Palo Santo, incense, and sage are all powerful tools to burn in your space.

But what’s the difference between them? When should you use one over the other…and how do you use them?

Sage and palo santo are typically used to cleanse a space of negative energy, whereas incense is typically a blend of oils or herbs in a stick or cone used to alter your mood and energetic state.

Incense can assist you in meditation, lucid dreaming, and help you connect to a specific type of energy. Certain scents, like sandalwood and Nag Champa, can be used for cleansing, but sage and Palo Santo, in their more pure states, tend to be more powerful. 

Sage and Palo Santo are used for “smudging,” a practice that clears away all the energetic junk you may have gathered throughout your life to return you to a peaceful, harmonious state. According to shamanic practitioner Marika Messager, smudging is the psychic equivalent of washing your hands before eating.

Even modern scientific research is getting behind smudging, as studies have found that burning sage releases negative ions, which is linked to a more positive mood.

When smudging, here’s what you need to know about the differences between sage and palo santo:

They have different roots. Palo Santo is known as a “holy wood” from Peru, with its earliest use dating back to Incan civilization. Most sage comes from the southwest US and Northern Mexico, and its roots go back to both the Native Americans and Celtic Druids.

Both of these tools are endangered due to over-harvesting, so it’s important to buy either kind from companies that sustainably harvest them.

They have different scents and burns. Sage is herby. It has a much stronger scent than Palo Santo and while I love it, it’s definitely not for everyone. Palo Santo has a much sweeter, fresher, and more subtle smell than sage.

But sage is much easier to keep lit, so it’s best for clearing large spaces. Palo Santo won’t burn as long and if you want to cleanse a large space like your whole home, you’ll need to re-light it several times.

Energetic properties. Both of these magical plants have amazing benefits. Sage clears all energy, both good and bad, from a space when you use it for cleansing. Palo Santo clears only the negative energy and brings in positive energy.

But don’t worry, you can still use sage! Just make sure to bring some positive energy into your space afterward with some meditation, crystals, or reiki.

After you cleanse, light whatever incense you like to bring a specific type of energy into your newly cleared space.

Here are a few of the most common scents:

    • Frankincense- promotes calm, peace, and healing
    • Nag Champa- a sacred incense for anything spiritual such as meditation
    • Sandalwood- promotes protection, healing, and a deep state of relaxation
    • Lotus- ideal for meditation because it increases focus and clears your mind

What do you prefer to use to cleanse your space? Comment below— I would love to hear your thoughts!