秘魯聖木的學名為 Bursera Graveolens，現於墨西哥、秘魯、委內瑞拉、哥斯達黎加、薩爾瓦多、危地馬拉、洪都拉斯、哥倫比亞和厄瓜多爾等地都能找到這種香水樹的蹤影。昔日由於西班牙僧侶發現秘魯聖木的淨化和療癒能力，所以將樹命名為「Palo Santo」，有「聖木」（Holy Wood）或「聖徒之木」（Wood of the Saints）的意思。而自古印加時期，秘魯聖木更用於薩滿儀式之中，以焚燒木頭所飄散的煙與香氣來驅散惡靈和頑疾。印加人非常重視聖木，質素較下等的會用作煙燻淨化，中等質素的聖木則用來製作法仗，而最頂級的聖木更是永久禁止開採，並視作神靈一樣膜拜。時至今天，南美洲西面安第斯山脈一帶的薩滿和巫師，仍以秘魯聖木作為儀式中的淨化工具。
It would seem that human beings have always been yearning to cleanse their soul and to seek a balance in their mind and body. Nevertheless, there are always bound to be those who take the opposite way, thereby weaving together a web of clamours and chaos in this world. Therefore, different religions and traditions have their own beliefs in purification methods. For instance, in Asia and in Buddhism, sandal wood is widely known whereas in Christianity, the burning of myrrh and frankincense is preferred. The New Age Movement, which has been catapulted to the mainstream in recent years, promotes white sage commonly used by native Americans. As for South America, Palo Santo trees have been widely used since the times of the Inca civilization.
The fragrant wood Palo Santo, whose botanical name is Bursera Graveolens, can be found nowadays in countries such as Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia and Ecuador. In the old days, Spanish monks discovered the purification and healing powers of this holy tree, and thus, decided to name it “Palo Santo”, which means Holy Wood or Wood of the Saints. Back in the Inca era, Palo Santo had even been used in Shamanism ceremonies. Burning their wood would give off smoke and aroma for driving away evil spirits and recurring illnesses. The Incans took Palo Santo very seriously. Inferior woods were used for their smoke and purification while those of medium quality were used for making staffs. The logging of those of the highest quality had always been prohibited. Instead, they were worshipped in the same way as the deities were. Even nowadays, shamans and wizards residing in the vicinity of the Andes mountain range in the western part of South America still use Palo Santo for purification purposes in ceremonies.
In the modern age, every decade or so witnesses a city undergoing a major transformation, and artificial intelligence is about to completely transform our lifestyle. However, over-development and pathological consumption can never respond to our desire for an equilibrium in body and soul. Thus, spiritual training and purification exercises practiced in ancient civilizations have found their way into city life. Deemed considerably suitable for city dwellers, Palo Santo not only contains highly pure limonene, but also medicinal terpenes, which have strong anti-oxidizing, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial abilities. At the same time, the monoterpenes, monoterpenols and oxide components inside them can also serve to cure cold, coughing, muscle pain and joint stiffness. Back in the Inca era, Palo Santo used to be a widely used natural insect repellent, thereby especially well suited to hot and humid areas such as Hong Kong. In addition, Palo Santo also has a unique wood and copal aroma, giving off a subtle, gentle and warm scent, which can help relieve anxiety, agitation and fear, as well as tranquilize the mind in preparation for spiritual training.
Generally speaking, Palo Santo needs to remain in its natural state for four to ten years after they die naturally. It is because following their death they will continue to ferment, producing antibody in the form of oil. The longer the fermentation process, the more monoterpenes and monoterpenols will be produced. Therefore, if cut, not only will these sacred trees suffer a significant drop in their value, they will also not be able to complete their most important metamorphosis. For this reason, nowadays Peru has designated Palo Santo as national sacred wood and any form of casual harvest is strictly forbidden. Only a handful of companies have gained logging permission from the national government so as to safeguard the sacred wood’s rights to undergo the most important transformation in its life.
Whenever you light a piece of Palo Santo, please do not forget the aroma that can warm your hearts. It has been extracted from a life-and-death transformation. Perhaps only greater suffering and hardship will suffice to enable our transformation, leading us away from depression and darkness.