While we know it as a fragrance ingredient, Guaiac Wood has a lot of spiritual and practical uses in South America.

If you’ve ever been into a New Age shop, you’ve definitely seen Guaiac Wood. This unassuming block of wood – also known as Palo Santo – has been used for thousands of years as an incense, a perfume, a traditional form of medicine and even a banisher of bad spirits.

Where does Guaiac Wood comes from?

Guaiac Wood is found in the Bursera graveolens tree that exclusively grows in South America. Similar to Oud, Guaiac is a heartwood, found in the center of a tree.

Because it only thrives in dry yet tropical climates, it’s hard to cultivate Guaiac in designated plantations. This means that harvesters had to cut down wild woodland, leading to the Bursera graveolens tree being placed on the the Critical Danger list in 2006 by Peru’s government. After this, harvesters were only permitted to take the branches that had fallen onto the forest floor. Protecting the trees worked and in 2014 they were removed from the list! It goes to show that practical solutions and community organisation can really make a difference.

After the Guaiac Wood has been extracted, it can be infused to make an essential oil or it can be dried out and used as an incense. The latter is how most people come across Guaiac, though it’s always known as ‘Palo Santo’ in this form. We’ll explain why later.

What does it smell like?

It can have many different aromas, depending on its form. When it’s burnt, it was a musky green scent – like a mix between Vetiver and Pine. In an oil or a resin it smells warm like an Amber-Leather accord with a sweet twist of Vanilla.

How long have we used it?

Quite a while.

When the Spanish invaded South America in the 15th century, they witnessed it being used by the natives in religious ceremonies and they called it Palo Santo, meaning ‘holy wood’ in Spanish.

Similar to to the Native Americans with White Sage, South Americans have used Palo Santo as a cleansing tool for centuries, making it an essential tool for any spiritual ritual. The smoke is said to expel evil spirits and aid meditation by banishing negative thoughts. Due to this reputation, it was also used as a medicine to ‘cleanse’ the body of illnesses. The limonene contained in the wood also makes it an effective natural insect repellent!

Guaiac Wood fragrances

Valentino | Born In Roma Donna EDP 30ml | £56.60

Versace | Yellow Diamond EDT 30ml | £42.50

Bulgari | Man In Black EDP 100ml | £95.50

Paco Rabanne | Invictus Legend EDP 50ml | £40.00