​What is Ceremonial Cacao?

Cacao is a fruit that grows in pods on Theobroma cacao trees. The pods contain the cacao seeds that the Mayans and the Aztecs called “food of the gods.” They mixed the beans with water, vanilla, honey and cornmeal to make a drink they called xocoatl (after Quetzalcóatl, the feathered serpent) or “bitter water.” This drink later became what we know as hot cocoa.

Cacao beans are the seeds of the cacao fruit, and they’re used to make chocolate. There are many different types of cacao beans, but the two most common types are forastero and criollo. Forastero is a less expensive version from countries with origins in Central America. Criollo cacao is more expensive, but it has a higher quality taste and lots of health benefits. The cacao tree can grow up to 50 feet in height.

Photo Credit : Eduardo Antonio Morales

How Cacao Differs from Cocoa

How is ceremonial cacao different from cacao powder or cocoa? Ceremonial cacao is made from the highest ‘ceremonial grade’ cacao (usually from the Criollo variety) with the fat and all the health benefits of deep, dark chocolate. To qualify as ceremonial grade, the beans are grown, dried, and processed to preserve its energetic and biochemical properties. Cocoa powder includes added sugar to make it sweet when added to hot water or milk. Cacao is actually bitter with no natural sweetness of its own.

Photo Credit : Eduardo Antonio Morales

Health Benefits of Ceremonial Cacao

The cacao bean has health benefits because it contains polyphenols, antioxidants called flavonoids, which are the same ones you get from consuming dark chocolate. The cacao bean also contains minerals such as magnesium, manganese, copper, potassium, and zinc. Cacao is beneficial for heart health, digestive health, brain health, and metabolism support. 

Chocolate can trigger the release of dopamine and the endorphin phenylethylamine, which helps to ease depression and PMS symptoms, which is why a lot of women are advised to eat dark chocolate while on their menstrual cycle. 

Phenylethylamine, also known as Oxytocin, increases blood flow to the heart and brain, creating heightened awareness, focus, and mental agility.

Chocolate also contains Anandamide, a molecule that works with the cannabinoid receptor sites of the body. It is what gives you that “high” after a great workout. It is responsible for motivation and pleasure sensations.

Regular consumption of cacao is beneficial for lowering blood pressure, and has been used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome, kidney disorders, high cholesterol, heart disease, digestion problems, and many other conditions. 

Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants are the chemicals that help to fight harmful free radicals. Antioxidants protect cells from damage that can cause aging or disease. The flavonoids in cacao help to protect cells from damage, and this can improve the overall health of cells in the body. Cacao also contains vitamin E and vitamin C. This can help to support bone health.


You might not think of chocolate as being a healthy substance, but it actually is. It’s all the added sugar that detracts from its health benefits. Similar to coffee, cacao has stimulant properties which act similar to caffeine in the body. Cacao has been used as a plant-based medicine for centuries by the people of South America (Columbia, Peru, and Brazil) as well as Mexico. It is considered to be a super-food when consumed in the appropriate quantities. It also boosts the benefits of coffee when consumed together. Cacao beans are packed with calcium, zinc, copper, iron, magnesium, chromium, manganese, and potassium, as well as, omega-6 fatty acids, vitamins C, E, B2, B1, B5, B, B9, and more.

Cacao and Mythology

 Ritual drinking of cacao: Codex Borgia, pl. 3

The Aztecs and Mayans used cacao in ceremonies nearly 4000 years ago. They believed that cacao had mystical properties that could help them travel between worlds (astral travel). The cacao tree was the “conduit” so to speak. Cacao has long been associated with the gods,  spirituality, and healing. Warriors would drink cacao the night before a battle to fortify themselves and give them courage. They believed cacao helped restore the balance in nature.

Drinking ceremonial cacao was included in ceremonies as a way to take in the essence of the plant and honor the deities associated with it. The spiritual names of cacao include ‘rainbow medicine’, ‘‘food of the gods’, ‘sacred seed’, medicine of the heart’, and ‘wisdom keeper’.

Cacao for Spirituality 

You may have never considered eating a bar of chocolate or drinking a cup of hot chocolate to be a spiritual thing. Ceremonial cacao has been used medicinally for years as a way to relax the body, open the mind, and make a connection to the universe. 

It can be used as part of a meditation practice, or to encourage mindfulness, or even just to energize the start of your day.

Cacao has been used medicinally for many years before the benefits of this plant were known. It was consumed as a way to open your mind, or your heart to the higher vibrations in the earth and to make a connection to the divine.

Like many other medicinal or spiritual traditions, the use of this sacred plant was almost forgotten. Many ancient cultures believed these plants to have strong medicinal qualities and spiritual knowledge. Shamans often used these plants in ceremonies to give them insight and wisdom. These plants included Cacao, Peyote, Tobacco, Sativa, and Ayuhuasaca because they had a spiritual association, or were considered a deva (master teacher plant).

Consuming ceremonial cacao can be a powerful way to open your heart and mind for meditation or connecting to the universe. When consumed with the intent for spiritual transformation, it connects with our intuition and the universal mind, releasing limitations and blockages caused by traumas and emotional hurts. It helps restore balance of our energies and the subconscious. It teaches us to live in balance with nature and the world around us. 

Creating Your Own Cacao Ceremony

Holding your own cacao ceremony doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out, complicated process. It can be something as simple as preparing a cup of ceremonial cacao by adding the chocolate to boiling water and letting it dissolve. 

Focus your intention while preparing the cacao, whether it is to become more mindful or just find the balance in your life, keep your mind on what you want to achieve. When the cacao is ready, sit in a quiet spot, and sip it slowly, savoring every drop as if it were a magical elixir of vitality (because it is).

Drinking ceremonial cacao after yoga or meditation can give you a heart-warming high similar to the effects of a great workout. That feeling can last you the rest of the day, making it easier to have positive, loving thoughts and words for mindful living.

If you make this a part of your regular spiritual practice, your body will begin to look forward to this subtly ecstatic state, making it a beneficial addition to your intention-setting goals.