Cacao does have a rich cultural history as medicine. The Olmecs of Mesoamerica were using it in the 1500 BC. The Izapan, Maya, Toltecs and Aztecs who came after the Olmecs, valued the cacao tree for its medicinal properties.
The beans of the tree were used primarily to treat a variety of health issues. However, the flowers, bark and leaves were also valued. The Kuna and other native people still value, make and consume a drink made from the cacao beans. They are using chocolate as medicine, or rather raw cacao.
With the European invasions in the Americas, the cacao became a trading currency with the local people, who valued it. While the Europeans saw little use for it.
Spain was the first European country to appreciated the medicinal qualities of cacao. It was taken as a drink.
It spread slowly through the rest of Europe during the Baroque Age.
In the 17th century, the roasting of the bean, and the addition of refined sugar to counter the bitterness, became common. The high palatability, the delicious new taste lead the cacao being used less as a medicine and more as a luxury food. A huge industry came into being, with scant regard to its medicinal properties.
The tree is known as theobroma cacao. The Greek translation of theobroma roughly means ‘a food of the gods’.
The original pod is quite bitter, which is generally a good indication in nature, to consume in small doses. The bitter taste of plants comes from the high levels of alkaloids. These alkaloids allow for the flourishing of the plant, as no species will over-consume it and in so doing, decimate it.
The high content of the alkaloid theobromine is a known medicine as well as a poison. It’s curious that the poisons so often make the best medicines.
When an alkaloid has a name ending in -ine, such as strychine, morphine, caffeine, nicotine, quinine, it indicates a strong plant based alkaloid. In small doses, they make excellent medicines where indicated. In large doses, they can be poisonous.
All alkaloids are from plants. Dogs, and in particular cats, are not great plant eaters. This is why chocolate is a hazard for cats and dogs. It’s a strong alkaloid, unsuitable for the species. What is good for us, is certainly not good for them, as in so many instances.
While literature likes to list all the maladies that cacao is known for healing, homeopaths work in different ways. The cacao tree belongs to the malvale group of plants. The homeopathic understanding of the essence of this group is the issue of separation. Or being joined and then separated. As of one entity, then separated.
The greatest example of this is after birth. The baby was joined to the mother and is now separate. It can be confusing to the baby. Perhaps frightening. They have also moved from a totally spiritual being, into a physical body. The connection may not have been totally lost, but it has been reduced.
Even as adults we can feel anxious without a supportive group/family/community. We benefit from the group connection. No wonder Valentine’s day is synonymous with chocolate. It’s a time of connecting, or re-connecting with our partner.
All parents become frustrated when their baby cries for no apparent reason – they are fed, burped, recently slept, no signs of colic, dry nappy/diaper, no recent medicine that may have upset them. Yet still they cry. What’s up?
The baby hankers after the lost spiritual connection.
Cacao can restore that connection.
A small piece of chocolate, can work like magic. Better still a sip of a homemade cacao drink or small piece of homemade confection, made with raw cacao, a natural sweetener such as coconut sugar, water and little else. Maybe not even the coconut sugar.
Using chocolate as medicine for babies when everything else is in order, can allow for a peaceful household, not just a happy baby. Letting food be thy medicine takes on a whole new light.
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