Here's what you need to know about ceremonial cacao...
Updated: Mar 1
Chances are if you've attended a yoga or meditation studio in the past 2 years you've heard of cacao ceremonies. Although cacao has been consumed for thousands of years for health and spirituality purposes by Central and South American indigenous peoples, there has been a recent interest in the international wellness community in the practice of "cacao ceremonies". Usually the term cacao ceremony suggests a standalone event where a group of individuals come together to drink pure cacao and be led on a guided meditation by an experienced practitioner. Having personally consumed "ceremonial grade" cacao in a number of different settings and occasions, I want to emphasize that there is not only one correct way to experiment with the substance.
WHAT IS IT?
Ceremonial grade simply means cacao that has not been roasted or processed beyond what is necessary to make it safe for human consumption. Most commercially available cacao is roasted at high temperatures and then commonly mixed with preservatives and/or mixing agents. Both processes lower the cost of production but they also deplete the fruit of it's many natural qualities. In order to properly experience the effects of cacao what you want to look for is organically farmed, raw cacao solids or powder and dark organic unroasted (raw) bean to bar chocolate.
HOW WILL IT MAKE ME FEEL?
Energized, alert, and upbeat. Theobromine (the active ingredient in cacao) is a vasodilator, diuretic and heart stimulator. It has stimulant properties but unlike caffeine which is a vasoconstrictor, it actually increases blood flow throughout the body and immediately lowers your blood pressure and heart rate. This effect, paired with the effects of the tryptophan present in raw cacao, have been shown to promote a positive mood and sense of calm. The additional oxygen that reaches the brain due to vasodilation improves cognitive function and increases alertness and balance.
SHOULD I EAT OR DRINK CEREMONIAL CACAO?
All bodies are different and most individuals will have unique experiences with ceremonial cacao. The quickest way to absorb the highest dose of theobromine is by drinking raw cacao powder diluted in still water at body temperature, after having fasted for 3 hours prior. For more sensitive people like myself, the stimulating effects of the theobromine can become overwhelming if care is not taken to drink the right dose of cacao. Another method to prepare ceremonial cacao for consumption as a drink would be to melt solid pieces of raw chocolate into your chosen liquid over low heat. The cacao butter in the chocolate would produce a more thick, hot chocolate type of consistency than the cacao powder, and the theobromine levels would be slightly milder.
Many purists insist on drinking cacao straight with nothing but water, however if you prefer a different taste it is perfectly acceptable to add unprocessed organic sweeteners (agave, honey, coconut blossom sugar) and spices like cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom or whatever else sits well with your body. Instead of water it is also possible to use homemade nut milks as a base. Whatever ingredient you add, it must always be 100% organic, un processed and ideally raw/unroasted.
I have found that when eating raw chocolate, cacao beans or nibs, I experience milder yet longer and more sustained effects than I would if I were just drinking it alone. The key to finding the right method for your body and specific needs is to take it slow at the beginning and try a few different things. You can just drink it, just eat it or a combination of the two. For general serving sizes and modes of consumption please visit the CEREMONIAL section of the Cachao website and click on an item to see the general guidelines and serving sizes for each product.
Warning: It is possible to experience adverse side-effects such as nausea, sweating, headache and nervousness with overconsumption of cacao. Please consult with your doctor before consuming ceremonial cacao if you are pregnant and/or have a heart condition.
HOW DO I USE CEREMONIAL CACAO?
Attend a group event, integrate it in to your own private rituals or host your own gathering with friends. Ask around your local health & wellness businesses if you're interested in attending a cacao ceremony led by an experienced practitioner. Often times the person leading a cacao ceremony will combine the experience with sound healing, Qigong, voice activation or other tools to further open up your mind and help you go deeper into your meditation.
For something more personal you could try waking up at sunrise and drinking your cacao before a morning meditation or yoga session. Those who are more experienced with meditation should be able to ease into and harness the effects of the ceremonial cacao without any guidance. I personally find it easier to clear and open my mind when I'm in a soothing environment, outside of my home. Being close to a body of water, slightly off-course of a hiking trail, a shady spot under a tree in a park will usually do the trick. If you'd like some guidance, there are a number of great applications for guided meditation and breathing that you could try. I prefer guided breathings and use the Insight Timer app programming the bell to sound every 5 seconds for 5 minutes. If you try this method take one long sustained breath at the sound of the first bell and when you hear the second bell begin exhaling long and slow, repeating and keeping the same rhythm until the cycle completes.
GET IN TOUCH
If after reading this article you're still left with burning questions about ceremonial cacao and how to use it, or you're ready to try it for yourself and you'd like some assistance with choosing the right products, please feel free to drop us a line a firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be happy to help!