo….a trickster in disguise for me. I’d read a lot about this EO and its properties, so I was so excited to try it out.. I naturally thought it would benefit me because I am a spiritual kind of individual. I truly had high hopes. On August 2nd, 2014 ( yes, I will NEVER forget THAT date), I decided to crack open the small bottle I’d bought of Palo Santo from Ecuador and make a meditation blend. I added a few drops to my diffuser and let her rip. At first, I thought it to be a rather strong, heady scent…….quite unique – in a bad way though – it made me feel SO UNCOMFORTABLE. I actually felt my anxiety rise. By the time I shut off the diffuser – 30 mins. later – I felt like I was ready to scream with so much anxiety THROUGH THE ROOF. I was practically in hysterics!! It totally scared the living daylights out of me. So, I cleaned out the diffuser, packed up ALL my essential oils as fast as I could and shoved everything into a dark corner of my basement, thinking all the while that it was most likely a sign that I should NOT be working with EO’s. I actually e-mailed Suzanne, seeking help with this weirdo situation and she so kindly replied and shared with me her very own experience with Palo Santo. Her words were so comforting and uplifting and she encouraged me to restart working with essential oils slowly, starting with the gentle citrus and floral EO’s. Had it not been for Suzanne’s reply, I know I would have given up working with EO’s all together. Yes, my Palo Santo experience was that powerful in such a negative way. I remember that it took almost 24 hours just to shake off that horrible Palo Santo vibe. This essential oil is definitely one mysterious kind of oil to me that certainly commands respect. I will not touch it with a 10 foot pole….EVER.

    • Thanks so much for your comment Annie I hope Ildiko reads this, as she will be able to relate to what you are saying. It certainly speaks volumes to the power of essential oils not only in their scent but their energetic presence too!

  3. Hello Suzanne,

    I produce in Peru essential oils including palo santo (bursera graveolens). Mind this species only grows in Peru and Ecuador. The common name palo santo is shared between other trees in different countries but they are not bursera which for centuries have been used as a smudging wood in sacred and religious rituals. The use of its essential oil is recent that is why it is rare to find it in the classic aromatherapy books.
    I sell it locally and internationally but I must say that it is a way more accepted abroad and mainly by shamanic practioners.

    • Thanks so much runcato! So I got some things right and some things wrong in my article but at least I bought the oil from Ecuador (but not from you sorry). I will update the article to reflect your wisdom about the name palo santo referring to other woods in South America. The oil is a bit too strong for me but I’d thank you again for your insights and for connecting with me on Twitter too. Best wishes from Australia!

  4. Hi Suzanne,

    I am glad to hear from you, I have your books about hydrosols and want to get this new one too.
    Do you know the scent of the wood of Palo Santo ?. If you give me a chance let me send you some small gifts in order to make your opinion on palo santo being a bit more optimistic 🙂


  5. Dear Susanne, hi Annie – Thank you for your comments. I have no clue why, but I only discovered your answers from last September… Perhaps, that was the effect of Palo Alto.. 🙂 as otherwise I have not noticed anything particular, definitely nothing close to what Annie had been through…Wowww, that is strong! As for me since then, I remember trying a a drop or two in blends for my oil burner since then, but I have no notes of anything particular. You made me curious again to give more attention to this. I might have some special relationship to Palo Santo, as soon after that, I was given a piece of its wood from Peru – TWICE! Once a Peruvian shaman was visiting Crete last October, and they burnt the wood during ceremonies. I was not sure what it was, but I kind of recognised the smell and became so excited when its identity was confirmed by the practitioners, so they offered me a pice of wood. Two months later, on occasion of moving to a new house I was given another piece of this wood again as a gift from a friend of mine… How is that? 😉

    • Fabulous! Yes it must be your symbol of healing, and you’re scent for sure. I love your story. I can still smell it when I get up in the morning wafting out of all the layers of bubble wrap. And the wood would smell softer and more beautiful than the oil.

