Cacao benefits | Cacao experience | Ceremonial cacao | Consciousness | Plant medicine | Spirituality
The discussion around the use of plant medicines within the context and for the purpose of spiritual development and as adjuncts or alternatives to therapy has been increasingly gaining attention.
The desire to alter one’s consciousness seems to be a fundamental human desire, as attested by the use of plant medicines, entheogens, and psychedelics across peoples and cultures the world over since the beginning of civilization.
Broadly speaking, plant medicines are natural substances that can help return the body to a state of natural balance so that it can heal, maintain or enhance its general health and well-being. Entheogen, which literally means “bringing forth the divine within”, is a term used to describe the profoundly transformative, spiritual experiences some plant medicines can elicit. Psychedelics – from the Greek words 'mind/soul' and 'manifesting' – are a type of entheogen. All psychedelics are entheogenic, but not all entheogenic substances are psychedelics.
So, where does Ceremonial Cacao fit into all this?
Native to the lowland regions of Central America, Cacao is the “bean” or seed of the Theobroma Cacao L.tree’s fruit. “Theobroma,” meaning “Food of the Gods,” Cacao was a highly revered plant for hundreds of years by the peoples and civilizations in the regions of its roots. This plant does best in warm, humid climates and is known for its varied health benefits as well as its spiritual uses.
Medicinal plants and herbs are often classified as such due to their therapeutic properties, promotion of well-being, and/or potential to help treat disease. Packed with antioxidants, magnesium, manganese, calcium, potassium, theobromine, and healthy fats, there is no denying that Cacao, in its purest form, is a potent medicinal plant. Studies have shown that Cacao helps, among other things, reduce inflammation, improve blood circulation, regulate blood pressure, and enhance cognitive function. In addition to the physical benefits one might experience from utilizing Cacao, there are also many potential psychological and emotional advantages to using this plant medicine.
Due to its ability to interact with the mind, Cacao is also known as an entheogen. Entheogens are psychoactive substances (often derived from plants) that can induce temporary shifts in perspective, mood, or perceptions and are often utilized for spiritual purposes. While these substances canbe hallucinogenic (like psilocybin or Ayahuasca), they do not all fall under that category.
Cacao is one of the gentler entheogens. It is classified as a psychoactive (from the Greek psykhē "soul, mind, spirit; the invisible animating principle or entity which occupies and directs the physical body) but not a psychedelic. Though it influences the mind – especially in high dosages – unlike psychedelics, it is not hallucinogenic and therefore does not impair cognitive functioning. In fact, despite Cacao’s phenomenal advantages for spiritual work, it was largely ignored in the 1960s resurgence of medicinal plants precisely because it does not work the same as psychedelics. For all the shifts in perspective and mood, Cacao provides a fully embodied experience, which is why it is a powerful ally to incorporate into daily practice.
There are various compounds in Cacao that produce tangible effects within the mind, the most important of which are PEA (phenylethylamine) and anandamide.
PEA, which can increase dopamine production, enhance attentiveness, and elevate one’s mood, is often referred to as the “love” chemical. Anandamide, the “bliss” chemical, targets the same regions of the brain as THC, which can significantly affect our sense of motivation, pleasure, and memory. Anandamide brings a resulting sensation that could be compared to a “body high”.
Both PEA and anandamide are naturally produced in the brain; however, Cacao provides us with an extra boost! Many may experience this as a deepening of connectivity to the self and others, making Cacao a powerful ally for diving deeper into emotional and spiritual work. On top of this, the combination of anandamide and magnesium, which is also present in Cacao, can help bring the body into a more physiologically relaxed state, which can be crucial for transformational inner work.
Cacao also contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), which help regulate and maintain mood-altering neurotransmitters in the brain by slowing serotonin and dopamine processing. Since blocking (or inhibiting) MAO can help reduce depression, the presence of MAOIs in Cacao could be helpful in exploring different mental and physiological states. However, tyramine in Cacao contraindicates MAOI-based antidepressants. Therefore SSRI-based antidepressants and antipsychotics may be contraindicated. If you are taking either, please contact your doctor before utilizing Cacao.
Historically, Cacao has been used by the Maya-Chinchipe people, the Izapan, Olmec, Toltec, Aztecs, and others for various purposes. Although there is no evidence of a single tradition or way of consuming Cacao, traces of theobromine (an element found almost exclusively in Cacao) in vessels, as well as etchings and hieroglyphs, indicate that it has been used in rituals for centuries. Evidence allows us to safely conclude that Cacao was revered and used historically for marital, sacrificial, and baptismal rites, among others. Although we do not know the specificities or frequency of these occurrences, it is clear that Cacao was an essential component in all.
