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Cacao & its Place Among Plant Medicines,

Entheogens, & Psychedelics

The discussion around the use of plant medicines within the context and for the purpose of spiritual development and as adjuncts or alternatives to therapy has been increasingly gaining attention.  The desire to alter one’s consciousness seems to be a fundamental human desire, as attested by the use of plant medicines, entheogens, and psychedelics across peoples and cultures the world over since the beginning of civilization. 

Broadly speaking, plant medicines are natural substances that can help return the body to a state of natural balance so that it can heal, maintain or enhance its general health and well-being. Entheogen, which literally means “bringing forth the divine within”, is a term used to describe the profoundly transformative, spiritual experiences some plant medicines can elicit. Psychedelics – from the Greek words 'mind/soul' and 'manifesting' – are a type of entheogen. All psychedelics are entheogenic, but not all entheogenic substances are psychedelics.

So, where does Ceremonial Cacao fit into all this?

Cacao as a Plant Medicine

Native to the lowland regions of Central America, Cacao is the “bean” or seed of the Theobroma Cacao L.tree’s fruit. “Theobroma,” meaning “Food of the Gods,” Cacao was a highly revered plant for hundreds of years by the peoples and civilizations in the regions of its roots. This plant does best in warm, humid climates and is known for its varied health benefits as well as its spiritual uses.

Medicinal plants and herbs are often classified as such due to their therapeutic properties, promotion of well-being, and/or potential to help treat disease. Packed with antioxidants, magnesium, manganese, calcium, potassium, theobromine, and healthy fats, there is no denying that Cacao, in its purest form, is a potent medicinal plant. Studies have shown that Cacao helps, among other things, reduce inflammation, improve blood circulation, regulate blood pressure, and enhance cognitive function. In addition to the physical benefits one might experience from utilizing Cacao, there are also many potential psychological and emotional advantages to using this plant medicine. 

Cacao as an Entheogen

Due to its ability to interact with the mind, Cacao is also known as an entheogen. Entheogens are psychoactive substances (often derived from plants) that can induce temporary shifts in perspective, mood, or perceptions and are often utilized for spiritual purposes. While these substances can be hallucinogenic (like psilocybin or Ayahuasca), they do not all fall under that category. 

Cacao is one of the gentler entheogens. It is classified as a psychoactive (from the Greek psykhē "soul, mind, spirit; the invisible animating principle or entity which occupies and directs the physical body) but not a psychedelic. Though it influences the mind – especially in high dosages – unlike psychedelics, it is not hallucinogenic and therefore does not impair cognitive functioning. In fact, despite Cacao’s phenomenal advantages for spiritual work, it was largely ignored in the 1960s resurgence of medicinal plants precisely because it does not work the same as psychedelics. For all the shifts in perspective and mood, Cacao provides a fully embodied experience, which is why it is a powerful ally to incorporate into  plant medicines within the context and for the purpose of spiritual development and as adjuncts or alternatives to therapy has been increasingly gaining attention. 

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