  6. Hi Suzanne, thanks for your article 🙂

    I’m actually in Thailand, and I’m trying to find websites that sells Palo Santo E.O here.

    I was a little bit surprise, and then, started to read Annie’s opinion…and that kind of comfort me.
    Palo Santo made 10 years to come to me.
    The ever first experience was…with a group of hippie-chaman, one was just goin back from Latin America, and proposed to the others to burn a little bit of “this” in the fire of friendship. I guess I politely refused, but another image came to me as I wondered and said “you even asked after refusing for burning a little”. And oh my, after that night, bad events after bad events occured in my love life (like armageddon+apocalypto+never goin back from your inception).

    So…a few years after, I started to collect different raw incense, and put them in transparent tubes, to decorate and to have an easy to recognize and “feel” access at it’s power and information quicklier (incense world is such a mystery, coming from the perfume world, the work of distinction is difficult as you raise in the knowledge-well, this was my experience).
    And I bought a few P.S raw sticks…The “anis” (that mades “pastis” also) came right to me when I started to “own” the wood. I don’t like Anis; I tolerate it, as much it stays away.
    So I cowardly put my wood sticks with LOADS of raw copal; and forget it inside my dojo.

    I started to burn one piece last year with copal, and found the journey just amazing.
    Back to Belgium (where I find all my things), I dared to buy a tiny essentiel oil of P.S.

    What a shaaaaaaaaaame.
    I had maximum one drop on the neck and one on the third eye: enough to litterally BURN, heavily. Lucky me, I calm down myself, and swore I’ll never get this tricky surprise again…
    This beware me to look carefully after effects of Palo Santo, and where Annie is talking about feeling uncomfortable, is -I guess- linked with the fact that P.S energize a lot.
    My yoga studio use to burn it (I didn’t knew, until I bought a second bottle).
    So…I don’t know how exactly, but the first bottle disappeared, vanished …like…Evanescence (my name is made of it components).
    Weird is: I couldn’t smell any of it. Any.
    Weird is; before I realised the bottle was goin empty, my best friend was telling me “whoah, you’re smelling P.S!”, and me “no way…(thinking hard a stone: “I m a sandalwood lover!!”)”.

    I finally fall under grace, when someone from the Fruit and Veggie shop asked me what I was smelling (I should maybe precise that I was trying a weird perfume called “Molecule 0.1” based on a invisible-smell molecule). And this is when I realised my bottle was sinking itself inside my banana bag.
    But hey. It’s suppose to be highly protective.

    And I kind of started to respect this believe.
    Somehow things started to change, I compilated this essentiel oil with other beliefs, and wear it close to me as some are wearing garlic or gem stones.
    The bottle started to stop sinking, as long as I put it in a special plastic bag with a dear friend gift and my yoga lipbalm.

    I would respect it, as I fear a little, as well this commun reaction to be “disgussed” immediatly.
    But as the burn it causes…it doesn’t burn anymore.

    -as a detail, before my departure in ThaIland, I burned my lips with T-Trea essential oil. Never thought it would happen to me. I decided to avoid from now this ingredient in my cosmetics and co. You never know…-

    Thanks for reading me; and many blessings and lucks for a Lucid path 🙂

  7. I bought a high quality PS oil and at first after a couple of whiffs I thought it was good and would go well in blends. But after a few days it smelled too strong and sickening so I returned it and got my money back.

  8. Pingback: New Palo Santo Trees Planted in Ecuador, Yay! | suzannerbanks

  9. So I actually just burned palo santo for the first time and it made me so sick, like violently puking sick. So…theres that.

    • Yep I totally understand. It’s so pungent! I had a South American lady use a drop in a perfume class I was running and her perfume was lovely, but she’s also had the experience of the wood and oil as a child. Sniffing straight from the bottle and vapourising the oil is way too much. Thanks for commenting 🙏

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