The holy stick (Bursera graveolens Triana & Planch., 1872) is a tropical arboreal species of the Bursareacee family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Plantae Kingdom, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Sapindales Order, Burseraceae Family and thus to the Bursera Genus and the B. graveolens Species.
The term Bursera of the kind was dedicated to Joachim Burs (ch) er (1583-1639), a German physician, a student of C. Bauhin, who herbalized on the mountains near Salzburg and the Valais.
The specific epithet graveolens comes from severe, annoying greyscale and odor exhaling oil, which emanates an intense or unpleasant odor.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Holy stick is a species that grows spontaneously in Central and South America and is cultivated in some countries, such as Ecuador and Peru.
Bursera graveolens is a tropical tree that can reach heights of about 18 meters.
It has small, opposite leaves of light green color.
The flowers, small, have four petals, whitish in color and with anthers of yellow protruding from the flowers.
The fruits, ovoid in shape, are dark green.
The holy stick tree grows or is grown in very different areas of South America, with the result that the chemical composition of the plant, and therefore its properties, are not comparable.
In fact, the characteristics of the final products, their properties, the applications are greatly affected by the cultivation technique adopted or the areas where it grows spontaneously and the period elapsed between his death and the contact with the surrounding environment and the subsequent processes.
Uses and Traditions –
The first description of the Bursera graveolens dates back to 1824 following a German expedition to the Americas by Karl Wilhelm von Humboldt. The name Palosanto is a term given locally to other plants, of other species, while the Palosanto, or the wood of Bursera graveolens, is also known by other names.
From the wood of this plant craft objects are obtained, sticks to burn (incense), but, from the European point of view, it is extracted above all a highly appreciated essential oil, which contains the linaloe. The chemical composition is variable, from which they derive perhaps an unequal efficiency and certainly very different perfume notes.
The holy stick has very ancient origins, it was used by Inca shamans in their religious rituals as a means to ward off the negative energies through a dense smoke of great spiritual power.
Native Americans used the holy pole to clear the air of all negativity, and even today, the use is the same, especially for those who believe in its supernatural properties.
Together with stones, crystals and amulets, the smoke of the holy pole has the power to purify the environment from all negative energies. Through specific ritual gestures (such as tightening the crystal when it comes in contact with smoke on its chest) it is also possible to free the mind from negative thoughts, stress, fatigue and migraine. Thinking about the positive things and what you want to achieve in your life, during these spiritual and introspective rites, you can find a kind of satisfaction and strength to deal with everything more safely.
Since ancient times this tree was used not only in rituals but also for therapeutic purposes, by virtue of its medicinal properties. Thanks to its healing powers, its essence was used to heal skin and muscle problems; the cooking water of the bark was used for the treatment of stomach disorders; and finally the ash of his wood was used to heal wounds.
In fact, in Peru and Ecuador the smoke of the Palo Santo is still used today to ward off mosquitoes and flying insects of different kinds, in a completely natural way.
Depending on the precise area in which it grows, it acquires specific substances and properties from the ground.
In fact, you can distinguish 3 qualities of holy wood, according to their origin:
The holy pole of Amarillo quality, from Ecuador, which has a yellowish color and a balsamic scent, with marine notes.
Especial quality is that of shrubs from northern Peru and southern Ecuador, and, possessing a high amount of limonene, gives its shrimps a more intense and citrus aroma.
The holy pole Selecciòn, like the Especial one, is rich in limonene but, unlike the other, it is sold in smaller pieces to facilitate its ignition.
The benefits deriving from Bursera graveolens wood are such only when the tree used died for natural causes or for reasons of old age, that is, after 90 years from its birth (average life of this shrub). In order to benefit from this product, it is necessary to allow about 3-4 years after death, so that the plant continues its decomposition process. During this period the plant absorbs all the energy and sacred virtues, being charged with supernatural and positive properties; in this same period it produces an oil that, once burned, generates a dense, whitish smoke from the high spiritual powers.
At the scientific level, in fact, the particular scent that wood takes in this period is due to the fact that, since the tree lies on the ground and comes into contact, they come to create fungi and microorganisms inside.
Its aroma is a bit reminiscent of a mixture of perfumes already known, with a very decided tone of mint and citrus.
From the wood of this vegetable you can get a very precious essential oil and also handicraft items such as some incense, traditionally obtained by cutting with a pot, extracting sticks to burn about 10 centimeters long, without damaging the forest in any way.
The more years that pass before the tree is used for such purposes, the more sacred it is. Those who come into contact with it during this period of immobility fully respect the shrub and the place where it is located, without violating even the surrounding nature. They simply absorb, even with the simple proximity, the first positive energies that the tree receives and, at the same time, emanates.
The products obtained from this plant are many and each of them has different properties:
– holy stick Paletto: a stick to burn that can purify the environment, ideal for meditation and very useful to eliminate bad smells;
– Essential oil of holy stick: very used product in aromatherapy; it is able to relieve coughs, colds and headaches, and is also very useful in case of allergies or to relieve anxiety or asthma. In addition, this oil is also widely used for meditation and psychophysical relaxation;
– Lynpha of holy stick: oil extracted from the bark and resin of this plant, is particularly useful for treating skin diseases;
– Sahumerio: incense used to keep insects away but also the common vampire or a bat that feeds on the blood of cattle;
– Aguita: herbal tea used to heal problems related to the urinary, intestinal, respiratory;
– Holy stick chips: useful for fumigations;
– Incense of holy stick: essence used mainly for meditation and to perfume the environment.
The holy stick is also used in the creation of products for the cosmetic industry such as bath foam, shampoo, soap for intimate hygiene etc.
As for meditation, on the other hand, the use of smoke created by the combustion of the derivatives of this shrub facilitates the connection with nature, with the source of life and everything around us.
From the point of view of efficacy, in vitro and human studies of Palosanto appear to be in progress in Europe. Animal experiments do not appear to have been conducted. The goal may be to find innovative and more effective cosmetic products or drugs, but the company or companies concerned may not be willing to provide information, as is often the case.
Preparation mode –
You can use the holy pole with a stick, held in your hands, to be carried around the room, so as to permeate the environment as much as possible. The pleasant scent that spreads everywhere, inebriates the senses and ensures that the person performing the ritual can experience a sense of satisfaction as soon as possible.
Alternatively, the bullets can also be placed in an ashtray or in a metal container and allowed to consume for ten minutes in a closed room.
Unlike the incense of more common use, it is necessary to refuel from time to time the flame of the wood of the holy pole, which is more prone to go out.
Also, although you have the possibility to light the flame with any flame, you must still have some small shortening. The flame (of the lighter for example) must not be kept on long enough to start the combustion; it is best to keep it close to the booth for a few seconds and then switch it off by repeating the operation 4 or 5 times and shaking the boil, as when turning off a wax.
Only with this ignition method can one avoid avoiding excessive burning and blackening of the wood itself, and thus, the perfume and the success of the purification of the environment are not compromised either.
The combustion, besides making the wood become dark, also burns the resin that is inside. Since it is precisely the resin that gives the particular aroma to the smoke emitted by the shroud of the holy pole, when it is compromised by the wrong combustion, the environment assumes an unpleasant odor and the main purpose for which the holy pole is destined is vanished : to clear the senses.
By distilling in steam stream from the wood of Bursera graveolens one obtains an essential oil characterized by an intense and peculiar aroma. The natural process used for distillation (carried out on site) is a patent that is regularly filed.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and Experiences with Medicinal Herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Publisher.
Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and allimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; therefore, any responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes is disclaimed.
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