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Cacao Ceremony 101: All About the Benefits of Ceremonial Cacao

If you’re a fan of dark chocolate, you likely know what cacao is - but, have you ever heard of a cacao ceremony?

a cacao farmer picking a raw cacao fruit

Cacao ceremonies have been performed for thousands of years by spiritualists in ancient cultures to help improve holistic health and those practising mindfulness. The practice originated where cacao itself did, with the ancient Mayans and Aztecs in Peru and Ecuador.

Below, we take you through everything you need to know about ceremonial cacao, how to use it, its key benefits, any potential issues you might need to know, and the best place to buy it if you want to try it for yourself!

What Is a Cacao Ceremony?

A cacao ceremony is a spiritual practice that involves drinking a special brew made from raw cacao beans. It is an ancient spiritual practice devoted to evoking a greater connection with oneself, others, and the divine.

During a ceremony usually led by a facilitator, participants typically sit in a circle, set intentions, and drink the specially prepared cacao elixir while engaging in meditation or other spiritual practices.

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What Is Ceremonial Grade Cacao?

Quick fact - Ancient Mayan culture believed that cacao was one of the ingredients used to make humanity and that the gods bled on the beans, which is why the genus name for cacao, theobroma, means "food for the Gods."

Ceremonial-grade cacao is the purest form of cacao you can find. It’s made by lightly sun-drying or fermenting the beans and has nothing added to it, or nothing removed.

Cacao differs from the more commonly found cocoa which is more processed and generally used in commercial desserts and drink mixes.

Cacao is typically a much healthier option as it does not contain the excess sugar, fats, and other constituents that cocoa uses.

Ceremonial-grade cacao is another step higher on the scale - essentially just being cacao powder of high enough quality and purity that it is exclusively sourced for use in cacao ceremonies only.

There are subtle intricacies in the differences between each form, and only a small range of cacao beans are classified as suitable for use in cacao ceremonies.

Ceremonial Cacao vs Regular Cacao Powder: What's the Difference?

Sacred cacao, or ceremonial-grade cacao, is 100% pure cacao bean (usually found as a paste or disc) that contains substantially higher levels of medicinal and mood-improving benefits when compared to regular food-grade cacao.

Regular cacao powder is usually used for food, such as in hot chocolate, chocolate bars, or cacao butter. While it may be healthier than processed cocoa powder, the ceremonial-grade powder is typically considered superior in quality as it is certified 100% pure. It is also usually locally sourced and made using organic methods.

There are two major common types of cacao beans–Criollo and Forastero. Forastero beans are more common for their sweetness and resilience to destruction in industrial farming. Therefore, those beans are more commonly used in today’s cacao products.

On the other hand, ceremonial cacao powder is made using only Criollo beans, which are milder and have a higher concentration of restorative properties.

What Are the Benefits of Ceremonial Grade Cacao?

Ceremonial cacao has been associated with a wide range of spiritual and physical benefits, including:

  • Promotes Heart Health: Cacao is high in flavonoids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving blood flow, lowering blood pressure, and reducing inflammation.
  • Enhances Mood and Brain Function: Cacao contains several compounds, including theobromine and phenylethylamine, which can boost mood, increase alertness, and improve cognitive function.
  • Boosts Immune System: Cacao is rich in antioxidants, which help to neutralize harmful free radicals that can damage cells and weaken the immune system.
  • Reduces Stress and Anxiety: Cacao contains anandamide, a neurotransmitter that can promote feelings of relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Supports Spiritual Growth: Cacao has been used for centuries in spiritual ceremonies to enhance meditation, increase self-awareness, and facilitate inner growth.

While eating and drinking cacao has numerous benefits, many chocolate bars and hot chocolate products are often high in added sugar and fat, which can counteract its positive effects. However, ceremonial-grade cacao is not sweetened or altered, which means it retains all of its inherent health benefits.

How To Make Ceremonial Cacao?

