Ceremonial cacao is a pure, minimally processed form of cacao that has been used for centuries in traditional rituals and ceremonies by indigenous cultures, particularly in Central and South America.

Table of Contents

10 min read.

→ Background

→ Cacao Ceremonies

What’s Inside

→ Health Benefits

How To Use Ceremonial Cacao

Summary

Background

Historically, 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 Cacao literally means ‘Food of the Gods, Thea (god), Broma (food), with the Maya word Ka’kau.’

Ceremonail Cacao is essentially a drinking chocolate, but not to be confused with anything you can buy from the supermarket.

The word Cacao originated from the Maya word Ka’kau’, as well as the Maya words Chocol’ha, and the verb chokola’j “to drink chocolate together. The Maya believed that the ka’kau’ was discovered by the gods in a mountain that also contained other delectable foods.

Cup of Cacao help in two hands as seen from above.

Cacao Ceremonies

A cacao ceremony is a ritualistic gathering where participants consume ceremonial-grade cacao to foster spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being. The ceremony typically begins with setting intentions and creating a sacred space. Participants drink a warm cacao beverage, often enhanced with spices, in a mindful and meditative manner.

Guided meditation, breathwork, and sharing circles are common components, encouraging deep reflection, heart-opening, and community connection. The cacao acts as a gentle stimulant, enhancing mood and clarity, making the ceremony a powerful experience for personal growth and collective bonding.

chocolate heart isolated on white

What's Inside

Cacao contains potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium which contribute to cardiovascular health. Chocolate has the ability to trigger the release of dopamine and the endorphin phenylethylamine, both of which soothe the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and depression.

Ceremonial cacao key ingredients:

1. Theobromine

While cacao contains much less caffeine than coffee, it has around double the amount of theobromine, a naturally occurring compound that acts as a gentle stimulant. Theobromine is in the same class of stimulants as caffeine, but differs because it offers a longer lasting, more evenly-spread energy boost without a spike and crash.  Unlike caffine, Theobromine is not a central nervous stimilant, instead, it stimulates the cardiovascular system meaning it increases heart function and blood flow.

The name “theobromine” even comes from the word “theobroma”, which comes from the Greek root “theo” meaning “God” and “brosi” meaning “food”.

2. Dopamine

It has the ability to trigger the release of dopamine and the endorphin phenylethylamine, both of which soothe the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and depression.

3. Magnesium & Tryptophan

Cacao contains the essential amino acid tryptophan, which increases production of serotonin, an important brain chemical that helps us remain positive and happy.

Raw cacao is one of the highest plant-based sources of magnesium, sometimes known as the “sleep mineral”.  Magnesium is a natural relaxant that helps deactivate adrenaline and is said to quiet nerves and calm sensitivity to pain. Cacao is also a source of tryptophan, an amino acid that gets turned into the neurotransmitter serotonin and then converted into the hormone melatonin.

Serotonin is known as the “happy chemical” and raw cacao boosts the body’s natural production of it, increasing our mood and ability to fend off stress

4. Anandamide

Anandamide is an endogenous ligand that your body produces when you feel a workout “high.” It is a natural pleasure molecule that fits into the cannabinoid receptor sites of the cells of the nervous system. Anandamide has been associated with improving motivation and increasing pleasure.

5. Polyphenols

Polyphenols are abundant in ceremonial cacao, contributing significantly to its health benefits and rich, complex flavor. These natural compounds, particularly flavonoids, act as powerful antioxidants, helping to combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Consuming ceremonial cacao, which is minimally processed to retain its natural properties, can enhance cardiovascular health, improve cognitive function, and support overall well-being.

The high polyphenol content in ceremonial cacao also promotes the release of feel-good hormones, making it a favoured choice for both traditional rituals and modern wellness practices.

Health Benefits

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, slow tooth decay and can remove heavy metals from the body. 

In regular use Cacao seems to make the blood clots that cause strokes rare and, with the extra blood flow, keep skin smoother in advanced age. With daily Cacao consumption, blood pressure can, over time, be normalised ending the need for medication.

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

Brown cup with flower containing cacao

How To Use Ceremonial Cacao

Using ceremonial cacao involves more than just consuming it; it’s about creating a mindful, intentional experience. Typically, the cacao is prepared as a drink by melting the cacao paste or discs into hot water or plant-based milk, sometimes with added spices like cinnamon, turmeric, ginger or cayenne pepper.

The preparation and consumption are often accompanied by meditation, breathwork, or other mindfulness practices to enhance the spiritual and emotional benefits. Whether used in personal rituals or shared in group ceremonies, ceremonial cacao serves as a powerful tool for connecting with oneself and others, fostering a sense of community and inner peace.

A bunch of open cacao pods in different colours.

Summary

An excellent substitute for coffee, a plant medicine, a stress releiver, all the above.  Ceremonial cacao certainly has its place in a world needing connection and peace.  There is currently a shortage of ceremonial grade cacao due to flooding and other natural disatsters in South America so buy wisely and buy ethically.  Avoid supermarket versions and you’ll be fine!

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(This blog may contain affiliate links.  Photo credits Ritual Cacao, Sophia Wild Rose Wellness)