Cacao – a Nutritional Powerhouse

By Vivienne Dempsey

Ceremonial cacao is both a superfood and a sacred plant medicine. Whether you’re interested in the spiritual experience or the vitamins and nutrients, a regular cacao practice will take you there… 

There are many incredible benefits of this beautiful plant which work together on body, mind and soul.


Theobromine gets its name from the genus of the Cacao plant and its name literally translates as “food of the gods”. It is a bitter Alkaloid that is naturally occurring in the Cacao plant. There is about 200 miligrams in 28gm (1 oz) of Cacao.

The benefits of Theobromine include:

  • Energy-boosting: Theobromine blocks specific receptors that are meant for the chemical compound adenosine. Under normal conditions, adenosine docks on its receptors, and it induces feelings of sleepiness. When theobromine is present, however, it takes the place of adenosine on these receptors and therefore blocks adenosine activity. The result is a boost in energy!
  • Sustained Energy Release: Unlike caffeine, which is highly water soluble, theobromine is only slightly water soluble and is more fat soluble, thus it peaks more slowly in the blood (a more sustained energy release). Caffeine peaks in 30 mins, theobromine peaks in 2 to 3 hours.
  • Enhanced cognition: Theobromine has also been studied for its cognitive-enhancing activity. Research shows that consumption of theobromine is associated with a reduced level of amyloid plaques, which is a hallmark for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Enhances Immunity: Theobromine has both antioxident and anti-inflammatory properties, which support the activity of your immune system. As an anti-inflammatory compound, theobromine helps to down-regulate inflammatory chemicals in your body called cytokines. Theobromine helps to calm your overall inflammatory response by reducing cytokine activity.
  • Supports Heart Health: Research shows that theobromine may reduce blood pressure as well as balance cholesterol levels, two vital aspects of heart health. Theobromine acts as a vasodilator, widening your blood vessels and allowing for more blood to travel through. This action decreases blood pressure as more blood is allowed to move through the vessel without force.
  • Supports Lung Health: It’s also a bronchodilator, it dilates the bronchi and bronchioles, increasing airflow to the lungs. (How great is that for breath-work!!). Therefore it’s also helpful for chronic lung diseases such as Asthma and COPD.
  • Cholesterol: In other research, theobromine is associated with increases in HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and decreases in LDL. High HDL is a marker of good heart health, as this type of lipoprotein picks up excess cholesterol in your blood and brings it back to your liver. LDL cholesterol, on the other hand, can contribute to plaque in your arteries and is more susceptible to oxidation.

A word of warning: Theobromine is what makes chocolate poisonous to animals, particularly dogs. Their physiology cannot metabolise this alkaloid.

For further information – see here:


Anandamide (“ananda” the Sanskrit word for Pleasure, Delight/Joy) is a naturally occurring compound found in cacao that is chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. It is an endocannabinoid, meaning it interacts with the same receptors in the brain that THC binds to. After the discovery of anandamide, scientists started looking for cannabinoid receptors and discovered that the human body is filled with them. In addition to being found in several areas of the brain, they have been found in the central nervous system, heart, liver, spleen, pancreas, skin, white blood cells, reproductive organs and in the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. 

Although anandamide is present in cacao, the amount is relatively small, and its effects are not as pronounced as those of THC.

Here are some benefits associated with anandamide in cacao: 

  • Mood enhancement: Anandamide is known to interact with the brain’s reward system, which contributes to feelings of pleasure and well-being. 
  • Stress reduction: Anandamide has been linked to the regulation of stress and anxiety. It helps regulate the body’s response to stress and promotes relaxation. 
  • Neuroprotection: Anandamide, as an endocannabinoid, has neuroprotective properties. It helps protect against neurodegenerative diseases by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. 
  • Appetite regulation: Anandamide has been associated with the regulation of appetite and food intake. It’s what gives us the satiated feeling . 

For further info on Anandamide:


Phenylethylamine (PEA) is another naturally occurring compound found in Cacao.

PEA is known for its psychoactive properties and is often referred to as the ‘love molecule’ or the ‘chocolate amphetamine’. It’s believed to be responsible for the feelings of pleasure and euphoria one experiences with Cacao. Produced naturally during the fermentation of the Cacao beans, PEA is heat-sensitive and is retained only in pure, minimally-processed Cacao. 

PEA is also present in the brains of humans and other mammals, where it acts as a

neurotransmitter, known as the brain’s primary love chemical. Like its α-methylated derivative, amphetamine, PEA has stimulant effects, which lead to the release of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. It is this impact on the levels of all these “feel-good hormones” which makes PEA a mood improver. 

It can be described as an immediate shot of happiness, pleasure, and emotional well-being.

It also brings great improvements to cognitive performance, more drive, attention, awareness, heightened creativity, pleasure, libido, a sense of well-being and social behavior.  

It might be one of the reasons many experience a big heart-opening effect when using Cacao in a group ceremony.

If you would like to explore PEA see additional information in the below links

Pea a natural antidepressant


Cacao is an excellent dietary source of magnesium. 

Magnesium is an essential mineral that supports various bodily functions, as mentioned earlier. It is estimated that one ounce (28 grams) Cacao can provide about 16% of the recommended daily intake of magnesium.

Benefits of Magnesium include:

  • Stress Reduction: Magnesium has long been associated with stress reduction and mood enhancement. It can help regulate the release of stress hormones and promote a sense of relaxation.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Magnesium has been linked to cardiovascular health benefits too, such as maintaining normal blood pressure and supporting heart function.  Studies have suggested that regular consumption of  cacao and its magnesium content may help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Muscle Relaxation: Magnesium plays a key role in muscle relaxation and can help alleviate muscle tension. Consuming cacao, provides some relief from muscle cramps and promotes relaxation.
  • Sleep Quality: Magnesium can contribute to better sleep quality and relaxation. Along with other compounds like tryptophan and serotonin precursors,it has a positive impact on sleep by promoting relaxation and supporting the production of sleep-inducing hormones.
  • Mood Enhancement: Magnesium is involved in the production and regulation of neurotransmitters that influence mood. When combined with other compounds like phenylethylamine and anandamide,it promotes mood enhancement and a sense of well-being.

More info on Magnesium here


Additionally Cacao is a rich source of several other minerals, including:

  • Iron: Cacao is also a good source of iron, with a 25-gram serving of raw cacao powder providing about 2.5 milligrams of iron, or roughly 15% of the daily recommended intake for adults.
  • Zinc: Cacao contains zinc, with a 25-gram serving of raw cacao powder providing about 1 milligram of zinc, or roughly 10% of the daily recommended intake for adults.
  • Potassium: Cacao also contains potassium, with a 25-gram serving of  cacao powder providing about 200 milligrams of potassium, or roughly 5% of the daily recommended intake for adults.
  • Copper: Cacao is a good source of copper, with a 25-gram serving of cacao providing about 1.9 milligrams of copper, or roughly 133% of the daily recommended intake for adults.

All these nutrients combine and conspire in a magical way to make cacao a miracle natural medicine. Having a hugely positive impact on our physical well being most notably in supporting cardiovascular health and boosting our immune system, while gently relaxing our muscles and nervous system. Our mental well being is also positively impacted through improved mental focus and clarity, reducing stress and boosting energy levels .Theobromine along with the other bliss molecules open us up to greater love, joy, creativity and connection to self. Facilitating a safe space for reflection, Introspection and emotional release. Thank you Mama Cacao!


Share your love
Vivienne Dempsey
Vivienne Dempsey
Articles: 80