The health and spiritual benefits of ceremonial cacao
A cacao ceremony can be a beautiful and spiritual experience for mind, body and spirit. Not only that, there are a number of health benefits of ceremonial cacao too.
Here, we meet Suzie of Ahimsa Plant Healing, who explains some of the secret benefits of ceremonial cacao.
What makes ceremonial cacao different?
Ceremonial cacao is quite different from confectionery chocolate or even cocoa or cacao powder. What makes ceremonial cacao different is its active ingredients and how the cacao butter is preserved. The bean is gently fermented and ground into a rich paste.
For cacao to be ceremonial grade it must be grown and prepared in a way that preserves its biochemical and energetic qualities. Ceremonial grade cacao is organic, raw, from fair trade, sustainably resourced, and lovingly produced.
Where does the cacao ceremony originate from?
Cacao is thought to have been used ceremonially for thousands of years and is deeply rooted in ancient Mesoamerican culture and mythology. The first evidence of cacao cultivation comes from the Olmec tradition around 4000 years ago in the region known today as Mexico. We also know it it was later drank ceremonially by the Maya and Aztecs.
What are the health benefits of ceremonial cacao?
Cacao is deeply nourishing for our physical bodies. It's loaded with beneficial antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and neurotransmitters.
Raw cacao has the highest concentration of antioxidants known in any food - 40 times that of blueberries. The small beans are packed with magnesium, chromium, manganese, calcium, zinc, copper, iron, and potassium, as well as vitamins C, E, B2, B1, B5, B3 and B9 and omega-6 fatty acids. Cacao also increases the power of other superfoods such as medicinal mushrooms and spirulina.
Cacao triggers the release of dopamine, which can help to soothe symptoms of PMS, fatigue, and depression. It is the only plant known to contain anandamide. This is an endogenous cannabinoid that's known as the ‘bliss chemical’ as it's linked to feelings of joy. It also contains the ‘happiness hormone’, serotonin, as well as the mood-enhancing amino acid tryptophan that's essential for serotonin production.
Further enhancing the euphoria it can induce, cacao contains phenylethylamine (PEA), known as the 'love molecule’, and oxytocin, the ‘bonding hormone’.
How does cacao affect our body?
Cacao increases blood flow to the brain and heart, creating heightened mental agility, awareness, and focus. It’s also an aphrodisiac and energy-enhancer, helps to stimulate the liver, and detoxify our physical (and many say emotional) bodies. Cacao is effective for lowering high blood pressure, and has been used to treat high cholesterol, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, bladder and kidney disorders, asthma, diarrhea, low weight, poor digestion, and many other conditions.
What are the spiritual benefits of cacao?
Cacao can have beautiful spiritual effects. Some of the spiritual names of cacao from various cultures include:
Food of the gods
Medicine of the heart
There are many myths and legends surrounding cacao, but they all seem to have a common thread telling of how, when man becomes careless with nature, cacao comes to help restore balance.
When respectfully consumed with the intention of self-transformation, I've seen cacao work a unique alchemy. It can act as a powerful heart-opener, connecting us to our intuition, the natural world, and unseen guidance.
Cacao can show us the way forward when we’re feeling stuck. It can transform fear and aid us in recognising and releasing blockages, patterns and limitations that are buried deep in the subconscious. It can also help to balance emotional turbulence and self-care issues.
Cacao can awaken powerful creative energies and enhance our inner vision. Ultimately, cacao teaches us about cosmic balance, and how to begin to live more in alignment with the laws of the universe and mama nature.
With thanks and acknowledgement to…
I must thank my teachers from whom I have learned so much, Serap Kara (Cacao Mama) and Rebekah Shaman (Ritual Cacao) who facilitated a beautiful deepening of my relationship with Cacao. I must also thank Jordan Cohayney, and Keith the Chocolate Shaman, for sharing so much, both in their ceremonies and online. I am grateful for the historical scholarship of Meredith L. Dreiss, Caermon L. Mcneil, and Allen M. Young. And for the nutrition research compiled by Dr Michael Greger, David Wolfe, and Chris Kilham. Most of all, I am deeply grateful to the Spirit of Cacao, Mama Earth, and my own guides, who work through me and support me with incredible patience and tenderness.
Dreiss, M. Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods. University of Arizona Press. 2008.
Mcneil, C L. Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao. University Press of Florida. 2009.
Sathyapalan, T, Beckett, S, Rigby, A S, Mellor, D D, Atkin, S L. ‘High cocoa polyphenol rich chocolate may reduce the burden of the symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome’. Nutr J. 2010 Nov 22; 9:55.
Wilson, PK, Jeffrey Hurst, W. Chocolate, and Health: Chemistry, Nutrition and Therapy. Royal Society of Chemistry. 2015.
Wolfe, D. Naked Chocolate: Uncovering the Astonishing Truth About the World’s Greatest Food. North Atlantic Books. 2008.
Young, A M. The Chocolate Tree: A Natural History of Cacao. University Press of Florida. 2007.