Ceremonial cacao is usually consumed in drink form. Sourcing and preparing the right cacao powder or paste is essential for getting the right health benefits. The cacao will come in either a powder or paste and is used just like any cocoa powder for hot chocolate.

The ceremonial cacao recipe is simple. Just add a cup of cacao and hot water and a small amount of coconut oil and milk, which can be plant or animal-based. Optionally, you can add in other ingredients like natural sweeteners or different flavors like vanilla or cinnamon to add some taste and other properties.

The more cacao you add, the more effects the drink will have after performing the ceremony. A smaller dose will give you increased concentration and is perfect for getting some creative work done or practicing yoga and meditation.

It may make you feel energized, but you will stay calm and collected. Drinking a larger dose will put you in a more meditative state and is perfect for a longer ceremony where you might spend the day feeling its effects.

Where To Buy the Best Ceremonial Grade Cacao?

Ensure the cacao you are purchasing is 100% cacao and not Dutch-processed or alkalized. There are many places where you can buy cacao powder or paste explicitly made for cacao ceremonies.

While these can be more expensive than buying wholesale, it can be good to guarantee that you are getting the right product.

Either way, you can find ceremonial-grade cacao on the internet from many health food websites and even some that specialize in cacao products. You can also find ceremonial products at health food stores in person.

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Now that we've introduced you to the benefits and background of ceremonial cacao, here are some answers to questions you may be wondering about this energy-intense cacao.

a spoon full of ceremonial grade cacao powder

Is ceremonial cacao a drug?

Not at all! Like other forms of chocolate, cacao liquor, or cacao beans, ceremonial cacao is no more a drug than any other food or food product.

Some people assume ceremonial cacao is a drug because it is sometimes known as an ancient plant medicine. However, many edible products have medicinal properties, such as teas and spices.

Is ceremonial cacao safe during pregnancy?

There are some mixed opinions about this question. According to Mayan midwives from Guatemala, who have been around ceremonial cacao for years, small amounts are acceptable during pregnancy.

Some studies suggest that it may also have benefits such as lowering blood pressure during pregnancy.

However, there is also research suggesting that there may be metabolic problems in babies born to mothers who consume chocolate. Another study found that cocoa consumption in late pregnancy may cause fetal ductus arteriosus constriction and potential oxidative stress, indicating that cocoa may not be safe for pregnant women.

The bottom line is - you should always consult you’re doctor or medical practitioner if ever in any doubt - especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Is ceremonial cacao fattening?

Unlike chocolate bars made from cacao beans, ceremonial cacao is pure and without sugar, containing very few calories.

One scoop of ceremonial-grade cacao contains only 30 calories and only 1 gram of healthy fats. Some users say that cacao can even have weight-loss-promoting properties.

Of course, if you use ceremonial cacao in hot chocolate or other sweet desserts, it can become fattening due to other ingredients like sugar or cream added to the cacao powder, rather than from the cacao itself.

Is ceremonial cacao safe?

As far as raw foods go, ceremonial cacao is almost always safe. The cacao beans themselves are in their natural state and are eaten in many other forms like cacao butter and cacao powder.

Just as those are safe, ceremonial-grade cacao is safe for consumption in almost every instance.

Just make sure that you buy your product from a reputable source that tests its product and transparently shows results.

Is ceremonial cacao legal?

Yes! Ceremonial-grade cacao products are legal as they are just one form of chocolate. Cacao grows wildly, and as long as it is harvested with legal measures, it is entirely legal to buy, use, and consume.

If you're worried about any ethical implications - make sure that you buy your cacao from a trusted, responsible and sustainable source.

Is ceremonial cacao addictive?

While many people feel like they have a chocolate addiction, cacao is not addictive, even though it can affect your mental state. There are no addictive properties in cacao, and especially in a ceremonial dose, you are in no danger of becoming addicted.

However, as with anything you consume, you must treat the ingredient with respect both for itself as a product and for your body. For example, ceremonial cacao does act to stimulate the mind, and therefore you should approach it as a medicine rather than merely as food.

Is ceremonial cacao raw?

