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 ceremony is not a big psychedelic/ayahuasca-style purging experience: you will not lose your mind! Some people feel a bit ungrounded afterwards, and I recommend starting with a smaller dose if this is your first cacao experience. Different sized bodies, different metabolic rates, different temperaments mean it's going to be different for each person, but 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 ceremonial setting: 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 creating the best circumstances in which to get we what we need from the experience in the most beneficial way.
Cacao is very complementary to a yogic way of life; it is said that she will open up a doorway but won't push you through.
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 plant 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 people advise avoiding it completely during pregnancy, others suggest a smaller dose (I can discuss this with you). 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. (In traditional Mayan communities, cacao is actually often given to mothers as a health tonic as it is so full of nutrients! But each individual is different 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 ceremony.
* If you are on MAOI antidepressants, cacao (& all forms of chocolate) is contraindicated because it contains tyramine.
*If you take antipsychotic medication, consuming cacao in ceremony 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 ceremonial experience of lying down & being guided on a nidra & shamanic 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.) I can give you a smaller dose of course.
* if you are epileptic, a cacao ceremony 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 a cacao ceremony.
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 ceremony; that way you can see how your system responds to it.
The ceremonial-grade cacao licor/paste we share in sacred ceremony 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.
We will be sharing criollo cacao grown by the Ashaninka tribe of the Peruvian Amazon. This cacao is the highest quality: raw, organic, ceremonial grade, and is very ethically sourced: sustainably grown, fairly-traded and shipped to the UK via a small supplier. Criollo is the rarest & arguably finest variety of heirloom cacao. In the ceremony, you may choose to add a little agave syrup or cinnamon to sweeten your brew, or some cayenne pepper, as the Maya & Aztecs did, if you want to speed up absorption into the bloodstream. (More about the history & health benefits of cacao here.)
Learn more about cacao...