5 Ways to Heal with Cacao
By: Jessi Luna
The fruit of the cacao plant is a blessed and sacred offering from Mother Earth. Her gentle guidance opens our heart energies and facilitates a space where true connection ignites. I am speaking of the ancient aphrodisiac and traditional medicine of cacao, or now better known in its modern form as the bean that is made into chocolate.
Opening the yellow fruit of the cacao exposes a sweet, milky white protective layer around the sacred cacao beans. Nestled in this tasty filling (almost as enjoyable to eat as the cacao itself!) are anywhere from 50-100 cacao beans. These beans are strong medicine to our bodies, minds and spirits and can be drunk ceremonially in pure form. By connecting with cacao in this way, I’ll share the healing benefits of this sacred medicine and how it can accompany your daily practice:
1. Emotional Healin
My first experience with drinking pure cacao was 7 years ago on the shores of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Guided by local cacao shamans Keith and Isiais, I drank the cacao with intention, and I experienced the subtle yet powerful cleansing of the plant medicine. As with many plant medicines, we must be open to receive the plant, and with that receptivity, cacao can be one of the greatest teachers. The cacao spirit guides this plant journey with love, compassion, and heart. Drinking pure cacao does not give you a psychedelic trip with fractalized hallucinations or an out of body experiences. The cacao touches our heart to remind us that it is our heart that is guiding our lives with purity.
A cacao journey is a journey into the emotional center of the Anahata, or Heart Chakra. Our Chakras are our balancing energy centers in the body, and our Heart Chakra represents our emotions of empathy, connection, and love. We often develop blockages in our chakras which bring these energies out of alignment. Blockages come from the negative energies we hold onto in life experiences, and these could be anything from having a fight with your best friend to judging yourself for decisions or actions you’ve made. Cacao cleanses and releases these energetic and emotional blockages of energy to reveal the true light and love that we are all in our highest essence.
2. Physical Healing
Pure cacao is very bitter, and bitters are a taste that are not generally favorable to our taste buds. Yet, bitters can also be some of the most beneficial foods for our bodies. We often find bitters in dark, leafy green vegetables and herbs, and yet cacao is one too. Pure cacao benefits our bodies by providing over 621 different antioxidants (wild blueberries only have 61!), Bitters also contain good amounts of potassium, iron for cardiovascular support, as well as calcium and magnesium for organ health.
In order to prepare the beans to drink them in their pure form, the beans must be lightly fermented (soaked overnight in water to enliven their nutrients) and then dried in the sun, then lightly toasted to remove their shells before being ground to make cacao powder. The process brings vitality to the bean as well to the one consuming it.
3. Mental Healing
When drinking cacao, 40 minutes later you will experience around 40-60% more blood flow to the brain. Cacao helps your body process nitric oxide which enhances blood circulation and improves the cardiovascular system. Increased blood flow brings increased oxygen, nutrients and prana (life energy) to our mental space. Cacao also has ‘flavonoids’ which Harvard studies have proven to enhance thought and memory. My personal experience with cacao is that my mind is quieter with cacao. The increased blood flow does not increase my typical mental patterns, rather the increased prana calms the mental chatter of the mind (the vrittis in Sanskrit) and opens portals to connect with our true intellect.
From this place we can feel ourselves from our space of inner knowing. The cacao moves our mind energy from the cerebral cortex (the brain) and into the mind of the heart. The mind of the heart, which actually fires neurons nano-seconds before neurons are fired from the cerebral brain, is our emotion-based decisions come from. Rather than thinking of a solution, we feel a solution that we know is right for our inner knowing. Whereas we are conditioned to make decision with our brain-mind, the cacao facilitates this awareness of our heart-mind and allows us to connect with this space of love and emotion on a more consistent basis.
4. Spiritual Healing
I’ve explained how cacao works on the heart-centered emotional body, so how does this bring us to spiritual awakening? Well, as the Beatles explained, All You Need is Love..Love is all you need! Our spiritual essence is to love and be love, and cacao can lead us to feel this. This concept is to feel rather than to try to understand or evaluate from a mental space. Coupled with a yoga practice to quiet the mind, cacao can facilitate our divine connection to our true purpose, passion, and calling in this physical lifetime.
At the Kula Collective, we love to facilitate Cacao & Yoga classes. Our physical asana practices takes on a gentle, feminine fluidity that focuses on heart opening postures. When drinking cacao before the practice, our consciousness can more easily come to this place of love and the heart. We can feel the benefits of these postures rather than think about them from a mental space. Our divine power as spiritual beings is always inside of us, cacao helps us move out of our own way to allow that light to radiate!
5. Healing for People and Planet
Guatemala is the first place I drank cacao and is one of the places I call home. Guatemala is also home to some of the most High Vibrational cacao in the world. I use the term ‘High Vibrational’ to encompass a high energy food with high intentional growth and preparation (aka organic, fair trade, etc). With this purity and low-impact processing, High Vibrational foods maintain their healing energies. When ingested, these foods connect directly with our energetic bodies to balance, align, and heal.
In Guatemala, the Kula works with cacao shamans and local healers who are guided by the cacao spirit to source cacao directly from the land. They hand pick, soak, and peel the cacao, giving love and intention to the bean. Only premium beans are ground to become the cacao that is used in ceremony. The process incorporates local families earning living wages. Directly sourcing this cacao avoids the industrialization and chemicals that strip the healing energy of so much of the foods we eat.
Popular chocolate brands like Hersheys and Cadberry are only around 20% cacao if you’re lucky. Sometimes you can find a chocolate bar in high-end health food stores that are around 70% cacao. Regardless of the bar, these multi-national corporations use toxic agrochemicals, heavy machinery, and extremely low-wage labor to produce the final product. Across the world, farmers and agricultural labor is extremely underpaid, averaging earning about 5% of the price you pay for that bar. The energy of these pains to people and planet are held in what you eat. When choosing a food to nourish our bodies, choose a food that nourished the people and planet with a clean chain of production.
For half of the year, Jessi lives and teaches in Guatemala. Six years ago, she founded JUSTA, a holistic network that connects indigenous artisans, global designers, and projects that promote self-sustaining development, creative expression, and holistic empowerment within family and community. Learn more about JUSTA here.
Jessi, along with her husband Zach, are also in the process of creating a Holistic Retreat Center, Seven Springs, in her mountain home of East Tennessee. Seven Springs is a place of natural abundance and cultural diversity where people learn how to create holistic sustenance for themselves and their communities. The space seeks to provide an innovative and transformative space for local and global communities to experience high quality holistic education. Retreats offered vary from yoga, massage, natural medicines and foods, creativity, social innovation, team-building, eco-building and permaculture.