This is a kind of complicated question, and the answer is both 'yes' and 'no.' Ceremonial cacao is raw organic powder or cacao paste that is pure and minimally processed. There are no added ingredients, no sugars or herbs. So, in that sense, it is both raw and natural.

However, if you consider food raw only if it has never been heated, then ceremonial-grade cacao is not raw. Ancient cultures have lightly roasted the cacao beans over a wood fire for centuries.

Without this healing process, the Criollo cacao would not have the taste or properties that it does. Therefore, it is not a completely raw product, but that does not compromise its benefits.

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Can ceremonial cacao cause diarrhea?

Nothing medically indicates that ceremonial cacao will cause any adverse health effects, including diarrhea. However, as with anything edible, each person's body will react differently.

If you have a sensitive stomach often affected by foods, try a smaller amount first to make sure you react well to it.

Does ceremonial cacao have caffeine?

Ceremonial cacao is very low in caffeine, the amount in about 1/8th of a cup of coffee or a small bar of dark chocolate. However, it contains a sister chemical compound to caffeine, theobromine, a naturally occurring stimulant.

Therefore, drinking ceremonial cacao drinks can give you energy in a similar way to caffeine, but it likely won't make you jittery.

How long does ceremonial cacao last?

Ceremonial cacao has a very long shelf life, but it can go bad. Its longevity depends on its form and how you store it. It will not last as long if it is in drink or paste form.

However, if it is in its raw powder form and is stored correctly in a cool, dry place, it can last for 8-10 years!

Does ceremonial cacao help you sleep?

Cacao ceremonies are usually performed in the morning as ceremonial-grade cacao contains a stimulant and it is not traditionally used to help fall asleep. Therefore, it is recommended that you don't ingest it fewer than 6 hours before bed because it can keep you up.

However, because a cacao ceremony and its consumption, in general, is known to deepen meditative practices, many users report that regular use of the substance can support your overall energy and help you sleep better.

Can you drink ceremonial cacao every day?

How often you drink ceremonial cacao drinks depends on your personal needs and desires, but it is safe to drink every day.

People who use it for medicinal properties usually stick to a regimen like any other medication. Some people prefer weekly or monthly use, but many consume it daily.

If you do consume it daily, try to stick to under 2 oz, as it is a strong product and can sometimes cause nausea if consumed in large amounts, especially if you don't eat enough during the day. In addition, it's essential to take days off once in a while to let your body reset.

Why share cacao ceremonies as a group?

Many people use group ceremonies (such as a cacao ceremony) to provide an opportunity for individuals to support each other's spiritual growth and healing. The act of sharing the cacao elixir and engaging in spiritual practices together can deepen the bonds of the group and promote a sense of unity and harmony.

How do I do a cacao ceremony at home?

For a home cacao ceremony, find a quiet space to sit or lie down. Next, prepare your ceremonial cacao to create a rich and smooth elixir.

Set an intention for your ceremony and drink the cacao slowly while engaging in meditation, deep breathing, or any other spiritual practice that resonates with you. Consider journaling about your experience afterwards to deepen your reflection.

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Bottom Line

Ceremonial cacao has a rich history and can be a beneficial addition to both spiritual and personal practices for many people. Those who use it often report that it may help connect the mind and body, reduce stress, boost energy, and nourish your spirit.

While it may not be as readily available as your everyday dark chocolate, it may be worth the effort for you to find this sacred ingredient and incorporate it into your mindfulness journeys.

With its potential for physical, mental, and spiritual impact, ceremonial cacao may be something worth exploring for those seeking a holistic approach to health and wellness.

Darcy Ogdon-Nolan

Holding a Bachelor Of Science (Hons.) combined with close to a decade now in the health food and wellness industry, I believe I'm uniquely positioned to provide a depth of knowledge and first-hand experience on emerging health products, trends and ideas! From greens powders and medicinal mushrooms through to protein powders and workout nutrition - I'm particularly interested in what modern science can uncover about what human cultures have been using to treat ailments for millennia!

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