“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Being a critical care registered nurse for 30 years I have developed a strong scientific background as well as a true love for the nature in medicine, lets call it The Roots. While I can clearly see the benefit of our American medical model, I also have clearly and devastatingly witnessed a decline in practice of the art and science of medicine and a shift in the paradigm to the industry and capital generating machine for the pharmaceutical corporations.
Resourcing our selves and our bodies back to nature, we can develop a true homeostasis in the stressful environments we are in. When we are in balance inside ourselves and in sync with the natural world, existing becomes authentic living and when we live authentically, we are thriving. We are alive to thrive!
Ceremonial grade cacao has it's active constituents intact if treated minimally and conscientiously to avoid degradation of these properties. Some gentle processing with precise temperature control seems to release these properties as well as some subtle energies that have been dormant inside the bean.
Let's talk here for a moment about each: (This is a informational article only, not meant to diagnose or treat and by no means comprehensive)
Antioxidants ~ It's a super-antioxidant food, with antioxidant levels that can be:
20 x higher than red wine
30 x higher than green tea
50 x higher than blueberries
5 x higher than average goji
Magnesium ~ Cacao may be the highest sour of this precious mineral that is needed in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It has been documented that 80% of Americans are chronically deficient in Magnesium. Our soils are deplete, our bodies are suffering the effects of this on many levels.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in our human body and is partially responsible for countless aspects of good, sound health.
Magnesium fights acid build up, it neutralizes toxins, calms sensitivity to pain, quiets nerves, keeps our heart beating rhythmically, supports a healthy immune system, builds strong matrix in our bones and teeth, regulates our internal clock (sleeping and waking cycles), hormone release, body temperature. It has an enormous impact on our metabolism in protein synthesis and regulating insulin.
Phenylethylamine (PEA) ~ is found in abundance in cacao beans. Because PEA is heat sensitive, much of the PEA in conventional cooked and processed chocolate is missing. PEA is the adrenal-related chemical that we produce in our bodies when we fall in love. This is likely one of the main reasons why love and chocolate have such a deep connection. PEA also plays a role in increasing focus and alertness.
Chromium ~ We are also deeply deficient in this important trace mineral. Chromium helps to balance the blood sugar and increase sensitivity to insulin. It has a significant responsibility to detoxify the liver from alcohols which build up during the fermentation process of sugars and starches. Chromium lowers bad cholesterol, raising the good cholesterol. It's been known to improve athletic performance, reduce fatigue and depression and decrease age related mental decline.
Cacao seems to diminish appetite, probably due to its monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors (MAO inhibitors) ~ these are different from digestive enzyme inhibitors found in most nuts and seeds. An enzyme called monoamine oxidase is involved in removing the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine from the brain. MAOIs (cacao) prevent this from happening, which makes more of these brain chemicals available. This is thought to boost mood by improving brain cell communication.
Tryptophan ~ Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is transformed into important stress-protective neurotransmitters including serotonin and melatonin. Tryptophan is heat sensitive and therefore it is “cooked out” in many high protein foods and in conventional processed chocolate.
******************IMPORTANT TO NOTE ABOUT MAOI & TRYPTOPHAN*******************
Most antidepressants including St. John's Wort do not combine well with MAO inhibitors such as cacao. Please google your medication's interactions.
MAOIs can cause dangerous interactions with certain foods and beverages. You'll need to avoid foods containing high levels of tyramine — an amino acid that regulates blood pressure — such as aged cheeses, sauerkraut, cured meats, draft beer and fermented soy products, such as soy sauce, miso or tofu. You may have limited amounts of wine and bottled or canned beer, but it is better to wait until after the ceremony to receive the full benefits of the cacao.
Caffeine and Theobromine: What's the deal with cacao and caffeine? Contrary to popular opinion, cacao is a poor source of caffeine. A typical sample of cacao nibs or cacao beans will yield anywhere from zero caffeine to an amount which is similar to decaffeinated coffee. It would seem that this rumor is based primarily on a confusion between two similar alkaloids: caffeine and theobromine.
