Sage vs. Palo Santo // What’s the Difference?

April 3, 2017 4:19 am Published by

When it comes to cleansing negative energy from your space, it’s a serious matter. If you’re like me, you want to know all of your options, how sustainable they are, and which one is the most beneficial.

The practice of burning herbs, resin, and wood for cleansing purposes have been used by cultures all around the world. The earliest recordings of palo santo use date back to the ancient Inca people. Sage is more commonly associated with Native Americans but also has roots with Celtic Druids.

With deep roots like these, there’s obviously more to these cleansing tools than fanciful thinking.

I’ve always been a sage girl myself, but recently discovered palo santo wood. Maybe I’m late on the palo santo boat, but this “holy wood” is amazing. Immediately, I wanted to know the differences between the two. You might be surprised, I was!


Most sage is harvested from the Southwest of the US and some parts of Northern Mexico. This desert dwelling shrub loves the hot dry climate. Palo Santo comes from South America, and grows along the coastline of Peru.


Sage has a very strong, herby scent that’s not for everyone! Don’t get me wrong I love sage, but when I discovered palo santo I was sold on the scent. Palo santo has a sweet, subtle and fresh smell with hints of mint and citrus.

If you want to do daily space clearing that won’t shock guests when they come in, palo santo is my preference.


Both of these healing tools are over-harvested and endangered. It’s important to research where you’re buying your sage and your palo santo from to ensure you’re not adding to the over harvesting and endangerment of these gifts from Mother Earth.

Palo santo harvesting used to be strictly controlled by law in Peru. Only trees and branches that had fallen naturally were allowed to be harvested. With its increased popularity the government has been unable to enforce over-harvesting of palo santo and it’s now endangered. The droughts over the last two years have added to the endangerment of white sage.

There are companies that sell sustainably sourced sage and palo santo. The cost might be a little higher, but you can rest easier knowing you’re supporting companies that are harvesting these priceless plants in a sustainable way.

Here are a couple companies that are committed to offering sustainably harvested sage and palo santo.


Each of these plants offer a different kind of burn that are good for different uses.

Palo santo won’t burn as long and will need to be re-lit multiple times for clearing larger spaces. Sage on the other hand is harder to stop burning once you light it. If you need to clear a larger space, like a whole house, sage is what you want to go with. If you want to energetically cleanse your altar palo santo might be the better option.

Energetic Clearing

Let’s get to the real reason why sage and palo santo are so widely used: their clearing and cleansing benefits of negative energy.

Sage is said to clear ALL energy, the good and the bad. This is great if you have a plan in place to bring in some positive energy after you do your clearing. If you don’t have a positive energy plan in place, who knows what will take up that freshly cleared space? If you cleanse with sage try having a crystal nearby that can offer up the energy you’re seeking.

Palo santo on the other hand, is said to cleanse negative energy and bring in the good. Win, win. Did I mention, I love this magical plant?

Try it for yourself and see how each one feels!

Physical Benefits

Though there’s been some research on the benefits of palo santo oil (a topic for another day!) I couldn’t find much about the actual smoke of palo santo. Sage (maybe) on the other hand has some interesting findings!

Palo santo smoke may be helpful in keeping certain bugs and mosquitos away, but there’s no hard evidence to support this yet.

There are some compelling studies about the antimicrobial effects of “medicinal smoke,” you can check it out here. In these studies, their “medicinal smoke” showed to remove up to 94% of bacteria in the air. They could even see a disinfectant effect up to a month after the space had been cleansed with smoke! Unfortunately, the study isn’t very clear about whether or not they tested white sage specifically. So, until more specific studies are done I’ll just set an intention for my sage to cleanse bacteria in the air too.

I hope you enjoyed these findings as much as I did. Happy cleansing!

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About Cassie

Cassie Uhl is the founder and owner of Zenned Out, a jewelry company that handcrafts jewelry with meaning and provides a community that inspires a mindful and spiritual lifestyle. Cassie grew up with a open minded, astrology obsessed grandmother and a father that would take her and her sister star gazing in the wee hours of the night. These experiences shaped Cassie and Zenned Out into what they are today by bringing spirituality and astrology into the forefront. Cassie hopes to give spiritual souls a place to feel at home on the Zenned Out blog and offers handcrafted jewelry with meaningful symbols, powerful gemstones, and mindful quotes to enable people to wear jewelry that aligns with their souls purpose.

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