Of the tree called palo santo and its many excellent properties.
Translated by Andrea Tellez ’21
I say that the tree that in the Indies they call palo sancto is, in the opinion of many, one of the most excellent trees in the world, because of the many illnesses, wounds, and conditions that it cures. Many hold this to be the same tree as the guaiacum or a species or kind of it, because of its wood and pith or heart, and its weight and other particularities and medicinal effects, but this palo santo has shown greater capabilities; because in addition to curing the disease of the sores, like the guaiacum and much better, it cured many other illnesses that are not healed by guaiacum, as the doctors who make use of it know most particularly, as do other persons who have experience in its uses. But I will only tell here what I saw be done or used on a sick person affected by the disease of the sores, who had suffered from it for a long time, and lived with an old wound in his leg for many years, which from time to time festered again and made his life miserable and which he considered incurable. He used this cure that I will describe now. The patient is purged with regimental pills, which I think are known as fumus terræ, which are taken past midnight: and after purging, he eats some poultry and drinks a bit of watered-down wine; and for two days after doing this he remains in bed and eats good chicken moderately. And when he gets into bed, the palo santo water should already be prepared, which is made in the following way.
They take a piece of palo santo and chop it very small, as small as they can, and they place in a clean pot a pound and a half of the chopped wood with three liters of water and soak it overnight from the early evening to the next morning, and in the new day they boil it until the water decreases by a third. And then the patient drinks a bowl of this water boiled like this, as hot as he can endure it: and after drinking it, he is covered well and sweats for an hour or two and until midday he drinks the same water, now cold, as often as he wants or can; and when he wants to eat, it should be a bit of hard bread or a few raisins or dried things. The thing is that the diet and the drinking of a lot of water in the way described are the steps to the cure: so, what I said here should be done until midday and then the water should be poured out and fresh water should be added to the minced palo and boiled again with the second water and drink from that cold brew throughout the day. And the patient should take good care to stay as warm as he can and in a place where the wind cannot affect him; and continue so until the next day dawns. And the second day the palo that was in pot should be thrown away and more palo and water in the same measures should be added and all that was said to be done from the first day should be done again; and thus, he must do what I have told from day to day until twelve or fifteen days pass. And if he feels weak at any point during this period he could eat from a small chicken; and the food should be enough to sustain and not to fill or stuff him because, as I have said, after twelve or fifteen days he will feel much better and it works for about ninety days, and he will continue to improve with every day that goes by. And when he will have finished taking this for the length of time I have said, he can eat small chickens and as he recovers, the food will get better and increase little by little. Some will once again purge after fifteen days have passed from when they first had the palo water; but they should be very careful to not eat acidic things nor vinegar, vegetables, or fish nor have intercourse with women in those three months.
Those who have sores wash them with the water mentioned and clean them with a cloth and then after lancing them, they coat the wound with the froth that the water forms while cooking, which they have gathered for that purpose, and place white linen lint over them and cover them with white clean cloth, not from women’s shirts. And sores heal (as in fact I have seen them heal) that had been deemed incurable, being so old, festered, and persistent that they looked more like a type of cancer or the sores of Saint Lazarus than any other thing. In my opinion, I think the medicine from this tree or palo santo, as they call it, is a very sacred thing.