Introduction To Ceremonial Grade Cacao

Cacao Pods

Organic, raw, ceremonial grade, Criollo cacao from Peru is the first product we have introduced as part of the Old Faithful Herbal range. So here’s some information on Cacao and the amazing benefits it has to offer..

Brief History of Cacao

Until recently it has been thought the use of cacao dated back some 3000 years to the Olmecs and Aztecs who lived around 1500 - 400 BC in Central America. But the most recent research from 2018 shifts it’s origins 1,400 miles south and back in time by 1,500 years. Experts say seeds from the cacao tree were first used in present day Ecuador by members of the Mayo Chinchipe culture, some 5000 years ago.

Famously the Mayans enjoyed cacao drinks and believed cacao was discovered by the Gods and sent to them to enjoy. The Aztecs in particular revered the drink - they gave it to victorious warriors after battle, used it during religious rituals, and even used cacao beans as currency.

Cacao is the Spanish word for chcahuatl, which is what Aztecs called the beans. It’s thought that English traders misspelled cacao when they brought the beans home, and so cocoa stuck in western civilisation.

Carl Linnaeus, the well-known Swedish botanist responsible for the classification system of life forms, gave cacao its official name of ‘Theobroma’ derived from the Greek words θεός (theos), meaning God, and βρῶμα (broma), meaning food - ‘Food of the Gods'. He was of the opinion that cacao is a very effective aphrodisiac and can be used to treat various diseases. 

Nowadays theobroma cacao is grown in tropical regions around the world. Most commercial chocolate comes from cacao grown in West Africa, but the rare Criollo varieties from the Americas are still considered the best. The other main varieties are Forastero, the most widely-used, and Trinitario, which is a hybrid of Criollo & Forastero.  

Raw Cacao Vs Cocoa

Difference of Cacao and Cocoa Processing

Cacao Processing

As you can see.. the main difference is the extent of processing and the use of high heat. Like any natural food or botanical ingredient that goes through high heat and other processing, the original material loses much of its therapeutic benefits, potency and nutritional value. 

The main principle guiding any Old Faithful product is that the ingredients are of the highest unrefined quality, suffering minimum processing, thus maintaining maximum therapeutic benefit for you. Raw ceremonial grade cacao is the perfect fit for our new wellbeing range. Especially when you hear about its incredible benefits.. 

Benefits of Cacao

During the 1990's scientific research began in earnest on cacao's nutritional value and it was found to be one of the greatest superfoods containing approximately 380 compounds.

Cacao is rich in nutrients: 

  • Cacao is one of the richest sources of antioxidants - reducing free radicals that would normally cause oxidative damage to our brain and body. 
  • Packs more calcium than cow's milk
  • High levels of magnesium which has way too many benefits to mention here
  • Improves blood circulation, digestion & elimination.
  • Rich in iron, manganese, copper, zinc and chromium
  • High levels of vitamin C and B-complex vitamins.

Cacao is super high in a variety of Polyphenols which are a type of antioxidant. Plant polyphenols possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and DNA repair properties. 

Theobromine which takes its name from the cacao plant, naturally lowers blood pressure. It dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow acting as a stimulant similar to caffeine. However, Theobromine does not affect the nervous system like caffeine does. Cacao also has a small amount of caffeine present.

Cacao contains Methylxanthines which are a variety of stimulants produced by plants and animals. they are also produced by human cells and enhance arousal, mood, and concentration levels.

One study found that long-term ingestion of high flavanol cacao increases dermal blood flow and oxygen saturation. 

Emotional Wellbeing 

Studies have shown that cacao affects our mood and emotional wellbeing.. it contains the essential amino acid tryptophan, which increases production of serotonin, an important brain chemical that helps us remain positive and happy. It also contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which our bodies make naturally when we are excited and when we fall in love. (The only other food on earth that contains PEA is blue-green algae). These neurotransmitters also remain in the bloodstream longer after ingesting cacao, creating a natural antidepressant benefit, while the theobromine and caffeine content boosts energy levels and relieves fatigue.

