Is Cacao Psychedelic?

Sacred plant medicines found deep in the heart of the jungle can conjure up images of potent brews ceremoniously prepared by indigeous shamans of ancient tribes. Indeed, many entheogenic medicines originate from lands steeped in the rich culture of the Amazon, the world’s oldest living rainforest. 

Plant medicines are transcendental by nature. They transcend medical models and religious dogmas of Western culture. They transcend what many people believe possible until they experience such altered states of consciousness.

It’s also true that many of what the locals call ‘Teacher Plants’ are so-called because they induce a psychoactive state. It is in these altered states where perceptions of reality become distorted that we can undergo spiritual transformation. 

Whether it’s for emotional, energetic or psychological healing, people journey to the Amazon Rainforest in search of something they can’t find back home. There are plants, however, whose medicine has emerged from the jungle to restore harmony to our spiritual hearts, reviving the unconditional love that resides within.

Cacao, or Ka’kau to its native people, is considered heart medicine in every sense. Physically cacao improves cardiovascular health because of its vasodilating properties. Energetically cacao invites us to love ourselves on a level deeper and more intimate than many of us have previously known. 

But is it psychedelic? Philosopher and neuroscientist James Giordano comments, “Cacao is neuroactive, not strongly psychoactive.”

What cacao does do is relax the body’s muscles, increase the brain’s uptake of ‘feel-good chemicals’ such as theobromine, serotonin and anandamide. It contains more antioxidants than most foods and shares some commonalities in molecular structure found in substances such as MDMA, cannabis and psilocybin. 

Whilst cacao can definitely be classified as a nootropic medicine, I don’t think we stretch as far as calling it psychedelic. Cacao provides a wonderful subtle high, dropping us into more sustainable states of transcendence. Its medicine moves us to go beyond the barriers into a deeper experience of love. 

It can also be an amazing support for integration during or after a psychedelic experience. Studies report that psilocybin users find cacao ‘enhances their psychedelic experience, alleviating some of the anxiety of having a difficult trip.’ 

Interestly enough, the Aztec name for psilocybin is ‘Flesh of the Gods.’ This close semblance to Theobroma Cacao or ‘Food of the Gods’ suggests a relationship between the two. Bernardino de Sahagun, a Fransiscan missionary, reported that the Aztecs ‘drank chocolate during the night’ and ‘ate the mushrooms with honey.’ 

A full ceremonial dose of cacao, recommended only for shamanic ritual purposes, is between 40g-50g. The mental and physical sensations of this kind of experience could be likened to a light dose of psychedelics. I’ll conclude with what Nicki Adams, who gave us the article ‘Cacao - The Love Drug’ wrote, “Combine that with an intentional set and setting, and anyone could have a powerful, mind-expanding experience.” 

Written by Laura Roberts
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