How to find good Palo Santo quality?
What is palo santo?
It is the wood of a very popular tree all over the world, Elon Musk himself used it to bring luck to one of his space tests, read more in Return to Space (2022) , but it is actually used as incense because it has aromatic and relaxing properties. The peculiarity of this natural incense, which must be sustainably harvested, is that the older the tree, the higher the quality of its wood. In fact, the best quality sticks are from naturally dead trees that even contain “small holes”, either from decomposition or decay, either from the tree’s own decomposition or from possible insects that attacked the wood in the natural decomposition process.
Are the holes in the palo santo an indicator of bad or low quality? Palo Santo natural
The holes indicate that the tree died in a natural way and was a long time in the process of natural drying in the sun in the dry forests of northern Peru, are rather a guarantee of authenticity of the product, a natural mark of quality.
In recent years there has been a tendency in the Asian market (which demands beauty above all things) to look for and buy palo santo without holes, this goes directly against the sustainability of the product, since most of the wood harvested has holes and this is seen as a low quality product by some importers and demanded at lower prices than a product as special as palo santo should be sold.
We recommend to be careful when the palo santo wood has no hollows and is of uniform color. Some companies are offering felled product, that is, cut from a live tree. The felled tree has none of the properties of the naturally dead tree, and much of what is marketed is not natural, authentic palo santo.
Another part of the market is flooded with fake palo santo, sellers of Chinese or Hindu origin, use other species of wood bathed in essential oil but which smell differently when burned.
The truth about natural palo santo vs fake palo santo
Natural Palo Santo
- The wood is dark brown or light brown, very veined, in some cases it even has parts of solidified essential oil (very old wood).
- It does not splinter.
- It is slow burning, it takes longer to extinguish the flame once lit.
- It is more irregular in texture, more aged and even with holes (as a result of pests or decomposition).
- When burning, it gives off very dense white smoke and a strong aroma.
Fake Palo Santo
- They use similar woods which are bathed in natural essential oil of palo santo to add the scent of the product.
- Wood from the palo santo tree, felled alive for production and marketing (aroma and properties almost non-existent), you can notice mold on the outside, this is because it does not reach the moisture of the naturally dead palo santo and is filled with fungus and mold.
- The wood is very clear, or also of another variety called palo santo blanco, a forest spice similar to palo santo but with a different smell when burning.
- It splinters easily, takes a long time to ignite and is of faster combustion (it burns before the natural one).They use similar woods which are bathed in natural essential oil of palo santo to add the scent of the product.
- Its smoke is black or white, almost transparent.
How can we contribute to the sustainable use of palo santo?
Importers, distributors or people who consume this wonderful incense should help to take care of this resource for the enjoyment of future generations, the palo santo is under high stress by market demand and is subject to illegal trade and that threatens the species. Here are some recommendations:
- Do not only buy perfect palo santo, without holes, keep in mind that by doing so you are leaving in a vulnerable position the local communities that collect the resource, to which they pay less price for a product with a hole that has the same quality as the palo santo that does not have holes.
- Buy only from companies that have a sustainable, ethical, environmentally friendly, reforestation program. Many companies continue exporting in spite of millionaire fines and proven bad work, in the country there is a malpractice that allows these companies to buy illegal palo santo and legalize it with false forestry guides.
- Do not only use rosewood incense sticks, also use the essential oil of palos santo or its derivative products such as sticks and cones, thus contributing to a circular economy that takes advantage of all the wood of palo santo in an integral way.