Today, Cacao is often used as a heart-opener and facilitator of spiritual work. Being a vasodilator, Cacao increases blood flow to the brain and heart. If one wishes to observe this through the spiritual lens, the sensation could be described as bringing more energy or Qi to the heart chakra. The phrase “move into the heart” is often used in the spiritual practice of Cacao. Combined with the previously discussed effects Cacao has on the mind, this entheogen promotes deeper opening mentally, physically, and emotionally: creating a perfect recipe for spiritual work.
Keith Wilson, creator of Keith's Cacao, notes, "Ceremonial Cacao makes it much easier (for those who are willing) to deeply access the emotional body, pain-body, or density on the dark shadow side, or ready expansion and higher dimensional connection on the light shadow side. Especially in a vibrationally supportive, non-fixing, and non-judgmental setting, many go considerably deeper than they otherwise would. And understandings tend to lead to more permanent changes than those of many psychedelic trips. But because Cacao doesn't actually 'take' you anywhere, you must be willing to go there by your own choice. The heart-centered anchor that spiritual Cacao is, makes it much more likely that wherever one is going, it is with more love and less fear".
In other words, Cacao "takes you to the door but does not push you through it". That choice is yours to make.
One of the most beautiful aspects of working with the Spirit of Cacao is that each person’s journey is completely their own. For some, Cacao alone is sufficient for their spiritual practice and purposes. Others may feel called to dive deeper through the combination of Cacao with other entheogens – namely psychedelics.
Psychedelics are a subclass of hallucinogenic drugs whose primary effect is to trigger non-ordinary states of consciousness. Some commonly known psychedelics include Psilocybin (magic mushrooms), Ayahuasca, Peyote, Mescaline, and DMT. These substances have a much stronger effect on our cognitive state than Cacao does, but they can serve mental expansion in similar ways.
Cacao is an excellent synergist and can be combined with both high and micro-doses of other medicinal plants. It is more commonly used with psilocybin [magic] mushrooms in Southern Mexico. Because Cacao is particularly powerful for the synergy of thoughts, it may help one to zoom out enough to understand all the parts of a bigger picture – and how they fit together. This can be incredibly helpful when sifting through a lot of thoughts and understandings as they arise, and realizations tend toward more permanent changes than with psychedelic trips alone. Therefore, in any integrative practice during or after the use of psychedelics, Cacao stands as an ally for processing.
Portion size is to be taken into consideration when combining Cacao with psychedelics. A full dose of both a psychedelic and Cacao together can easily lead to an overdose due to 40% more psychedelic-saturated blood pumping around the body from the Cacao. Keith recommends trying 1-1.3oz (28-38g) of Cacao or less while also considering using a reduced dose of the psychedelic. Alternatively, one can begin with a full ceremonial amount of Cacao (1.5oz/42.5g) and less psychedelic for a harmonious balance. If microdosing on a psychedelic, the Cacao is commonly ingested with the microdose or some 40 minutes later.
Although Cacao isn’t utilized as frequently with Ayahuasca, a few indigenous teachers have combined them to create a deeper experience. Because the MAOIs in Cacao can extend the duration of the effects of DMT (the main active ingredient of Ayahuasca), some take Cacao with Ayahuasca to reduce the degradation of DMT in the stomach and to extend the length of their medicinal journey. In such cases, the Cacao is typically taken about 30-45 minutes before one begins to surface from the depths of the trip.
In general, ingesting larger doses of Cacao simultaneously as Ayahuasca or Peyote, or up to an hour later, can add to the purging process. Depending on an individual's given needs and intentions, this could also be considered. With Ayahuasca retreats, Cacao may also be used between journeys for recovery and integration.
Something to note: the medical literature notes that taking stimulants or MDMA (Ecstasy) with MAOIs can lead to a serious high blood pressure crisis. Although Cacao has MAOIs, it is also a vasodilator that lowers blood pressure. So it is less likely to cause these high blood pressure problems.
You can read more about combining other substances with Cacao on our blog: Cacao Synergies: Combining Cacao with Other Substances.
For more on Cacao Use for Spiritual Purposes, go here.
For Cacao's Medicinal Benefits, follow this link.
You will also find valuable information on our blogs: Benefits and Uses of Keith's Cacao: Consciousness and Spirituality, and Benefits and Uses of Keith's Cacao: Medical and Health.