We answer this controversial question – for a number of important reasons, primarily environmental and ethical. The issue is quite complex, and education and awareness of the problem has so far been suppressed. The world has gone crazy (all in all, a very good thing) about spirituality, but it’s gotten a little too crazy, and we have the first negative effects of that. Social media is spamming about meditation, yoga, Ayahuasca ceremonies and psilocybin mushrooms, all engulfed in the smoke of that remarkable incense that is palo santo.
What is palo santo? For what purpose is it used?
Palo santo is Latin for bursera graveolens, is a tree that grows in the wild Amazon, literally translated means “sacred stick,” called “sacred tree” by the Indians. Its wood is used to make incense, which has a very intense exotic fragrance with sweet citrus notes. Palo santo smoke is an integral part of ceremonies held by indigenous Indians. Since the Inca Empire used in plant medicine, smoked by shamans accompanies folk rituals. It has extraordinary healing properties, cleanses the mind, aura, protects the soul and body, restores emotional balance. One could go on at length about its wonderful benefits and the purpose for which it is used. But that’s not what this article is about….
Why does everyone smoke palo santo and white sage?
The Earth has entered the Age of Aquarius, changes can be seen with the naked eye, energy has accelerated – we have slowed down. To have or to be? This is a question more people are asking themselves now than even 20 years ago. Favorable astrological circumstances have unblocked energy stagnation. More people began to look within themselves, to ponder the meaning of existence. The focus on spirituality took hold. But of course, it’s never like a fairy tale…Capitalism and consumerism won’t disappear as if by magic, and all people won’t suddenly become wise and foresighted. Although the searchers for their own souls is increasing, unfortunately, not all are looking where they should. Rituals of eating psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca ceremonies, san pedro and many other activities using plant medicine have returned to favor. People want to have a healthy body and spirit, they practice yoga, mindfulness, meditation. Praise them for this, but…In addition to mere mortals, all these things are also done by famous people – celebrities who love to share their lives on social media. And as we already know, by the same token, they are influencing global trends and fashion. That’s why, as one blogger went to an ayahuasca ritual, her followers also want, I also want to burn the same incense as her. And if the company importing the incense of palo santo or white sage still pays for the fasting, then hullo hell no soul! And it is. That hell is lack of knowledge and imagination.
Why is the use of palo santo harmful?
Smoke from palo santo incense is not harmful by itself, on the contrary – but everything that happens around the process of using this folk healing method is wrong. Palo santo and white sage (the second most misused incense) have entered the mainstream, even though they are plants used by the indigenous peoples of South America and should theoretically be a national asset and there to stay. Unfortunately, the modern world is ruthless and wants to make money on spirituality too. So why not use palo santo? Here are some reasons:
Sourcing of palo santo affects the natural environment of the Amazon forest
According to the IUCN ranking, or CITES, the palo santo is not a tree species in danger of extinction. However, environmentalists and locals point out the lack of control over the harvesting of the tree. A mature individual is about 50 to 70 years old, so overexploitation will seriously affect the entire ecosystem, not just one species. Plantations are established illegally, often on nature reserves, besides, in order for the wood to be intended for incense, it must lie for about 10 years after dying, and under conditions like those in the jungle, in order to retain its spirit and valuable properties. Logging-although illegal in Peru and Ecuador-is very difficult to control. So how does this process relate to filling the market needs of the entire world so rapidly? Smugglers, smugglers and the entire “Amazon mafia” do not wait for the wood to soak up the aroma of resin from the mulch, they cut the sticks without worrying whether the spirit has had time to soak in or not. After all, you can always soak it in a synthetic flavor. And gitarrra! The money agrees, people are happy to have a piece of luxury, they inhale some artificial syrup, and the planet cries!
Certified palo santo
The market is full of companies distributing palo santo, which has no labels, markings or even a specific place of origin, before you fire it up, consider whether it’s worth it. Of course, there will always be an alternative, some other way, maybe more expensive, but to make it ecosreko nonetheless. And that’s how certified palo santo products were created, where the harvesting of wood is done in a sustainable way. These are small companies that interact closely with the indigenous community. They participate in the production stages, take part in the collection of raw material, and support indigenous peoples by contributing to the spread of cultural awareness by subsidizing various educational centers. I recommend checking and verifying the transparency of the company, if you are already very insistent on using exotic folk medicine and choose certified palo santo.
