IS IT SAFE FOR ME? WHO SHOULDN'T DRINK CACAO?
For most people, cacao is very safe! However, there are some specific contraindications so please check below.
Please note these ceremonies are for over-18s only.
Cacao is a very loving and gentle plant medicine, and a cacao medicine circle is not a big psychedelic/ayahuasca-style purging experience: you will not lose your mind!
I recommend starting with a smaller dose if this is your first cacao experience. Different sized bodies, different metabolic rates, different sensitivities and constitutions mean it's going to be different for each person, but sometimes larger doses can leave you feeling a little ungrounded a day or two afterwards - I can advise you more on this individually.
It is important to respect the more subtle but still very profound power of the plant medicine - she is not for everyone, but she is for most people! This is one reason I think it's so good to use cacao in a sacred, held space, with a trained, experienced cacao practitioner: when we come to the plant medicine with a specific intention, and with respect for & awareness of the power of the plant to affect us, we create the best circumstances in which to get we what we need from the experience in the most beneficial way.
It's often said that cacao will open up a doorway but won't push you through - you will still be fully in control of yourself in the journey.
Cacao is a mild stimulant, containing a unique combination of caffeine (which stimulates the nervous system) and theobromine (which stimulates the heart), amongst many other compounds...
Health factors to be particularly aware of are:
* if you are on antidepressants, SSRIs or other medication, have a heart condition or are pregnant: Be aware that the theobromine in cacao is a vasodilator: it increases the heart rate and lowers blood pressure. Cacao in the concentrated doses we consume in ceremony therefore increases blood flow to the brain & heart by at least 40% so you may be better off with a smaller dose. I usually offer a half-dose to people on SSRIs. Please see below for more info...and contact me if in doubt. Do be reassured that cacao is generally totally safe for most people; but as a responsible cacao medicine practitioner it's important that I check there are no contraindications; this serves everyone's interests!
* if you are taking 5-htp (5-Hydroxytryptophan) it's advisable to have a smaller dose of cacao.
* if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, again be aware that theobromine is a stimulant & increases heart rate & lowers blood pressure. Some western people advise avoiding it completely during pregnancy, others suggest a smaller dose (I can discuss this with you). However, I think it's also worth noting that for thousands of years, indigenous Mayan women have consumed cacao safely throughout pregnancy and even during childbirth (in the final stages of labour, to assist with the final big push!), as well as afterwards - in their culture, midwives know that cacao is such a nourishing, energising food that it gives women great strength. So if you are pregnant or breastfeeding this does not rule cacao out for you - I simply present this information so that you can make your own informed decision, and if you are new to cacao especially, I would certainly serve you a smaller dose so you can see how you respond.
Cacao contains a tenth of the caffeine found in coffee so depending on your stance on coffee during pregnancy you may be ok with the smaller dose of cacao. Similarly, some people prefer to avoid all sources of theobromine & caffeine while they are breastfeeding.
Cacao is hugely nutritious! But each individual is different, and in societies where people may not be so used to consuming pure cacao throughout their entire lives, there can of course be more sensitivity to some of the compounds which cacao contains, so I'm happy to discuss any concerns with you.
* If you are taking St John's Wort, please refrain from taking it for a few days before & after the cacao circle.
* If you are on MAOI antidepressants, cacao (& all forms of chocolate) is contraindicated because it contains tyramine.
*If you take antipsychotic medication, consuming ceremonial cacao in these circles is also contraindicated.
* if you have low blood pressure, be aware that although cacao is a stimulant, it lowers blood pressure. Depending on your condition, a smaller dose might be appropriate - in some cases it may be contraindicated eg if you have had epileptic fits triggered by low blood pressure (bear in mind that the whole ritualised experience of lying down & being guided on a nidra & deeply introspective journey is also likely to lower your blood pressure even without the cacao!). Please contact me if you want to ask more.
* some people are allergic or sensitive to theobromine - it can trigger headaches or migraines in some people. (You will probably already know if this is you.) In some cases, a smaller dose will be fine depending on how sensitive you are.
* if you are epileptic, a cacao medicine circle may not be appropriate for you as high consumption of cacao stimulates the brain and there is also scientific research to suggest a possible connection between caffeine & cacao consumption and increased seizures. Scientific research / evidence is still inconclusive, but I would err on the side of caution if you have a history of epilepsy. (It is also important for the sake of other participants that we create a safe environment where there is little risk of disruption.)
* if you are sensitive to caffeine, it can affect your sleep - though cacao contains far less than coffee - about a tenth of the amount. People often find they actually sleep really well and dream vividly after consuming ceremonial cacao.
If you know you have a very sensitive constitution, or are especially sensitive to stimulants such as caffeine or theobromine, you might prefer to start with a smaller dose of cacao for your first circle; that way you can see how your system responds to it.
The ceremonial-grade cacao licor/paste we share in the medicine circle is very different from, and more pure & potent than, the raw cacao powder you might use to make raw chocolate, a superfood tonic or smoothies (although ceremonial grade cacao can also be used for all these things). It is far less processed: ceremonial cacao licor is not heat-treated & retains the cacao butter as well as the cacao powder (cacao solids). More about cacao as a superfood here.
For many years, I shared ceremonial cacao from the Amazon, reflecting the roots of my first cacao training; I have since connected more deeply with the indigenous Mayan traditions and a wonderful group of indigenous Mayan teachers, through the Mayan Wisdom Project, and as of spring 2022 I now consume and share ceremonial grade, hand-processed artisanal heirloom cacao produced by indigenous Mayan collectives in Guatemala:
. (More about the indigenous history of cacao here.)
Learn more about cacao...