Theobromine is the active ingredient in chocolate and it occurs only in cacao. The two stimulants are related and have a similar structures, but are very different chemicals with different properties, effects and origins. There are of course, some chocolate products that have added caffeine, but it does not occur naturally.
Theobromine has a direct action on blood vessels causing dilation, thus it is able to reduce blood pressure and relieve strain on the circulatory system by reducing edema and relieving angina. This dilation effect on the kidneys acts as a diuretic. In the brain, the effect is increased mental focus and alertness. The vasodilation in combination with smooth muscle relaxant effect in the lungs produce opening of restricted airways and is effective in treating asthma. It also has an antitussive effect (cough suppressant).
Anandamide (The Bliss Chemical) ~ A neurotransmitter called anandamide, has been isolated in cacao. Anandamide is also produced naturally in the brain. It is known as "The Bliss Chemical" because it is released while we are feeling great. Cacao contains enzyme inhibitors that decrease our bodies' ability to breakdown anandamide. This means that natural anandamide and/or cacao anandamide may stick around longer, making us feel good longer, when we eat cacao.
From a well researched medical standpoint, cacao has many benefits to our physical and emotional bodies. More research is happening right now linking it to reducing dementia and as a protection from certain cancers.
When we sit in Ceremony with this powerful Medicine, also accessing the Spirit of the Plant, we increase it's bioavailability by our open awareness and her invitation. Keith, the Cacao Shaman has said:
"Chocolate brings the door but doesn’t push you through it."
In other words Cacao is a gentle guide and facilitator. If you really want to stay safe in your rational mind and have a gently arousing, heart opening experience with yourself or others, Cacao is the perfect companion. The literal translation of 'xocoatl' (pronounced shoco-latle)
the conquistador era indigenous Aztec word for drinkable chocolate was ‘heart blood’.
I like to think of it as LIQUID LOVE. ENJOY!
An Indigenous myth tells us whenever the balance between humans and nature becomes threatened, cacao comes from the rain-forest to open people's hearts and return the planet to harmony.
Ceremonial cacao has been recently embraced as a heart opening facilitator in many realms.
I first became interested in cacao while living in Nicaragua, munching on the beans for energy and curiosity about their unexpected distinctive flavor, completely different from the processed chocolate I had been accustomed to. Before moving to Nicaragua I had eaten some pretty dark chocolate and even some raw bar varieties sold in Whole Foods and such, but nothing like this experience of eating the beans right from the source.
My excitement for cacao grew during my travels to the spiritual community Pachamama in Costa Rica, indulging in delicacies from the Wild Treats Cafe featuring bitesized raw chocolates with super foods like maca, and my favorite item, the cacao shot with raw cashew milk.
I traveled to Pachamama for my level I & II of Clarity Breathwork Training. The training was emotionally and physically demanding, yet I noticed, the days I skipped lunch and headed instead to Wild Treats, I was gently in a state of alertness without being jittery AND the breathwork was so much more amazing. I felt the vibrancy of the life force or prana waking up the lazy parts of my lungs and I became my breath. Simultaneously my heart was opening so fast I didn't have time to shut it down!
Next into my life came my friend Melissa. You can check out her at yeslifeisawesome.com
Melissa is a goddess embodied in so many ways, and the way that pertains to this story is as follows: While in residence at Pachamama enrolled in the Clarity Breathwork program, I met this outstandingly sensuous woman who travels alone with her unschooled beautiful wild child, much like myself. Only she was way beyond me in giving herself total permission. She was a mentor and friend who taught me to allow and embrace my completely decadent love of chocolate; that it was all good. From her I first learned how to make raw cacao super food treats and to completely indulge my chocolate twin flame. We even traveled to Granada Nicaragua's Chocolate Museum and had chocolate massages. YUM! Yes, Melissa life (and chocolate) are awesome!
