Palo Santo and the Protection of Plant Medicine
Last week, a good friend sent me an Instagram post with quote"WHY WE NEED TO STOP USING PALO SANTO". Knowing that I sell the sweet smelling sticks in my shop - and also that I am a fierce protector of cultures and a student of many spiritual traditions - she kindly sent it to me. The post was nothing new to me since I actively stay up to date on this topic since I sell Palo Santo. Like many others, it was short, ill informed and from an Influencer with 191k followers... soooo irresponsible.
But what's worse were the comments. Spiritual folks battling about who did more research, who's info sources were more valid, who has visited Ecuador the most and one upping each other on what their individual experiences were. One girl posted that the source listed in the actual post didn't even list Palo Santo in their 'Endangered List' and invited others to check the source as well. She later posted that she was getting "hate DMs". How awful. Spiritual people cutting each other down with no love, no honor. They weren't listening. They weren't open to learning. They were an angry, righteous mob. And this is the mentality that will keep us small.
So, I want to talk a little about Palo Santo and other plant medicine. Palo Santo is a tree indigenous to Central and South America. There are two species - one that is used to make furniture and has been endangered for over a decade, and another that is used for spiritual practice and is not officially endangered. Both are called "Palo Santo" but we're only going to refer to the one not endangered and used for spiritual work.
This Palo Santo is used in many ways and for many ailments by the people close to its source, but in the global spiritual community, we burn it to cleanse a space of negative energies and toxins and during sacred work. It's not to be harvested by cutting, but rather, aged for 4-10 years after a branch falls or tree dies, otherwise the resin which gives it that amazing aroma isn't developed. In Peru and Ecuador, it's even illegal to cut a Palo Santo tree. But there are people out to make a quick buck anywhere, even to the detriment of their own communities. Some indigenous farmers have fallen to greed and you can find young, undeveloped Palo Santo for sale pretty easily if you're looking to buy cheap.
Even though the tree itself isn't endangered, the regions where it grows are. Many farmers and communities rely on their sale and export of sustainably harvested Palo Santo to maintain their land and their livelihood. This gives the whole community incentive to protect the land from developers, cattle farmers, miners, etc. If a good farmer cant pay taxes on his land, he will lose it to the next highest bidder. So buy smart and support the good farmers!
WHAT ABOUT OTHER PLANT MEDICINES?
There are plant medicines that we take regularly, into our bodies, to ease tummy aches like Mint and fall asleep like Chamomile. There are plant medicines that we make into salves and soaps, tinctures and teas. Cinnamon paste soothes a toothache and cabbage leaves applied topically reduce swelling and fever. We make syrups from Elderberries high in antioxidants and Vitamin C to boost our immune systems. And we steep Fire Cider with loads of healing plants - Ginger, Rosemary, Garlic, Onion, Clove - to heal ourselves in the winter months. You can find both of those recipes in our other blog posts.
Some anticeptic plants we burn to release parts of their medicine - like Sage and Cedar - and their smoke is one of nature's most ancient air purifiers because it effectively removes pathogens and toxins from the air. Various cultures from every continent have burned plants to cleanse. People also burn these plants during prayer and ceremonies, as a symbol of our prayers and intentions rising up to the heavens/Great Spirit.
There are plant medicines like Ayahuasca, Peyote, Cannabis and Psilocybin that will take you on a spiritual and sometimes evolutionary journey. Peyote and Ayahuasca are currently in danger. And for different reasons. Their spirits are disrespected and the plants over harvested. In Nayarit, Mexico, there is a large piece of land where the Wixarika people have harvested Peyote in their traditional ways for thousands of years. The land is being sold to mining companies, fenced off, and the guardians of the Peyote land not permitted to use their sacred land. In Acre, Brazil, thousands of acres of land have been deforested to make room for cattle farms. There is a group led by an amazing change maker who has already planted 1,00,000 trees to combat the deforestation. You can help him to continue to regenerate the ecosystem in the Amazon and contribute here.
I'm not an expert in global plant medicines by any means, but living/working/BEing in the spiritual wellness space has given me lots of opportunities to listen and to learn. So I share my thoughts and understandings in hopes to inspire your own path of growing and seeking. And I invite you to share your comments and your learnings so that we can all expand and unite in a collective consciousness.
LOVE + HONOR EACH OTHER AND OUR PLANET.