The theobromine in cacao is a mild stimulant sometimes used as a treatment for depression. It releases the compound anandamide, known as the bliss chemical (Ananda is Sanskrit for bliss) which produces uniquely euphoric feelings of relaxation and contentment. It does this by stimulating the endocannabinoid receptors, and like CBD, blocking anandamide’s metabolization.

Spiritual Benefits

Cacao is a powerful Plant Medicine that helps us to release emotional blockages that no longer serve us, find forgiveness in ourselves and others, and shows us the way forward if we are stuck, or afraid of making necessary life changes. It also enables us to access stuck emotions, conditionings, patterns of behaviour and addictions that are buried deep in the unconscious.

Cacao has been explained as "gentle but powerful, she won’t push you through a door rather gently leads you there if you are willing. The effects can help you better understand yourself, aid clearing emotional blocks, enables the letting go of past relationships, connects you with your creativity and enhances focus and mental agility."

We crave chocolate for more than just its flavour! We crave it for the healing it brings to us, the stimulation and opening of our hearts, the softening of our muscles, the relaxation and clarity of mind. Cacao brings long lasting healing for the mind, body and soul.  

Consuming Cacao..

Cacao Paste

Cacao paste is the cacao butter (55%) and powder (45%) still combined after stone milling from the cacao nibs and before cold-pressing out the butter. Because the bean’s fat remains intact, it protects all those feel good chemicals, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals from the oxidation process. The paste has more beneficial properties than the two separate entities because of this. The paste is what is consumed during a Cacao Ceremony. 

Cacao Powder 

Cacao powder is where much of the nutritional value is.. Cacao powder contains over 300 important compounds, including protein B-vitamins and minerals such as calcium, sulphur, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper. It also contains most of the antioxidants and theobromine. However, as described above, these start to oxidise (diminish) once the butter (fat) is removed. The powder is great for a lovely hot chocolate drink that provides a nice 'pick me up'. Also for cooking and baking, but the the cacao paste is where the magic is.

Cacao Ceremonies

During a Ceremony the widely recommended dose is 42g of the cacao paste in a cup of liquid (around 250mls). Although a ceremonial dose which has emotional and physical effects can be anywhere from 25 grams. You may like to start with around 25-30g of cacao in total and increase to 40g plus as you get used to it. The liquid should be water or plant milk or a mixture of both. Animal milk is not advised as it inhibits some of the benefits of cacao. For me, a ceremonial cup of cacao induces a slight euphoric, blissful feeling. I feel more connected and open-hearted. It has a real relaxing and warming energy to it. 

Blending Cacao Powder & Paste

I usually like to make a drink with both the paste and powder. I usually add about 10g of powder on top of the paste quantity I want that day. The powder adds an extra chocolatey flavour and can add an extra energy. Play with this yourself to see what suits you. Our Raw Cacao Starter Pack includes 200g of both paste and powder. This is a good purchase for those new to cacao. 

Over the period of time I have been drinking ceremonial cacao, I have felt the cacao energy affect my state of being. It has helped me to reach a higher level of consciousness in daily life and has complimented my other energetic and spiritual practices such as Yoga, Qi gong and meditation.

Ceremonial Cacao Precautions

You should speak with your doctor before consuming ceremonial cacao if you are:

  • Taking antidepressants - Cacao contains tryptophan and MAO inhibitors that may cause a synergistic intensification when combined with antidepressants. 
  • Taking hypertension medication
  • Have a Heart Condition
  • If you are Pregnant

The theobromine in cacao is a vasodilator, it dilates blood capillaries, increasing the blood flow and thus lowers blood pressure. Ceremony Cacao doses can increase blood flow to the brain & heart by 40%. 

If you have a heart condition or are pregnant it is likely still safe to consume ceremonial grade cacao but at lower doses of around 15-20g. 

Generally, it is not recommended to take ceremonial cacao doses above 55 grams — anything above this dosage is known to produce headaches, “the sweats”, nausea, or even heart palpitations for a small percentage of people.

Where to buy ceremonial Cacao in the UK?

There are many suppliers and retailers online and some on the high street. However, Old Faithful supply the finest Ceremonial Grade Cacao through partnerships with ethical small farmer cooperatives in Peru. Our product delivers an amazing experience and benefits. Our repeat customers and reviews are testament to it's quality.

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