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A palo con ellos!!

Palo Santo has reached Brooklyn. Not the parts of Brooklyn where Ecuadorians live. The parts where transient young Americans move to in hopes that they can reenact an episode from Sex and the City.

But what exactly is Palo Santo?

Palo Santo's scientific name is Bursera graveolens. It is native to Peru, Ecuador and surrounding lands. It thrives in dry, tropical forests, and when burned it produces a sweet but musky scent. Translated as “holy wood" in Spanish it has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Traditionally used by Incan shamans/ curanderos in rituals to drive off evil spirits and cleanse the land from the dark energies. It has a concentration of Limonene, a substance used in natural insect repellents. It has been found to be analgesic (pain-relieving) and posses anti-inflammatory properties while clearing out negative energy. Like Palo Santo Tainos originated in the northernmost area of South America.

4,000 years ago Tainos used the rivers that today cross Venezuela to reach the Caribbean Sea. This is why I chose to offer responsibly harvested Palo Santo. The burning of this palo honors those ancestors that marked our identity before we established ourselves in modern day Dominican Republic and Haiti. I find that it meets the user where they are meaning if you are angry and use it, you will be left to process your anger.

But Palo de Cuaba, or Cuaba bark, is what resonates with our energetic signature. This is because Palo de Cuaba is harvested in the Dominican Republic. Cuaba is formed via the accumulation of resin at the base of Pine trees native to the Dominican Republic. Our ancestors would make torches out of cuaba because of its long burning time.

image of dominican pine tree

(c) Joey Santore  iNaturalist

Today it is occasionally used in our outdoor stoves and bbq pits to add a distinct taste to our traditional dishes. However, there is no dedicated harvesting of cuaba as it can only be done sustainably if we rescue the pieces of cuaba from pine trees already being toppled. This makes cuaba very special and something we might not be able to offer for eternity. For now we ensure that our cuaba is sustainably harvested.

Cuaba can be used similarly to Palo Santo or Sage but I find it amplifies our ancestral prayers more effectively. It's smell is sweeter and lighter than Palo Santo. And it can also be used to add a distinct flavor to your BBQ! Cuaba is spiritually used to dominate others, or situations. Want to silence someone? chew on a piece of cuaba before you start speaking to them. You can also use it to cleanse your space of funky energy.

Pictured is a handmade palo santo holder made from stones in the Dominican Republic.

To use Palo Santo or Palo de Cuaba I recommend you open your windows and front door. Then walk from the back of your home to the front. While doing this you can pray, chant, or simply ask for the removal of any negative energy, and welcome in good things like abundance, peace, and love. If meditating or holding a ritual after cleansing your space prop your palo of choice on our Palo Holder.

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