Palo Santo Altar

Palo Santo (Bursera Graveolens) is a mystical tree that grows on the coast of South America and belongs to the amilia Bureseracea, like frankincense, myrrh and copal, and has been used in cleansing and purification rituals since ancient times. immemorial by Andean and Amazonian healers and shamans.

It has so many healing properties that when the Spaniards arrived in the new continent in the 15th century they called it “Saint”; Palo Santo, the sacred wood.

Almost all ancient cultures have used some type of incense, from the biblical story of the Magi from the East offering the child God myrrh and incense, to the Babylonians or Egyptians using it, either as a means of offering or as a magical and healing remedy. .

Palo Santo has always been linked to the shamanic rituals of different cultures, there is no ceremony where its aromatic and exquisite wood is not burned. The Lengua-Maskoy (indigenous people of Paraguay, close to Bolivia and Argentina) have the belief that a bonfire made with the wood of the Palo Santo prevents evil spirits from approaching the houses. They attribute such property to it due to the particular clarity of the flames that arise from this burning wood.

The Tobas, original inhabitants of the Chaco region (Argentina), use it in their fire ceremonies called Nareg.

Currently its use is common in ceremonies with master plants such as ayahuasca, both in Europe and America, since it purifies the environment and is an excellent energy cleaner.

Completely sustainable. Not a single tree is cut down in its production process.


The Palo Santo tree (Bursera graveolens)

It was also called “quebracho” by the Spanish colonizers since its hardness broke the ax when it was cut, and “palo santo”, due to the various uses and magical properties that the Inkas discovered.

The Palo Santo tree (Bursera graveolens) is found in Mexico, Cuba, the Galapagos Islands, and northern Peru.

It is a deciduous tree, as far as Peru is concerned, it grows in the lower part of the western slopes of northern Peru, in the departments of Cajamarca, Lambayeque, Piura, Tumbes, 800 to 1200 meters above sea level, together with other shrubs typical of these environments. xerophytic or subxerophytic.


For the palo santo to retain its properties, and to be used, the wood must be harvested once the tree dies from natural causes. Afterwards, it must be left in place for at least five to eight years for the heartwood oils to mature sufficiently and the wood to acquire its aromatic and medicinal properties. The natural lifespan of a palo santo tree varies between 50 to 70 years, which in relative terms is not much. ”, Explains Jonathon Miller Weisberger, ethnobotanist and author of Rainforest Medicine: Preserving Indigenous Science and Biodiversity in the Upper Amazon


Structure of the Palo santo tree:

The development of the Bursera graveolens tree occurs depending on the quality of the place and the environmental factors that interact between it and the environment that surrounds it, having all the favorable conditions to reach heights of up to 18 meters, with a crown of up to 12 meters in diameter.

It is always found accompanied by the species hualtaco, charán, sapote, overo, vichayo, algarrobo (arid areas), and at higher altitudes it is confused with pasallo, ebony and others.

When foliated it has a lush, beautiful green color.


Palo santo tree trunk:

It can measure up to 80 cm in diameter. It is cylindrical in shape with a gray, brown and ash color. Stems have always been observed in a regular way or in irregular exceptions with disturbances, cracks and grooves.


Palo santo tree bark:

The outer cortex is smooth, with a lenticellar surface, as it has a rough appearance with grooves on the outside, it also has protrusions that are formed over time. When observing the bark on the outside, it looks smooth and fissured, presenting a grayish-purple to ash-brown color.

When a small cut (incision) is made, a liquid (resin) with a very pleasant smell characteristic of the species (aromatic) begins to exude, penetrating, immediately the resin has a white and yellowish color, which adheres to the fingers, later it becomes dark yellow to a transparent brownish hue.

Along the stem they present spots of grayish white and purple color, up to rough ash brown with a rough or grainy appearance.

Palo santo tree roots:

The roots of the palo santo are well developed, it can be seen that it has the ability to establish itself in all types of soil: stony, rocky, sandy, loose and light soils with silt, sand and clay.

Palo santo Tree: Leaves

The palo santo tree has compound, odd-pinnate and alternate leaves, they can have between 3 to 4 pairs of leaflets, but they can also reach up to 9 leaflets, their edge is serrated-toothed. The leaves are small bifoliate, with a large number of very flexible and brittle primary and secondary branches.

When proceeding to develop the measurements of the leaves of the evaluated trees, an average of 12 centimeters in length and a width of 6 centimeters was obtained. Regarding the smell, the leaves tend to be aromatic characteristic of the other parts of the tree and incense, in addition, when tasting the leaves, it turns a bitter ferrous taste. As for the coloration that they present, it ranges from a dark to pale green hue and as the days go by it turns a yellowish green color, due to the physiological process and the flowering and fruiting stages of the species.

Palo santo Tree: Flowers and flowering

The flowering of the palo santo, occurs in the months of May and June, fruiting in the middle of the month of June until July.

In addition, it has been observed that depending on the life zone and environmental and climatic factors are those that influence, and this causes the dates to be prolonged in the months indicated for both flowering and fruiting.

Bursera graveolens is a deciduous species and by the end of July and the beginning of August it has completely lost its foliage, this influences the height of the plant, because when it is with the foliage it is leafy and has a resplendent green color. It has been possible to observe the variety of insects that take advantage of the flowering, feeding permanently, likewise the native bees that take advantage of the nectar for honey.