Cacao drinker and change coach Niamh Ennis on the scientific benefits behind the viral wellness practice.
Every time something new gains in popularity there will always be some blowback. Ceremonial-grade cacao is really getting dragged over the coals at the minute and as a dedicated Cacao practitioner I thought I’d better come to its defence.
So what do you need to know about cacao?
The science bit
According to Natasha Vavasour, Cacao events facilitator and co-founder of mindfulness source The STLL, Cacao is a plant medicine that contains the following:
- Your recommended daily allowance of magnesium, antioxidants, flavonoid trace minerals and is loaded with iron and high in fibre.
- Theobromine, which in cacao is a chemical cousin to caffeine that impacts our cardiovascular system rather than our central nervous system. Whereas caffeine usually hits and gives that instant high and subsequent crash, theobromine boosts our cardiovascular system by increasing our blood flow, generating an uplifting energy that’s more sustainable.
- Phenylethylamine, known as the love chemical, the same one that gets activated when you fall in love.
- Anandamide, more commonly called the bliss chemical. Interestingly, the only two places anandamide has been located are in the human body and in cacao.
The personal bit
My own input is less scientific and more anecdotal. It’s directly linked to the fact that cacao is known to be a heart opener. I have to confess that this is what appealed to me initially about trying cacao practice.
Last year I declared was the year I was going to focus on my own heart. I decided that I wanted to work not just on my ability to love but my capacity to allow myself to be loved, which might sound like a lofty goal but it truly felt very important to me.
I’d started to accept that my life experiences of grief and loss had closed me off from actually allowing love in. It was my misguided way of protecting myself. I had disconnected from my heart and was now looking for a way back home. So in order to honour this commitment to myself, I began engaging deeply in practices including breathwork, journaling and my now-daily intake of cacao.
I’m not alone in this, energy healer and intuitive guide, Niamh Gallagher who also describes herself as a relatively recent convert to Cacao says, “I already work with energy and meditation and was curious to see how cacao would complement these practices. I’m generally very sensitive so was attracted to cacao because it works at such a slow and gentle pace for the body and mind. It’s unlikely to ever feel overwhelming or bring up a lot of emotion for you to deal with at once.”
“I’ve found that with cacao I drop easily into a very deep meditative state and can see solutions to problems much more clearly.”
Doing my research, I heard that quite a lot. Many people reported feeling much more focused and possessing greater clarity for problem-solving. The benefits discussed were as much for the mind as for the heart.
Nadine Quinn, entrepreneur, multiple business owner, full-time psychology student and mum of three concurs. “This description of cacao invoking a heart-opening experience is true for me. Perhaps this heart-opening effect is due to the presence of flavonoids, perhaps due to the presence of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Perhaps because when used as a tool to anchor oneself in the present moment, it can awaken and evoke the senses, or maybe the very act of devoting a moment to nourishing indulgence and self-care itself creates an opportunity to settle, to forgive yourself for any actions or reactions born of the over-stimulated state of surviving in this hectic world.”
“The truth is that I cannot say for certain which specific characteristic of cacao is responsible for inducing the profound heart-opening experience, but I can say with complete conviction that I highly recommend it. “
Is it a phase?
Some of the funnier descriptions I’ve read refer to “Mama Cacao” (her official title) as a fancy hot chocolate and on this, Natasha Vavasour is quick to remind us that the only reason we have hot chocolate today at all is because it was adapted from cacao – then processed, powdered with sugar and additives all thrown in. That doesn’t sound quite so “fancy” now does it?
One thing however is clear is that the experience we each have from imbibing cacao is as individual as it is personal. Similar to anything else we experiment with, if we approach with a closed, sceptical or suspicious mindset, it will be reflected in the outcome.
If on the other hand, we are prepared to surrender to what might happen, how it might make us feel and we allow ourselves receive what we need to, then in my personal experience that’s when the magic happens.
It might indeed be a phase or it might, as I suspect, continue to grow in popularity as more of us learn about it. And god knows, even if it turns out to be a phase, after the year we have all survived, we’re allowed to find our comforts where we can.
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Founder of The RESET for Change 3 Month 1:1 Private Coaching Programme. She works with women who simply feel stuck, and she gives them the chance to see just what’s possible for them to make changes as well as the tools they need to do just that. To discover how Niamh can help you, click here.