“Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine.” – Geronimo Piperni, quoted by Antonio Lavedán, Spanish army surgeon,1796
Our current global environmental and social crisis has reached epic proportions and will need epic solutions to the challenges we are facing, and will continue to face long into the future. I believe the solutions can only be found in nature. It is when we reconnect with the plants we remember our connection with the whole of nature and this shifts our consciousness.
”We can begin the restructuring of thought by declaring legitimate what we have denied for so long. Lets us declare Nature to be legitimate. The notion of illegal plants is obnoxious and ridiculous in the first place.” – Terence McKenna
For eighteen years I have worked extensively with three plant medicines, undergoing shamanic training. The first apprenticeship was with the shamanic Amazonian plant medicine, Ayahuasca in the Peruvian Amazon with a traditional Ayauasquero shaman called Don Juanito. My story is well documented in my self-published book ‘The Shaman’s Last Apprentice,” and in a short documentary of the same name.
My second apprenticeship was with hemp. I grew research crops with Hadlow Agricultural College, Emerson College and DeMontfort University, became an educator speaking all over the country, and created my own product, Hempower, a mix of oats and dehulled hemp seed that only needed hot water and made a delicious, hot, nutritious meal.
The third plant medicine has been cacao. While I was travelling in South and Central America, in 2012 I received the message I had to find the cacao shaman and work with the cacao plant. I duly found the cacao shaman nestled on Lake Aticlan in Guatamala and returned to the UK with 21 pounds of cacao in my rucksack. My first cacao ceremony was on Valentines day 2013, and I have been doing them regularly ever since.
Cacao has always been considered a very powerful aphrodisiac, exotic food, and medicine by the Mesoamerican and South American cultures, such as the Mayans, Aztecs and Spanish conquistadors. Its Greek name Theobroma Cacaoliterally means ‘Food of the Gods, Thea (god), Broma (food), with the Maya word Ka’kau.‘
The Mayans also called it Chocol’ha, and used the verb chokola’j meaning, ‘to drink chocolate together,’ suggesting that cacao by it’s very nature needs to be drunk in a group, Most of Mesoamerica used cacao as a sacred beverage to commune with their gods. The Mayans believed that the ka’kau’ was discovered by the gods in a mountain that also contained other exotic foods to be used by the Maya. Mayan mythology claims Hunahpú gave cacao to the Maya after the divine grandmother goddess Ixmucané created humans from maize, and was offered up as part of the regular sacrifices to a pantheon of deities.
However, we are not talking about industrialised commercial chocolate made by ‘Nestle’, or ‘Kraft,’ that’s packed full of milk, sugar and fats. In fact, the more cacao is processed, the more of its goodness disappears. We are talking about 100% cacao straight from the bean and ground down into what is known, as the cacao liquor.
Cacao is renowned for its many health benefits that support physical and psychological well-being. Evidence fromclinical trials clearly showed that cacao helps to relieve emotional stress. Consuming 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate per day for a period of two weeks reduced stress hormones and stress-related biochemical agents in volunteers, who rated themselves as highly stressed.
So why is cacao so effective in reducing stress?
Benefits are found in the neurotransmitter modulating agents that act as natural antidepressants. Its high valeric acid content blocks the stress hormones, while triggering the release of dopamine and the endorphin phenylethylamine, both of which are known as ‘bliss chemicals’ and naturally reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and depression. It also contains the essential amino acid tryptophan, which increases production of serotonin, an important brain chemical that helps us remain positive and happy. A lack of serotonin can lead to depression, fatigue and mood swings. 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.
Cacao also increases the blood flow to the brain, creating more mental agility, awareness and focus. It may also delay dementias like senility and Alzheimer’s, increase skin resistance to UV radiation/sunburn, keeps skin smoother in old age, slow down tooth decay and can remove heavy metals from the body. It also contains potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium which contribute to cardiovascular health. As well as powerful antioxidants, cacao also contains flavonoids along with a significant amount of chromium, which balances blood sugar levels and helps the body’s cells resist damage by free radicals caused by a toxic environment. Likewise, the flavanols have a positive effect on vascular health, lowers blood pressure, improves blood flow to the brain and heart and helps the clotting process of blood.
Cacao is not only great for our mental and physical well-being, it can also help our emotional and spiritual well-being too. 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 show us the way forward if we are stuck or afraid of making the necessary life changes in order to move on. It also enables us to access stuck emotions, conditioning, patterns of behaviour and addictions that are buried deep in the unconscious.
What I have learnt is that plant medicines are the bridge that connects us with our inner hidden world and gives us messages from deep within our unconscious that is in tune with nature and the natural flow. Cacao can be kinesethetic, physical, emotional or visual, it works differently for everyone.
During my time working with cacao I have experienced some extraordinary healings and breakthroughs, energy releases and surrendering. Personally, I am more relaxed, my tolerance levels have increased and I don’t get as stressed or anxious. I feel much happier, younger, more vibrant and energised. Most importantly, I no longer suffer from depressive dips, instead I find I look forward to every day and have found a deep sense of inner peace and trust. Here is a quote from one of my long-term students: “Cacao has transformed my understanding of myself and the universe, through surrendering I love myself at last. I feel so grateful and connected.”
Chocolate! who would have thought this humble confectionery is such a powerful medicine in its natural form? It’s time to share the love!
“The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain.” – Thomas Jefferson