Palo Santo – a love affair between a man and a tree

6.08.2020

In 2005, Gary Young (the founder of Young Living) was invited to Ecuador by Dr. Rodas, Dean of the Medical School at the University of Azuay in Cuenca. 

Dr. Rodas was so impressed by Gary’s knowledge and work with essential oils that he asked Gary to teach his medical students about the power of essential oils. 

That project brought Gary and Mary and their young family to Ecuador, where they remained for many years. During that time, they established Young Living’s farm in Ecuador, located 45 minutes from the city of Guayaquil. Many of our oils come from there, including Palo Santo, Eucalyptus Blue, Lemongrass, Ylang Ylang and Dorado Azul.

In 2005 Gary put out a call…who wanted to join him on an adventure in Ecuador? I couldn’t resist the opportunity to continue my journey of discovery with my mentor & friend. 

During that adventure, Gary introduced us to Mr. Dante, an Italian Psychologist. Here’s his remarkable story…..


A Love Affair between a man and a tree…

In 1990, Mr. Dante (pictured left) visited Ecuador for the first time, and decided to go on a guided tour. During the tour, the guide gave him a piece of Palo Santo wood, and told him that the locals burn the wood as an insect repellant. 

As he inhaled the exotic aroma of the Palo Santo wood, he was transported back to Italy to the fields of oranges and lemons nearby where he used to live. 

The tour guide’s voice interrupted this beautiful memory, and Mr Dante came back into present time just as the tour guide was saying that: 

Palo Santo wood is very useful for clearing bad energy. In fact, its name translates as “Holy Wood”.


Being a psychologist, of course he pricked up his ears. Here he was dreaming of lemons, which are great for cleansing….and he noticed that the Palo Santo wood actually looks a bit like the inside of a lemon. It has “furrows” in it like the sections of a lemon. 

He was fascinated by the idea that it could clear bad energy, so he started investigating.

What he discovered is that Palo Santo wood is not only used to help people feel happier within themselves. It’s also used for spiritual protection. 

The locals burn Palo Santo wood and put it on top of the diapers. When those diapers are put onto a child, it protects that child from bad energy and negative emotions. 

After that, Mr. Dante started researching the rituals used by local Shamans. The Shamans would burn the Palo Santo wood, and use it to “smudge” or clear the energy of a home….in the same way that dried sage is used by the Native Americans. 

The Shamans say that Palo Santo is a “jealous” tree, so during this cleansing ritual they always close the windows and doors to keep the smoke inside – and they encourage you to do the same if you are ever using it to smudge a home. Palo Santo is like a man with a gorgeous woman at his side. He wants to keep his woman behind closed doors, so she is not stolen from him by other men.


The first experience Mr. Dante had with a Shamanic ritual was with a 36 year old lady suffering deep, strong negativity. No one liked her – she had very “dark” energy. Yet at the end of the Palo Santo smudging ritual, she walked out of the room smiling. 

“What is inside of Palo Santo that makes people change like that?” Mr. Dante wondered. And so he went back to Italy, packed up all of his belongings, and moved to Ecuador to study Palo Santo, and devote his life to this amazing tree. 


The Discovery of Palo Santo essential oil

Mr Dante was so excited by the power of the Palo Santo wood, that he wanted to explore it further. 

He noticed that when he took a piece of Palo Santo wood and set it alight (as the Shamans would do), it would catch fire very fast. He realised it was something inside the tree that was causing it to light up so fast….and after some experimentation he discovered that living inside of the dry, dead heart wood is the tree’s essential oil. 

The dark lines inside the wood in this picture on the right are the trails of essential oil.

Nature’s Revenge

I love this part of the Palo Santo love story. I call it “Nature’s Revenge”, because this amazing tree will only gift us its oil under its terms, not ours. We can’t force it to give us oil. We need to be patient, and let it be willing to give its oil to us. 

Mr. Dante had done many years of searching, so that he could understand how to best extract the essential oil from the Palo Santo tree. During his years of research, he discovered that the essential oil will only come out of the dead, dry heart wood of the tree if it has been allowed to self-dry. The oil is not present in the leaves or the flowers of the Palo Santo tree, and it can’t be harvested from the living tree.

You can scrape the bark (as we did in this picture) and you can smell the oil. 

But if you cut down the Palo Santo tree and try to extract oil from it, you won’t get any. If you start carving the tree, no oil appears. If you cut the tree and let it dry, it still won’t gift you with its oil. 

It’s only if the tree dies naturally that it will grace you with its beautiful oil….and only after many years have passed. 

2 to 5 years after the tree has died naturally, the outer parts of the tree will have disintegrated, leaving the heart wood behind. And that’s the part of the tree that is chipped and distilled in order to extract this amazing essential oil. 

Next week, join me as I share more about this amazing essential oil, how it is made, and Gary Young’s favourite uses for Palo Santo oil. 


Would you like to try Palo Santo oil? Here’s how to order… 

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