Ceremonial-grade cacao isn't just a sacred elixir for the spiritually inclined. Though the ceremonial aspects of cacao are often mystical in nature, the scientific evidence backing cacao's blissful effects are far less speculative, and just as profound. Ceremonial-grade cacao is loaded with unique molecular compounds known for their beneficial effects on human physiology, especially the brain and body. These compounds have been well researched amongst scientists and academics. While they all work together to produce cacao's ceremonial effects, exploring these compounds individually is the best way to properly grasp just how profound ceremonial drinking chocolate truly is.
1. Theobromine: hence the scientific name, theobromine cacao. Theobromine is one of the finest members of a class of alkaloids known as xanthines. Theobromine has been proven to lower blood pressure, increase serum HDL cholesterol (the good kind), and enhance lung functioning by opening up air passages via smooth muscle relaxation. Theobromine enhances cognitive function by increasing blood flow and oxygenation to the brain as well as doubles as an antioxidant capable of mitigating oxidative stress and reducing inflammation. For those that love to exercise, theobromine also blocks adenosine receptors, enabling a short-term increase in muscular contractility.
2. Tryptophan: An essential amino acid and the sole precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin, commonly known as the "feel-good chemical." Serotonin is well known for its ability to combat stress and improve our mood by promoting the feelings of comfort, contentment, happiness, and relaxation. Serotonin can also improve sleep, provide relief from the symptoms of depression and anxiety, modulate pain thresholds, and increase our sense of emotional well-being.
3. Phenylethylamine (PEA): better known as "the love drug" for its association with infatuation, PEA stimulates the central nervous system to release the body's natural opium-like compounds called endorphins. This is somewhat similar to the sensation of orgasm. PEA also signals the body to promote the sensation of alertness, focus, and mental acuity, all while elevating one's mood, speeding up metabolism, and boosting memory.
4. Anandamide: known as the "bliss molecule" for its role in producing the feeling of happiness, anandamide is an endogenous cannabinoid found naturally in cacao and the human brain. While anandamide won't leave you in a mind-altered state, its happiness producing effect does offer some protection against stress-related psychiatric diseases including major depression, generalized anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
5. Magnesium: every cell in the body contains this mineral and requires it to function. Magnesium helps increase energy, calms nerves, aids in digestion, and relieves muscle aches and pains (among a whole host of other benefits).
6. Copper: a mineral required for biological processes such as iron transport, glucose metabolism, infant growth and brain development.
We could go on for days touting the health benefits of cacao, but to save you your sanity (and us ours), we'll simply sum it all up with this epic quote:
"After water, cacao is the single healthiest substance you can put in your mouth. It can easily replace a number of psychiatric drugs for mood, plus it produces the same chemistry in the brain that occurs when we fall in love." - Chris Kilham, WellBella