Lately I have heard quite a few people inquire about palo santo smudge sticks and the ‘endangered’ status of the trees.
There is a lot of misinformation on the internet, so I thought I would write this article to help end the confusion regarding palo santo wood.
The truth is that the palo santo which we burn and use for incense (Bursera Graveolens) is not endangered. The confusion stems from the fact that it’s close relative (Bulnesia Sarmientoi) is endangered. That particular variety is indeed used commercially in their local regions, but Peruvian and Ecuadorian palo santo is almost always Bursera Graveolens, which is not an endangered variety.
In fact, the primarily cause of destruction towards Peruvian and Ecuadorian palo santo trees is construction and development. As long as you purchase ethically sourced palo santo, it can actually contribute towards keeping these trees alive. The income source gives the local communities decent reasons to not tear the forests down in place of more lucrative projects.
Infact, many experts, such as those at the IUCN have said that the demand for palo santo, combined with ethical farming and cultivation could actually be good for the longevity of the species.
Make Sure Your Palo Santo is Ethnically Sourced
Ethically sourced palo santo comes from fallen limbs which have aged in the woods for 4 to 10 years. There is some valid concern that some of these suppliers may tear the wood down early to increase profits. Not only is this a huge blow to the ethical farming and conservation efforts, but it can also affect the quality, because those people are not likely to wait the full amount of time it takes for the limbs to develop their fragrant resin.
You should ask your potential supplier whether or not their palo santo is ethically sourced.
If they don’t know, then you should look elsewhere.
This holy wood is very important to those local cultures and without it, they would be missing a piece of their history. Purchasing ethically sourced palo santo helps ensure that the species, as well as it’s fragrant wood, remains alive and available for generations to come.