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Article: Featured Scent: What Does Palo Santo Smell Like?

Featured Scent: What Does Palo Santo Smell Like?

Palo Santo is a subtle, sweet, and woody scent with mouthwatering hints of citrus. This aroma, which traditionally symbolizes a cleansing of negative energy, is bound to bring you serenity.  

It’s scent is like the actor you’ve never noticed before, but then you watch him in one movie and you realize he’s starring in everything. Imagine this actor was doused in a light citrusy-green cologne and you’ve got a pretty good understanding of the Palo Santo scent.

Palo Santo, meaning “holy wood” in Spanish, has stood the test of time due to it’s delicate nature, it’s popularity as a healing incense, and it's divine aroma. 

What is Palo Santo? 

Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) is a branchless tree native to the Amazon forest. It's known as one of the most aromatic woods in the world. 

Typically found growing near riverbanks, this endangered tree is native to Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador. It's a medium-sized tree that grows between 5 and 15 meters in height with soft, light wood. 

Palo Santo belongs to the same Burseraceae family (also known as the torchwood family) that frankincense and myrrh trees are also part of. 

Originally, it was considered a sacred wood that was used by Latin American natives for medicinal, and ritualistic purposes. Some of its medicinal uses include being a remedy for pain, inflammation, and stress. Spiritually, shamans used essential oils and smoke produced by the tree to “purify the spirit and heal the body.”

The practice of burning Palo Santo incense has carried over into the present day, and has grown in popularity. In fact, many people nowadays prefer Palo Santo over sage, because Palo Santo is less intense than sage. It's commonly smudged around homes, yoga studios, bodies, and objects to dispel negative energy. 

In addition to it’s spiritual uses, Palo Santo is also a trendy scent in the cosmetic and fragrance industries — and in some of your favorite luxury scented candles, of course!

What Does Palo Santo Smell Like?

Palo Santo belongs to the woody fragrance family, and it's smell is described as a subtle, sweet, and woody scent with hints of mint, citrus. 

Some say Palo Santo smells slightly like licorice, evoking a deep sense of nostalgia when inhaling its delicate scent. Although to be fair, others may find the licorice-like quality of Palo Santo to be somewhat overpowering or unpleasant.

Regardless of these differing opinions, Palo Santo is one of those scents that once discovered, you'll have an easy time recognizing as:

  • Subtle
  • Sweet
  • Woody
  • Pine-like
  • Hints of mint and citrus
  • Slightly reminiscent of licorice


The scent of Palo Santo is sometimes confused with the scent of sage. By comparison, Palo Santo is subtler, fresher, and sweeter. 

Used as a base note, the heavenly aroma makes floral and spicy notes more rounded and soft. It is a great base because it leaves a light and woody-like quality lingering in the air. 

You might inhale the gentle scent of Palo Santo while lying in Savasana (corpse pose) at the end of a hot yoga session. Under candle light, the fresh aroma circulates through the warm studio, purifying each yoga mat it extends to. 

Giddy memories of flying a kite might enter your mind upon smelling the energizing aroma for the first time. You might imagine the breeze flowing through your hair as your kite flies wildly in the sunshine. 

Palo Santo is a key ingredient in many perfumes. Notably, it can be found in:


  • Fueguia 1833 Los Humos Sagrados de Fueguia
  • Atelier Segall & Baruttti Palo Santo Oud
  • Zara Vibrant Leather Boise
  • Celine Eau de Californie


Where Does The Palo Santo Scent Come From?

Limonene and α-terpineol are the primary fragrance chemicals responsible for Palo Santo’s unique scent. 

Limonene is a well-studied terpene that is also found in the rinds of lemons, limes, and oranges. The citrusy, lemon-like note of Palo Santo owes it’s existence to the chemical limonene, while the chemical α-terpineol is responsible for it’s soft, and woody sweetness. 

Unfortunately, Palo Santo trees are at risk of extinction due to the intense extraction method that’s required to obtain its essential oil. In order to extract high quality oil from the tree, it must be cut and the wood must age for at least 30 years before it goes through the process of steam distillation.

Benefits of Palo Santo in Aromatherapy

The smell of Palo Santo can provide positive mindset benefits, such as enhancing creativity and relieving stress. 

The ability to boost creativity could be due to the presence of α-terpineol. Not only is this chemical responsible for Palo Santo’s scent, but it could also help with clarity of thoughts. 

Placing a Palo Santo scented candle on your desk before beginning a day of focused work might help you to create an energetic environment that allows for problem-solving, brainstorming, and solutions-based thinking. 

The chemical limonene is responsible for the relaxation effects of Palo Santo. The aroma is commonly used to relieve stress. 

If you’re someone who has a meditation practice, you might try adding a Palo Santo candle to the mix. The light, fresh scent could relax you into a present state of being. 

Our Favorite Palo Santo Candles 

We hope this article inspired you to explore this purifying gem of a scent! Let the sweet softness of Palo Santo soothe your soul with our beautifully designed Speakeasy luxury candle

The Speakeasy

A fragrance that exemplifies the thrill of the forbidden – a time when people would slip into hidden clubs, tucked behind storefronts. Auras of Palo Santo and tobacco swirled the gambling tables where men rotated between cocktails and cigars. On the dance floor, perfumes of swaying women infused the air, creating a sweet elixir of licorice and plum blossom.

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