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INCI: Bursera graveolens
CAS: 959130-05-3
EINECS:  n.a.
Flavouring according to EC regulation 1334/2008

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Bursera graveolens (Burseracee)

Origin: Southern Ecuador

Known in English-speaking countries as "Holy wood" also, it is native to the Mexican peninsula of Yucatán and grows wild throughout most of Central and South America. It is a xerophilus shrub that can reach over ten metres in height, with smooth grey bark, pinnate leaves, white flowers and ovoid fruits that turn red as they ripen.
Botanically it is directly related to the Frankincense of the Horn of Africa.
The plantís name, of Spanish origin, means "Holy stick" by reason of its thousand-year old ritual (but also therapeutic) use by several Indo-American cultures whose shamans still today burn it in order to emanate its well-known aromatic fumigations. Consider that the ceremonial "sacred fires" of the Incas were fed with Palo Santo wood.
It seems now certain that the essential oil obtained from Palo Santo coming from the south-Ecuadorian regions has distinctive characteristics of high value.


The oil most popular on the market is obtained by steam distillation of wood shavings of the plant. A much rarer and precious essential oil (this one) is instead extracted from the mature fruits - still by steam distillation; it is an almost colourless liquid with an intense, warm, sweet, creamy-spicy fragrance that recalls pepper, with a mildly citric undertone that is hard to mistake. It combines well with jasmine and myrrh absolutes, and the essential oils of: Ambrette, Clove, Galbanum, Frankincense, Pink pepper, Mountain pine, Sweet myrrh, Rose, Sandalwood and Storax.

(according to
popular herbalist tradition)

Palo Santo essential oil, non-toxic and non-irritating, has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antimycotic properties; it is a valid insect repellent and a beneficial anxiolytic (the latter properties can be taken advantage of using a simple diffuser). It is also a traditional remedy to treat wounds.

Now and then it is used in artisanal cosmetics and perfumes as an unusual fragrance ingredient with woody-spicy notes. The industrial uses of this unusual raw material are limited given its scarcity.

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