Essential Oil Highlight: Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens)

Botanical Family: Palo Santo belongs to the Burseracae family, as Frankinsence does

Background information:

Palo Santo is translated to mean “holy or sacred wood” in Spanish. It is known by the Incas to be spiritual oil and used to purify and cleanse the air of negative energies. It takes 9 kg or 19.8 lbs of sawdust to produce 500 ml of essential oils.

The wood must be dead for at least two years before the therapeutic oil can be pulled into the heartwood. This is not only for therapeutic reasons; it is believed by the indigenous cultures to be unsacred to cut down the living tree. The red wood oil produces the higher quality oil, because it has a higher percentage of limonene, a highly antiviral and anti-cancerous constituent.


Monoterpenes (d-limonene up 76%)- tend to inhibit toxin accumulation in cells and dispel existing toxins from the body. They are generally stimulating and soothing to irritated tissues.

Alcohols (alpha-terpineol 8-12%)-are highly anti-bacterial, anti-infectious, and anti-viral. They help increase blood circulation.

Sesquiterpenes (eudesmene)- can inhibit microbe growth, prevent inflammation, support blood pressure,  and relax the body. They are soothing to skin and work to stimulate glands. They have been found to increase oxygenation around the pineal and pituitary gland through their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Sesquiterpene alcohols-are immune supporting, may assist with histamine clearance, act as liver and glandular stimulants, and support the stomach.

Lactones (furanoids)- are photosensitive chemicals that accentuate the properties of other constituents


Palo Santo is has just recently been re-discovered and is beginning to be researched by scientists for its various properties. It has been used in clinics in Ecuador to support ligaments and tissues. Its constituents would suggest palo santo to be effective for mood enhancement, hormone regulation, and immune support.

I have found it helpful to use for discomfort ligament support and mood enhancement in my practice when indicated. A little oil goes a long way.


1. Essential Oils Desk Reference 4th ed. ESP

2. Essential Oils Integrative Medical Guide. Young, Gary

3. Reference Guide for Essential Oils. Hiley, C & A.

Additional Properties of Palo Santo in peer-reviewed journals:

4. Nakanishi T, Inatomi Y, Murata H, Shigeta K, Iida N, Inada A, Murata J, Farrera MA, Iinuma M, Tanaka T, Tajima S, Oku N. A new and known cytotoxic aryltetralin-type lignans from stems of Bursera graveolens. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2005 Feb;53(2):229-31. PMID: 15684524

Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic, Grade A essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been AFNOR and ISO standardized. There is no quality control in the United States and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. This information is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. It is always safest to consult a licensed healthcare professional about the use of any kind of medicine.