The Plant Medicine of Cacao

The Plant Medicine of Cacao

It has become more recognised than ever that nature holds the answers to many medicinal secrets and one such plant medicine that is often overlooked or not so talked about is cacao, the heart-opening food of the gods. Originating from the Amazon Basin region, it has been used for thousands of years by the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs! The Cacao Bean was so revered that the Aztecs favoured cacao beans over gold as their currency and wealth and Nestle saw it's value in the 1800's when they produced their first powdered milk and thus chocolate bars were born and the industry began to boom commercially.

When you drink ceremonial grade cacao and prepare it with intention, it is a purely magical experience that makes you feel grounded, softer and more creative. Some even feel a drunken state of being that intensifies any practice that follows.

So what makes Cacao so special you ask? Why were the Aztecs so obsessed with it? It's just chocolate right?? Read on to find out how I first experienced Cacao and how it changed my life. I'll also explain all the benefits it can bring for both your mental and physical wellbeing and what makes it different to a regular hot chocolate or chocolate bar.

My First Cacao Experience

The first time I truly tried Ceremonial Cacao was at a facilitator training retreat with a room full of strangers where I was about to partake in ecstatic dance. I remember arriving in the bush to this beautiful yurt that was the temple in which we would gather and I was terrified to hear that our first night would involve dancing with complete strangers. Absolutely out of my comfort zone to authentically move and enjoy the evening dancing and without alcohol!!!.

Our facilitator sat us down in a ceremonial circle and we discussed the benefits of cacao and also the effects it could have. I thought to myself that it sounded great but I wasn't expecting anything profound to happen except maybe a sugar high but I was open to the new experience and told that it was so much more. So in anticipation of what was to come, I joined the circle with an open mind.

We sang to the Goddess Ixchel, to invite her into our circle, to commune with us and to enter our hearts through the sacred Cacao. It was beautifully moving to sing in unison with a group, all calling to the Goddess to infuse our Cacao with Love energy.

Once we had mixed our Cacao, we blessed it with intentions and thanked the goddess before consuming the glass full of thick bitter and spicy chocolate. I was surprised that the taste was quite bitter and the drink itself spicy, however was told that the spice was necessary to enhance and speed up the effects of the Cacao.

It hit me about 10 minutes after once meditating and I felt a wave of emotion come over me and could hear other people experiencing similar effects, shedding a tear or completely letting it take over them to release a sob. I decided that I needed to embrace the emotion instead of holding it back and I too had a good cry. It was extremely vulnerable, yet comforting because everyone was there in the experience with me.

After we had all settled and released some emotion, it was time to dance. Our mentor had told us to start moving, swaying to the music. Slowly inviting us to loosen up our limbs and let the beat carry us. It was such a strange sensation, the Cacao made me feel so grounded, even a little bit drunk. My inhibitions were lowered and I found myself less anxious about the situation and really enjoyed dancing without a care of being watched. Everyone was in a safe space and I felt so incredibly connected to the souls around me.

The effects lasted about an hour or two and I found my body was tired from the dancing, yet my mind incredibly awake. So much so that I struggled to sleep for hours as we consumed the Cacao much later than we probably should have. So a tip is to not drink it too late in the evening as it is a stimulant.

After the retreat, I was so moved by the experiences I had and felt like it was my calling to share the medicine with others and thus started holding ceremonies.

What Makes Ceremonial Cacao Different?

Ceremonial Cacao is a super food that is pure roasted cacao paste. It is unrefined 100% cacao and therefore contains all the medicinal benefits that have been removed in processing and heating cacao to a powder or chocolate bar.

Manufactured from a single ingredient, cacao paste is simply 100% cacao beans. They are first fermented, then lightly roasted or sun-dried, and ground down into the a paste that cools and solidifies. Nothing is taken out or added during this process, making it pure.

Cocoa powder is raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures. This processing changes the molecular structure of the chocolate, lowering the nutritional value by up to 90%!! It also removes any enzyme content such as antioxidants and any of the medicinal benefits listed below.

Cacao powders and other available products on the market are much more pure however when buying your ceremonial grade cacao, you are looking for 100% pure cacao with no additives. Any lower percentage cacao has been blended with something else, usually sugars and milk powders to make it less bitter.

It is also recommended to find cacao that is marketed as ceremonial grade as this is harvested with intention and sourced from wild cacao and that will be the most authentically heart opening cacao.


What are the Medicinal Benefits of Cacao?

It’s a great source of monounsaturated fat, cholesterol-free saturated fat, vitamins, minerals, fiber, natural carbohydrates and protein.

It's high in Magnesium, Iron, Copper, Phosphorus and many more minerals.

Low in sugar, High in good fats and essential dietary fiber.

Contains more Calcium than cows milk and is consumed with the need for milk.

Up to 40 x more antioxidants than Blueberries!


Long term cacao ingestion appears to lead to an increased resistance to UV- induced skin redness. 10 healthy women taking just one dose of flavanol rich cacao was found to enhance dermal blood flow and elevate oxygen saturation of haemoglobin just 2 hrs after consumption. A two week study found higher levels of skin density, skin hydration and skin thickness with decreased skin roughness.

Psychological effects:

Theobromine - Similar to caffeine but instead of being a nervous system stimulant like coffee, theobromine dilates the cardiovascular system that results in opening up the blood vessels and a sense of alertness and relaxation at the same time.

But beware, having a higher dose of ceremonial cacao later in the evening can keep you alert for hours and you might struggle to fall asleep even if your body is tired! I generally try to have less in the evenings or consume it earlier so see how your body responds before having a full dose.

Phenylethylamine - Is found in abundance within cacao when it hasn’t been heated. PEAs are a major class of chemicals that we produce in our bodies when we fall in love. PEAs also play a role in increasing focus and attention.

A group of biologically active constituents have been identified in cacao and appear to be related to anandamine, the  “internal bliss” chemical, which is a cannabinoid endorphin that the human body naturally produces after exercise.

Tryptophan- Cacao powder can contain between 0.2 – 0.5 percent tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid essential for the production of serotonin, our primary neurotransmitter which helps us build up our stress defence shield and makes us feel good.



It should be noted that as Cacao is a stimulant, there are contraindications to be aware of. Please consult with your doctor before attending if you are concerned about any of the following;

  • Cacao is is a vasodilator, and lowers blood pressure. If you have low blood pressure, serious heart conditions or epilepsy you should consult your doctor before consuming.
  • Certain anti-depressants are worth extra consideration. MAOI based antidepressants are contraindicated with the tyramine in chocolate, so a larger dose of cacao is not recommended. However, side effects could include more serious headache and nausea, so make sure to check medications first.
  • Additionally, there has been some concern with larger doses of cacao and SSRI type anti-depressants. Specifically, the tryptophan, a type of MAOI which is a precursor to serotonin has been cited by some as a possible contraindication.


The Goddess of Cacao - IxCacao

When we drink Cacao we are invoking the goddess of cacao known as IxCacao, the Goddess of Abundance and Chocolate. There are many versions of her story but the main one is that she was a Goddess of Abundance & Agriculture who turned to chocolate to comfort the human sacrifices the Aztecs made on their climb to their death. 

The Goddess reminds us to be humble and to recognise that abundance exists all around us. In this world of want over need, we often forget that we have everything we need around us. She asks us to reflect on everything we are, all that we have achieved and the love that surrounds us so abundantly when we look for it.


Join Us On Our Next Cacao Ceremony

Are you curious to try Cacao the raw way? Check out our event page for more information on upcoming Cacao events - Click Here

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