The medicinal power of the cocoa tree

Cocoa is a healthy substance. Raw cacao can be used medicinally. Chocolate is generally not healthy, because of the amount of sugar it usually contains. However, chocolate with more than 80% pure cocoa does have medicinal properties when eaten in moderation. This chocolate is eaten almost exclusively by gourmets. It contains little or no sugar at all. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing fruit of the cacao tree / Source: K√∂hler’s Medizinal Pflanzen, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

Contents:

  • Naming
  • Where does the cocoa tree grow?
  • Active substances
  • Not chocolate but cocoa
  • Cocoa for cardiovascular disease
  • Other medicinal effects of cocoa
  • Dose and safety

Naming

In Latin the cacao tree is called Theobroma cacao . Theobroma literally means ‘food of the gods’. Theo means ‘god’ in Greek and Broma means food in Greek. Cocoa used to be called ‘the food of the gods’. The word cacao comes from the Aztec language where this delicacy was known as cacaua or cacahuatl or xocolatl. Xococ means bitter in the Aztec language and Atl means water. So xocolatl or chocolate literally means: bitter water. If you taste raw cocoa you will undoubtedly recognize the bitter taste. Dark chocolate is sometimes called bitter chocolate.

Where does the cocoa tree grow?

The cocoa tree grows best close to the equator. The cacao tree originates from Central America and northern South America. The South American countries where cocoa was originally found are Columbia, Ecuador, Venezuela, British Guiana, French Guiana, Suriname and Brazil. Nowadays the plant is cultivated on a large scale in Africa and Asia. The Dutch also traded in cocoa. The Dutch left behind a huge cocoa plantation in New Guinea, near the town of Ransiki, which still produces a lot of cocoa, but the current Indonesian government and various companies have unfortunately been unable to process the large amount of cocoa fruits. The Papuans dry cocoa on a personal basis and then transport it in bags to a buyer themselves.

Active substances

The seeds of the fruit of the cocoa tree are used for phytotherapeutic purposes; these are called cocoa beans. It contains the following important active ingredients: the xanthines theobromine, caffeine and theophylline, polyphenols, flavonoids, the condensed catecholtannins monomeric catechin and epicatechin, proanthocyanins, anthocyanins, apigenin, kaemferol, quercetin, isovitexin, luteolin, magnesium, phenylethylamine and anandamide.

Not chocolate but cocoa

Chocolate is never a medicinal remedy, unless it is dark chocolate with a cocoa percentage of more than 80%. Other chocolate contains a lot of sugar, which makes it unhealthy. If you want to use raw cacao, you can mix it with a porridge or muesli that you have composed yourself, which you then sweeten with soaked dried dates, dried apricots or fresh fruit. You can also make a semolina pudding that is made extra tasty with cocoa and has medicinal value.

Cocoa for cardiovascular disease

Cocoa contains many antioxidants and reduces oxidation of cholesterol and vascular wall inflammation. In addition, it is a natural blood thinner because platelet aggregation is reduced. This makes raw cacao an excellent remedy to take to help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Other medicinal effects of cocoa

Cocoa is also said to have the following effects:

  • Theobromine has a bronchodilator effect and thus relieves asthmatic complaints.
  • Cocoa reduces the risk of developing aging symptoms such as cataracts, reduced vision, deteriorated liver function and the neurodegenerative diseases Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  • Cocoa stimulates the central nervous system and can be taken to combat drowsiness, fatigue, exhaustion, reduced alertness and reduced concentration.
  • Cocoa has a slightly euphoric effect, partly due to the xanthines it contains; This means it can be used for depression.
  • Cocoa reduces appetite; you feel full faster and it can therefore help with a diet aimed at weight loss.
  • Cocoa causes the cerebral blood vessels to constrict. That is called vasoconstriction. This allows other substances to help relieve headaches and migraines. Example: cocoa increases the effect of aspirin.
  • Cocoa is a very good source of magnesium and ensures that a deficiency of this mineral is remedied.
  • The slightly euphoric effect, the slight diuretic effect and the fact that it contains a lot of magnesium is a reason for some doctors to prescribe raw cocoa for women with PMS.
  • Cocoa butter can be used externally as an emollient for dry and flaky skin.

Dose and safety

Cocoa is a safe product. You can use the dark chocolate, but it still contains sugar; it’s better to just use raw, organic cacao. Too much cocoa is not good. Using too much cocoa when combined with too much coffee can lead to:

Cocoa fruits / Source: Sarahemcc, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-2.0)

  • Constipation,
  • Insomnia,
  • Fear,
  • Trembling,
  • Nervousness,
  • palpitations,
  • stomach irritation,
  • Migraine.