Palo Santo, or Bursera Graveolens is a sacred tree prevalent in South America, with the biggest growth happening in Ecuador and Peru. The therapeutic benefits of Palo Santo are many, it is highly medicinal and healing. The highest quality oils form in the aged heartwood, which is used in sacred ceremonies and for healing by specific local cultures. The alluring, heady scent of the resin is one of the major contributors to its rise in popularity in the West. However, the practise of 'smudging' is different to smoke cleansing and is sacred to Indigenous cultures and Shamans. I strongly believe that we should leave indigenous practises to indigenous cultures as a sign of respect. Palo Santo is also now over-consumed and a way of corporate companies exploiting both the environment and workers for money. There are plenty of other ways to smoke cleanse, let's leave smudging to the native folk!
White Sage has been used for centuries, by Indigenous tribes in spiritual ceremonies to cleanse, purify and pray. Whether you believe it to be cultural appreciation rather than appropriation, the environmental devastation that excessive sage harvesting causes cannot be debated! For traditional use, Palo Santo should be harvested only once the tree has died and is resting on the forest floor, otherwise the smudging won’t be effective according to forest communities. The main problem comes from this wait time as it takes 50 years for one species of the Palo Santo to die, and 200 years for the other species to die. This leads to it being illegally harvested and unsustainably sourced as it is being harvested faster than it can be replaced, threatening the species and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. A member of the mint family, White Sage has tapering silver leaves that, like many herbs, grows more vigorously when pruned—but only to a point. The species still thrives in some remote and inaccessible areas, including on private property, but across much of its range has been reduced to mere fragments. Poachers are now targeting reserves, risking fines and in some cases jail; outside reserves, where harvesting white sage is still legal, the plant, once abundant, is increasingly scarce. There is so much illegal harvesting of White Sage, and again, there is huge exploitation and danger for the pickers. If you are interested, just google the environmental effects of the harvesting of these plants, there is so much information out there! If you still feel you need White Sage in your practise, ensure that you are purchasing from a traceable source. I personally strongly believe that we should leave closed practises to native people. There are so many other, more sustainable plants we can use.