Palo santo is environmentally unfriendly – distribution leaves a carbon footprint
If you insist on buying a certified Holy Tree – maybe this argument will convince you. Palo santo distribution leaves a carbon footprint! Due to the whim of the European ezosviruses, tons of dregs travel halfway around the globe, on planes, ships, trains and cars, emitting a huge amount of exhaust fumes. You fire up a sweet smoke of incense, and outside the window a cloud of unnecessary fumes. Who needs it? Well, but spirituality after all! mood! Without palo santo it will not work out! – Well, it can be done.
The ethics of using palo santo.
One can be an eco-skeptic and not care about the forests in the Amazon, the question is whether one can be ignorant of the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people? That’s right, such an oxymoron – “suffering and palo sanoto”. The ethics of using palo santo carries education in the appropriation of cultural heritage. The white man takes what he wants, he seized the land of the Indians, carrying out the colonization of America, he seized the Indians – taking them into slavery, and now he is taking their sacrum – sacred rituals and plants. Palo santo and white sage are part of their natural medicine, which they had rooted in tradition for centuries. Shamans, with the help of sacred plants, healed, cured and managed the energy of the world in their communities, until here suddenly Western civilization stepped in with momentum, with narcoterrorism and a desire to touch the Great Mystery. Spirituality has become a commodity, an element of religious ritual has been put up for sale. (Interestingly, no one wants to buy Polish holy water). Not so long ago, Indians were persecuted for their culture, banned from religious practices, forcibly altered, adapted to “white norms,” taken from their parents, families separated and murdered in cold blood. The recent discovery in Canada (read more) is just further evidence of the brutality with which the Indian population has been handled. And here suddenly someone has discovered that maybe these spells of theirs are not, so bad? This bloody hypocrisy is a stain on the honor of the West.
You praise others, you don’t know your own. What to replace palo santo with?
We are in a time of spiritual rebirth, we have thrown ourselves into exotic ways of connecting with the universe, we go to ceremonies in Peru, we spritz ourselves with toad bufotenin, we devour Mexican psilocybin mushrooms, we smoke palo santo. Why? Because, once again, we lack education and awareness.
If the church had not seized our pagan customs and taken over Slavic rituals and festivals, their mystical traditions would not have been so suppressed. And yet we also had our shamans, just like the Indians, we also had our psilocybin mushrooms, just like the Indians, and instead of palo santo, we have herbs that attract well-being and ward off evil spirits and demons. It’s just a shame that we know so little about them.
These shamans were witches and hags who had knowledge of plants, knew how to talk to them and apply them appropriately, unfortunately witches were burned at the stakes all over Europe. A conspiracy of silence prevailed, the church did everything to prevent people from reaching the secret knowledge, in order to manipulate society. Hallucinogenic mushrooms grew and grow until now in wild pastures and meadows – lanceolatecoot – thanks to them our Slavic great-grandparents connected with the gods, had access to the Great Mystery. Unfortunately, we were also forbidden to eat mushrooms.
Fortunately, Polish herbs are still free of restrictions. That is why you are able to replace palo santo or white sage with them. Among the many witchhazel plants of particular note are mugwort, (wormwood being the most potent), dandelion, goldenrod, lavender, angelica and many others. You don’t have to make any special effort in your search at all, these are common weeds in meadows and gardens. If you’d like to delve deeper into the topic of natural incense and learn how to make it yourself, check out our post on herbal incense, and ready-made substitutes for exotic dregs at this link.
You praise another’s, you don’t know your own – so in conclusion, I think dear reader, you already know why we don’t use palo santo. I hope that I have at least given some thought to the use of the goods of local traditions and their global impact. Mother Earth takes care of us, distributes equally, only we sometimes stray from the paths that are written for us by nature.