Chocolate is magic and it’s everywhere! It has spread across the globe and is found in various forms in all seven continents. Surprising to some, the world’s favourite treat comes from a tree! The Theobroma Cacao tree to be exact, domesticated in what we now know as South America at least 6,000 years ago. Cacao is produced from the seed of this tree, which grows between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Cacao pods provide the beans, these are fermented, dried and roasted to produce chocolate ‘Liquor’ also known as Cacao Paste, which is the basis for all ‘Chocolate’ products. Yet not all chocolate is made equally…
The stories and myths about Cacao’s creation are many, from it being a gift from the gods to humans; to beings from another galaxy showing our ancestors how to create the tree by crossing wild strains. Whether nature, nurture or divine intervention, the Cacao tree was born, as too was a lifelong relationship with humankind. Chocolate has always been symbolic. Nowadays it is given as a gift, used to express love, joy and indulgence. We eat it when we are sad, we eat it when we are happy, we eat it at events, celebrations and meetings. Why is it we love this treat so much?
‘Plant Medicines’ & Wellbeing
I consider Cacao as a ‘Plant Medicine’. This term describes a whole host of plants that possess therapeutic properties. The use of plants and herbs to support our mental health and wellbeing has been evident in human culture for millennia. Considerable literature describes the potential health benefits of a range of ‘Bio- active’ compounds found in natural products, from tea to honey. The consumption of Cacao has an equally long history of medicinal benefits, traceable to early Inca, Aztec and Mayan medicinal practices.
Remedies derived from Cacao beans have been used historically to treat a range of physical ailments, including stomach aches, diarrhoea and fever, alongside promoting strength before journeys or sexual relating. Many of these benefits are supported in the literature alongside more recent evidence that suggests a positive relationship between Cacao consumption and cardiovascular health and the lowering of blood pressure, alongside antioxidant, anti-influenza, anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties. Research has also identified a number of potential psychological benefits of consuming Cacao, including improvements in cognitive performance, stress management, mood, wellbeing and reduction in symptoms of anxiety. These benefits are provided by Cacao’s more than 333 ‘bio-active’ compounds. The most interesting perhaps, being Anandamide.
Anandamide: Edible Bliss
Anandamide, also referred to as the ‘Bliss Molecule’, is a Neurotransmitter produced in humans, often in association with the brain’s ‘reward’ system. It binds to
cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body, stimulating a sense of happiness, increased wellbeing and increased motivation. Research suggests that Cacao is one of only two known foods that contain trace amounts of Anandamide.
In addition, Cacao and good chocolate promote anandamide production in the body and contain compounds that reduce the breakdown of anandamide already present. Increased anandamide is associated with an increase in mood and wellbeing, a reduction in pain, stress, fear, reduced anxiety as well as alleviating symptoms of PTSD. Conversely low levels of anandamide are shown to be associated with a number of stress-related health conditions including depression, migraines, fibromyalgia and IBS.
Chocolate As ‘Medicine’
It has been a long-held belief that Cacao consumption has a positive effect on health, mood and wellbeing. The observed positive effects on Mental Health and Wellbeing in humans may be a result of the unique combination of bio-active compounds in Cacao and their interaction with key neurotransmitter production, brain activity and cognitive processing associated with stress resilience and mood. Like any medicine, it is important to consume it consciously, with awareness and an appreciation of how it is produced.
Chocolate can be good for our wellbeing however, chocolate filled with sugar, trans fats and milk is not so good for us. Consider where your chocolate bar comes from, how and where is it produced? Consider the ratio of Cacao to milk, sugar and additives (the darker the chocolate and the higher the Cacao percentage the better). It is wise to consume in moderation. Take your time eating a piece of chocolate, wait a few minutes and see how you feel. If you rush to eat the whole bar you may overwhelm those feelings of positivity and wellbeing with feelings of guilt and shame. Practice self-care and treat yourself with kindness when you treat yourself with chocolate.
For more information and about Cacao and The Chemistry of Wellbeing, and for a full list of references, please visit www.CacaoAmor.com
Deya is a Cacao sorceress, Ceremony and workshop facilitator and the founder of CacaoAmor. Her love of Cacao began as a child in her home country of Ecuador. Many years later she experienced her first ceremony, in Palenque, Mexico. It was at this moment that she realised her calling and began to study the Art of Cacao Ceremony.
Deya’s mission is to share the magic of Cacao with people around the world, sharing her knowledge and skills to develop awareness of the benefits of Cacao and support people to open their hearts to greater connection, love and intention.
After 6 years on the road, sharing her medicine, Deya is currently in the UK where she established her unique brand of Ceremonial Cacao – CacaoAmor.
Deya has generously offered an 11% discount on CacaoAmor to all our readers, with the code MORETOLIFE20 when ordering from her website www.CacaoAmor.com