So I had this powerful opportunity of Breathwork partnered with this Holy Bean and it felt like I jumped off a cliff of where my life had been stuck for a very long time and have been floating in the stream of really living ever since. The Clarity was so potent in my life that I have manifested my life partner, Julian and we are now in flow together wherever it takes us, blessed to share this divine beauty with others
None of these connections were immediately apparent to me. As it is with energy and connection, once that contact is made, it becomes a circuit. The same is true with the Cacao Spirit in my energy field. I started hearing more and more about ceremony with this precious bean, to the point it became impossible to ignore the call. It's like driving a car of a certain make and color and seeing them everywhere. You become "tuned in" to that.
I started to do research and came across Keith, the Cacao Shaman from Guatemala. Thru correspondence with Keith and research on ceremonial grade cacao, I decided to order some blocks and give it a try with Julian.
I feel the cacao to be both vibrant and subtle as a tool for many things. Ceremonial grade cacao is 'raw' chocolate that has the quantity and balance of compounds and energies to properly support the Cacao Spirit in partnering with you.
Keith describes this: (and I couldn't put it better)
"Here I discuss another emerging world: spiritual and ceremonial cacao as a connection and partnership facilitator with an open-heart centering. The Food for the Shift.
•A sweet and deep creativity facilitator
•A productive focus enhancer (the best one i know in, say, a corporate or workplace environment) that keeps you better connected to wherever you source your insight, inspiration, and intuitition (unlike caffeine which gives only stimulation)
•A wonderfully deep connection partner in physical activity from long hours of dancing to creative snowboarding
•A practice facilitator, from yoga to meditation
•Ceremonial cacao takes breath-work to another level
•Therapy, coaching, or team building with individuals or groups, is easier and goes deeper... a beautiful cohesion emerges
•An important ancient tool for journeying and shamanic use
•A delightful facilitator for any group work, at about half a ceremonial dose
•A major multidimensional partner in accelerated inner transformation and emotional release with greater ease and depth
•The best dream and lucid dream facilitator around. Really!... 8-10 gm taken in the middle of your sleep cycle when you awaken to pee.
Perhaps this is not the chocolate you are familiar with."
I thank Keith for his trailblazing contributions to uncovering so much about the spirit of cacao and his beautiful, authentic, earthy ceremonial grade cacao from Guatemala. He does amazing retreats, is involved in small scale family farming, and a wealth of information both medicinal and spiritual on cacao. Find him and his handmade cacao Lava Love Ceremonial Grade Mayan Cacao at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have newly began working with a different Cacao energy from Belize. I met the chocolate maker Jonas at a Sound Bath event in San Francisco. One of my breathwork teachers, Dana Dharma Devi DeLong was playing her amazing flutes so Julian and I decided to go. Plus we began adding a small sound bath to our Breathwork and Cacao Ceremony so we thought it would be amazing to attend this large-scale sound bath.
Jonas was in the lobby with his bean to bar 85% cacao chocolates from his business fireflychocolate.com. (Please do take the time and visit his website, you will find it interesting and inspiring in every way.)
We began munching down his samples and we started a conversation about ceremonial cacao and breathwork. Almost magically, he pulled out a sample of his ceremonial cacao which we also nibbled happily at. Nearly instantly, (OK about 10 min) we began to feel the familiar effects of the cacao in our bodies, only this felt more vibrant, even more alive. Needless to say the breathwork we both did during this brilliant sound bath was enhanced by this cacao at much less than a ceremonial dose, (although we did eat many many samples).
We brought home all the varieties of the bars, and I couldn't stop thinking about the texture and vibrancy of the ceremonial grade sample he had given us. We booked a tour of Firefly chocolate in Sonoma County. Hearing his story, seeing the chocolate in different phases, learning about his engineering background, feeling into his open heart and connection to the spirit of this Holy Bean, We began to feel an even deeper drive to sample this in ceremony ourselves. It will be with great pleasure to offer this exquisite ceremonial grade cacao our June ceremonies in both Nicaragua and California.
Next blog post Part 2. Cacao as a Medicinal Plant