Chances are, you have encountered Palo Santo. Whether that be in the form of a burning stick, meant to clean your energy field or through products, such as some of the products we offer at HANK skincare ESSENCE | the body | shave oil and SHIELD | the hair | beard balm. But what exactly is Palo Santo and why is it important that we talk about it?
Palo Santo has been a key component in many yoga and meditation studios and can be purchased at most crystal and healing shops. But do you really know the history of that little stick you burn?
The act of burning Palo Santo has entered the mainstream in the practice called smudging. While on the surface, as a consumer, what can the harm be? It is sold everywhere and it is a great way to purify your space. But this practice has been adopted and twisted while the intent is meant to be performed in sacred rituals to create a deep meditative state.
Palo Santo is a sacred tree that is used by Indigenous communities to cleanse their spaces and ward off spirits. It is medicinal and is used in sacred ceremonies to clear the mind and body of negative energies. But now, it is used to smoke out homes in the way of incense.
To receive the full benefits of Palo Santo, the tree must die naturally and be allowed to lay on the forest floor for 4-10 years. This allows the oils in the tree to mature and develop the properties desired in burning Palo Santo. However, this is not regulated as securely as it should. Before smudging became a trend, these native trees were cultivated under regulated and sustainable practices. With the current demand, this is no longer the case. Because of this, the Palo Santo tree is currently endangered and is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) list. There are less than 250 mature adult trees and that number is declining at a rate that can not meet the consumers’ needs. The overharvesting of Palo Santo is due to cultural appropriation and the trending nature of smudging. This exploitation undermines the nature of this practice, and negates the spiritual intent in burning these plants.
While there are sources that harvest Palo Santo sustainability and ethically, the consumer isn't buying from these sources. The increased demand has bulldozed sustainable practices as Palo Santo trees are being forcibly cut down instead of allowing them to die naturally.
So, what can you do?
-Buy ethically, make sure you are purchasing from credible sources who use sustainable methods.
-Use alternatives: Juniper, Rosemary, Sage are a few alternatives that can still provide a cleansing energy.
Here at HANK we pride ourselves on only using sustainably harvested Palo Santo. The Palo Santo that is used in our products is sourced in small batches from sustainably harvested wood. The dead and aged wood is collected from Ecuador’s Pacific coast. At HANK we believe that using any ingredients that are harvested in an unethical manner or is detrimental to the environment will possess that harmful energy and will translate into our products. And that is why we believe educating consumers on every ingredient we use is the best way to show the love and effort that is put forth in everything we create.