Theobroma cacao Linne. [Fam. Sterculiaceae]
Powdered beans; Alcohol extracts of beans
- Breathing Disorders
- Cataract Prevention
- Central Nervous System Stimulant
- Eyesight Disorders
- Heart Health Maintenance
- Kidney Health Maintenance
- Liver Health Maintenance
- Menstrual Cycle Disorders
- Mental Fatigue
- Mood Disorders
- Muscular Weakness
- Pancreas Health Maintenance
- Premenstrual Syndrome
- Skin Disorders
- Urinary Tract Disorders
- Vascular Disorders
Cacao beans, Theobroma cacao Linne. [Fam. Sterculiaceae], are the fruit of an Amazonian tree popularly used for making cocoa 'chocolate'. Cacao means "the food of the gods." Cocoa is related to Cola, and like coffee, tea and mate, it also contains caffeine and other alkaloids known for treating asthma. Cocoa is very rich in flavonoids that have strong antioxidant properties. Flavonoids from cocoa, similar to those found in red wine and tea, have been shown to significantly reduce cardiovascular risk. Cocoa flavonoids inhibit low-density lipoprotein oxidation, reduce thrombosis (blood clots), improve vascular endothelial function and reduce inflammation. Cacao consumption seems to diminish appetite, possibly due to its monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAO inhibitor) enzyme. MAO inhibitors improve mood by allowing more serotonin and other neurotransmitters to circulate in the brain. Phenylethylamine (PEA) is also found in cocoa. PEA is an adrenal-related chemical produced naturally within the brain that is particularly released when people are in love. PEA also plays a role in increasing focus and alertness. A neurotransmitter called anandamide, known as "The Bliss Chemical", has been isolated in cacao. Anandamide is also produced naturally in the brain. Cacao also contains enzyme inhibitors that decrease the bodies' ability to breakdown anandamide. This means that anandamide may remain longer within the brain when we consume cacao, prolonging blissful or euphoric feelings. Cacao is also a top food source of magnesium. The high magnesium content may explain why women crave chocolate during the menstrual period. Magnesium balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones, and is associated with positive mood. It is estimated that magnesium deficiency is widespread in North America, with over 80% of Americans being chronically deficient. Cacao is also an excellent source of the beauty mineral sulfur. Sulfur builds strong nails, hair, and skin, detoxifies the liver and supports healthy pancreas functioning.
Cocoa contains: Caffeine (0.05 - 0.36 %), theobromine (0.88 - 2.34 %), other xanthine alkaloids, condensed catechin tannins, proanthocyanidins and anthocyanins. Cacao beans contain between 12 - 50% fat depending on variety and growth conditions (oil of cacao, cacao butter), starch (1.3 - 7.5%), a red coloring matter (cacao-red polyphenol), albuminous matter (6 - 18%), and ash (2 - 4%). Other chemicals found in cocoa include: Acetic-acid, aesculetin, alanine, alpha-sitosterol, alpha-theosterol, amyl-acetate, amyl-alcohol, amyl-butyrate, amylase, apigenin-7-o-glucoside, arabinose, arachidic-acid, arginine, ascorbic-acid, ascorbic-acid-oxidase, aspariginase, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, beta-theosterol, biotin, caffeic-acid, calcium, campesterol, catalase, catechins, catechol, cellulase, cellulose, chlorogenic-acid, chrysoeriol-7-o-glucoside, citric-acid, coumarin, cyanidin, cyanidin-3-beta-l-arabinoside, cyanidin-3-galactoside, cyanidin-glycoside, cycloartanol, d-galactose, decarboxylase, dextrinase, diacetyl, dopamine, epigallocatechin, ergosterol, ferulic-acid, formic-acid, fructose, furfurol, galacturonic-acid, gallocatechin, gentisic-acid, glucose, glutamic-acid, glycerin, glycerophosphatase, glycine, glycolic-acid, glycosidase, haematin, histidine, i-butyric-acid, idaein, invertase, isobutylacetate, isoleucine, isopropyl-acetate, isovitexin, kaempferol, l-epicatechin, leucine, leucocyanidins, linalool, linoleic-acid, lipase, luteolin, luteolin-7-o-glucoside, lysine, lysophosphatidyl-choline, magnesium, maleic-acid, mannan, manninotriose, mannose, melibiose, mesoinositol, methylheptenone, n-butylacetate, n-nonacosane, niacin, nicotinamide, nicotinic- acid, nitrogen, nonanoic-acid, o-hydroxyphenylacetic-acid, octoic-acid, oleic- acid, oleo-dipalmatin, oleopalmitostearin, oxalic-acid, p-anisic-acid, p-coumaric-acid, p-coumarylquinic-acid, p-hydroxybenzoic-acid, p-hydroxyphenylacetic-acid, palmitic-acid, palmitodiolen, pantothenic-acid, pectin, pentose, peroxidase, phenylacetic-acid, phenylalanine, phlobaphene, phosphatidyl-choline, phosphatidyl- ethanolamine, phosphatidyl-inositol, phospholipids, phosphorus, phytase, planteose, polygalacturonate, polyphenol-oxidase, polyphenols, proline, propionic-acid, propyl-acetate, protocatechuic-acid, purine, pyridoxine, quercetin, quercetin-3-o-galactoside, quercetin-3-o-glucoside, quercitrin, raffinase, raffinose, reductase, rhamnose, riboflavin, rutin, rutoside, saccharose, salsolinol, serine, sinapic-acid, stachyose, stearic-acid, stearodiolein, stigmasterol, sucrose, sulfur, syringic-acid, tannins, tartaric-acid, theobromine, theophylline, thiamin, threonine, trigonelline, tyramine, tyrosine, valerianic-acid, valine, vanillic-acid, verbascose, verbascotetrose, vitexin, xanthines.
Powdered cocoa is recommended at the dosage of 1-3 grams or by decoction one to three times daily. Chocolate and cocoa drinks are classified as safe foods and beverages and can be consumed liberally. The amount of caffeine, theobromine, theophylline and other xanthines in cocoa vary between products. According to Dr. James Duke in the book, The Green Pharmacy, levels of these anti-asthmatic compounds vary, depending upon the strength of the brew and other factors. In general, a cup of coffee has the highest level (about 100mg of caffeine per cup), while a cup of cocoa or tea or a 12-ounce can of cola has about half that amount. A 1.5 ounce chocolate bar has a little less than a can of cola. Note: A single ounce of chocolate contains approximately150 calories and 9 to 10 grams of fat. About 65 percent of the calories in chocolate come from fat. A tablespoon of powdered cocoa contains only about 16 calories; less than 30 percent of its calories come from fat. Cocoa powder can be substituted for chocolate in many recipes. Use three tablespoons of cocoa and one tablespoon of healthy cooking oil for each ounce of chocolate needed in a recipe.
Cocoa may strengthen the action of analgesics and other psychoactive drugs and caffeine-containing beverages.
Cocoa is contraindicated for persons with hypertension, cardiac disorders, gastric ulcers and duodenal ulcers. Pregnant and lactating women should also avoid the consumption of cocoa and other caffeine-containing beverages and foods due to reports of an association between birth defects and caffeine consumption, although there are conflicting reports documented on this topic.
Side effects of cocoa include sleeplessness or insomnia, anxiety, tremor, nervous restlessness, palpitations and withdrawal headaches. Cocoa can also cause gastric irritations in susceptible persons.
Bruinsma K, Taren DL. 1999. Chocolate: food or drug? J Am Diet Assoc. 1999 Oct; 99(10): 1249-56.
Fisher ND, Hughes M, Gerhard-Herman M, Hollenberg NK. 2003. Flavanol-rich cocoa induces nitric-oxide-dependent vasodilation in healthy humans. J Hypertens. 2003 Dec; 21(12): 2281-6.
Lee KW, Kim YJ, Lee HJ, Lee CY. 2003. Cocoa has more phenolic phytochemicals and a higher antioxidant capacity than teas and red wine. J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Dec 3; 51(25): 7292-5.
Maron DJ. 2004. Flavonoids for reduction of atherosclerotic risk. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2004 Jan; 6(1): 73-8.
Osakabe N, Yamagishi M, Natsume M, Yasuda A, Osawa T. 2004. Ingestion of proanthocyanidins derived from cacao inhibits diabetes-induced cataract formation in rats. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2004 Jan; 229(1): 33-9.