For centuries, Palo Santo has been used for it’s healing and cleansing properties. The tree grows in coastal areas of South America, is in the citrus family, and smells of pine, mint and lemon. It is a relative of Frankincense, Myrrh and Copal. Palo Santo translates to “Holy Wood” or “Sacred Wood” in English.
Dante Bolcato (top photo, lower left) makes products sold on his website, El Artesan, in Puerto Lopez. While walking along the malecon, you can find his store by following your nose – there is always Palo Santo wood smoking on the front sidewalk. In fact, in the evenings, you will smell Palo Santo smoking in many Puerto Lopez neighborhoods as families burn it to keep mosquitoes away.
You can take a tour of the manufacturing area, often a highlight for visitors. You witness the manual process that goes into making each product, like chopping pieces of wood, forming incense cones, and processing oil. The manufacturing plant is in the hills surrounding Puerto Lopez. Ask at the malecon store if you can schedule a tour through them. As of this writing, the tours are free but I recommend tipping your guide for their time and expertise.
Palo Santo Uses
- Smoke wood chunks to keep mosquitoes away from outdoor gatherings. (Light the wood, then let it smolder rather than burn with flames.)
- Apply topical oil to treat arthritis and joint pain.
- Burn incense cones in homes, restaurants and hotels to keep insects away from customers.
- Smudge homes and offices.
- Brew tea from the wood shavings for digestive aids, immune support and to reduce inflammation.
Harvesting Palo Santo
Palo Santo trees are protected. All wood is harvested from already dead trees and limbs in Machalilla National Park, which surrounds Puerto Lopez. Dante’s environmentally friendly family and company also plant new trees, helping to ensure a healthy future for these incredible trees.
A look back
Last year, I wrote Post-earthquake makeshift camps.