Cacao (Chocolate)

Cacao (Chocolate) (Theobroma cacao)

Family: Sterculiaceae

Parts commonly used: Bean-shaped seed.

Properties/energetics: Stimulant and relaxant, euphoric/Bitter.

Systems predominantly affected:  Nervous system, cardiovascular system, glad glands.

Uses: Chocolate is derived from the Cacao bean. The principal alkaloid of Cacao is theobromine (a source of chocolate’s bitter flavor). Cacao naturally contains a minuscule amount of caffeine. Theobromine is a close structural relative of caffeine; however, its stimulant action on the central nervous system is considerably less intense. At the same time, theobromine’s effect on muscles, the kidneys, and the heart is more pronounced. Research at the University of Michigan discovered that eating dark chocolate causes the brain to produce natural opiates, which dull pain and increase a feeling of well-being. Researchers at San Diego’s Neurosciences Institute found three substances in dark chocolate they claim could act as cannabinoid mimics, either directly by activating cannabinoid receptors or indirectly by increasing anandamide levels and accompanying compounds that block the breakdown of anandamide. Anandamide is a messenger molecule, fondly referred to as the “bliss molecule,” that activates our body’s bliss receptors. Chocolate is not physically addictive; true allergies to chocolate are rare (only 1 out of every 500 people who thought they were allergic to it actually tested positive); dark chocolate does not promote acne; chocolate does not make you fat (the sugar in candy does); Cacao butter is an unsaturated fat, like olive and avocado oils, and has shown only positive health effects; chocolate contains antioxidants, which may help prevent cardiovascular disease, and stearic acid, which may increase levels of good cholesterol. The antioxidants (phenols) are the same as those found in red wine. Chocolate does not promote tooth decay (the sugar in candy does). In fact, pure dark chocolate contains tannins, antibacterial agents that help prevent tooth decay. And though chocolate has never been proven to be an aphrodisiac, theobromine is proven to cause both physical and mental relaxation, along with a feeling of well-being and alertness. Chocolate contains small amounts of a mild mood elevator called phenylethylamine, the same chemical our brain produces when we feel happy or in love. And, as with all herbs, the quality of the botanical is an essential component for attaining desired effects.

Affects on specific body types: Be it stashed and secretly savored by the Seer, compounded as a high-protein bar (or superior sport drink) for Warriors, or elegantly displayed in grand diversity and magnificent abundance at a Monarch’s social event, products derived from the seeds of this plant are highly appropriate for the pure pleasure, merriment, and uplifting of all constitutional types

Precautions: Highly seductive in its myriad forms, chocolate is unquestionably psychologically and socially habit forming, and even though its bewitching nature is suspect to an ever-heedful few, unlike other forms of gaiety, chocolate in its diverse manifestations appears to offend no political or religious tenets.

Preparations/dosage: Take as often as needed, in whatever form you relish.

By James Green, Herbalist, copyright 2008

For more information please refer to James Green’s book, The Male Herbal, 2nd Edition