In the spirit of launching our new and improved Mushroom Cacao Super Blend, we feel the essential part of the experience is knowing all the good you will put into your body. Cacao has a deep, rich history for its healing purposes and today science allows us to rediscover what the ancient culture celebrated about its powerful properties.
Cacao is the dried and fully fermented fatty seed of the fruit from the Theobroma cacao evergreens tree, which grows in the native to tropical regions in Central and South America. It has been cultivated since prehistoric times and cacao production has spread throughout the tropics during the last 300 years. It has been noted that humans have consumed cacao since at least as early as 460 AD!
This blog will explore the origins and health benefits of this wonderful plant in all its forms – cacao, cocoa and chocolate.
The word “cacao” originates from the Mayan word “Ka'kau'”, and the word “chocolate” derives from the verb “Chocol’ha”, meaning “drink chocolate together”.
The Mayans believed that the gods discovered Ka'kau' in a mountain. According to Mayan mythology, the god Hunahpú gave cacao to the Mayan civilisation after humans were created from Maize by the divine grandmother goddess, Lxmucané. Cacao was seen as “the food of gods,” and there were festivals devoted to the god Ek Chuaj, the patron of cacao. Unlike today's sweet, rich flavoursome hot chocolates, cacao was a hot, bitter beverage served in clay cups, especially to the royals and elite and in ceremonies.
Painting from the ancient Maya city of Calakmul depicting the preparation and drinking of cacao. Photo by Kenneth Garret, Nat Geo image collection.
Cacao beans were identified as a currency in Mesoamerica, traded for goods, and even taxes were paid with cacao. It was also used for medicinal purposes to treat ailments such as fever, angina, rashes, fatigue, and dysentery, as well as a tool to administer bitter-tasting medicine. Between the 16th and 20th centuries, well over 100 uses for cacao or chocolate as a medical treatment have been documented. In 1502, Christopher Columbus was the first European to encounter cacao. He captured a canoe containing cacao beans and considered them “mysterious-looking almonds”. As a result of his discovery, cacao was then disseminated to Europe in the mid-1500s.
Now, 70% of cacao is grown in West Africa. However, countries such as Indonesia, Peru, Venezuela and many countries in Central America and the Caribbean also grow the bean.
Cacao has been shown to possess many beneficial effects on human health due to its array of minerals, including potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium, all of which have been shown to contribute to cardiovascular health.
Below we will explain the numerous benefits the chocolate plant possesses and how cacao will elevate your day and bring calm to your evenings.
THE POWER OF FLAVONOIDS
Cacao is rich in flavonoids—specifically flavonols with salivary proteins, responsible for the bitterness of cacao. Flavonoids are indispensable components in various nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, medicinal and cosmetic applications.(1)
CACAO VS. CAFFEINE
Theobromine is the primary bitter-tasting alkaloid found in cacao. Theobromine is gentle, mild, slow onset, has long-lasting effects, and is non-addictive. In contrast, caffeine has a similar constructed type of pharmacologically active chemical but with noticeably different effects. It is intense, strong, fast acting, short-lived, and addictive. Interestingly, theobromine has been shown to induce brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF),(2) which plays a vital role in learning, emotions and memory. BDNF increases the proliferation of nerve growth and nerve repair in the hippocampus (a part of our brain that has a significant role in learning and memory).
Unlike caffeine, theobromine is not a central nervous system stimulant and therefore doesn’t typically make you feel as on edge or jittery. Instead, it stimulates the cardiovascular system and increases heart function and blood flow. Theobromine feels more like the energy you gain after a good night’s sleep rather than the quick high you get from coffee.
ALL ABOUT LOVE
Cacao releases anandamide, also known as the bliss molecule. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter that binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body, stimulating a sense of happiness and mental wellness. Feeling more alert, this bliss molecule can give us a sense of well-being and contentment. It also can trigger the release of dopamine and endorphin; this is stimulated by phenylethylamine (PEA). PEA is an organic compound involved in passionate love and elevates your mood while improving brain function. It can increase feelings of excitement and can even give the perception of time slowing down.
Phenylethylamine found in Cacao is a neurotransmitter known as the "love drug". This may be why chocolate is known as an aphrodisiac. Historically it was even used by the Aztecs for this purpose and the emperor Moctezuma (c. 1466-1520) would drink large amounts of cacao before spending time with his various partners…
Phenethylamine is a chemical that mimics the brain chemistry of a person in love, so when levels of phenylethylamine are high in the body, it can relieve sadness from unrequited love, hence why many of us devour a box of chocolate after heartbreak!
A 2019 study by UCL (3) found a positive association between eating dark chocolate and feeling happier. The research compared chocolate consumption with depressive symptoms in 13,626 US adults. People who ate dark chocolate in the past 24 hours were 70% less likely to report feelings of sadness.
We mentioned earlier the love chemical phenylethylamine (PEA).(4) This chemical compound has been shown to relieve anxiety and help put your mind at ease if you feel stressed and in a rush.
A compound called Tryptophan (5) is contained within cacao. Tryptophan is known as a natural antidepressant that stimulates the production of melatonin and serotonin. It aids in supporting the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle, and we all know that the more well-rested you are, the happier you feel.
THE GOODNESS WITHIN OUR CACAO
We’ve been working hard to elevate our Mushroom Cacao experience to make it as flavoursome and healthy as possible. We’ve added more taste to create a deliciously healthy blend that shields the bitterness of reishi, with even more benefits, all science-backed! Here is the magic ingredients within the DIRTEA Mushroom Cacao Super Blend:
Tremella mushroom, also known as the Beauty Mushroom, supports our body’s natural collagen production. Thanks to its high level of polysaccharides and amino acids, Tremella can promote skin collagen synthesis, which can help to boost elasticity, improve firmness and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.*See our Tremella blog, which unlocks all the beauty secrets brought to you by mother nature.
Reishi is one of the most researched functional mushrooms with a wide range of potential health (6) benefits. This mushroom has been popularised for its calming effects for those experiencing the symptoms of stress and lack of good quality sleep.
As the name suggests, medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil contains medium-length chains of fats called triglycerides. Triglyceride is simply the technical term for fat. And serve two primary purposes: burned for energy or stored as body fat. The benefits of MCT are below.
When your body burns fatty acids it produces ketones, which are a fuel that is preferentially used by your brain. At high enough levels of blood ketones, you begin to experience significant cognitive boosts and an increase in focus.
MCT has the ability to bypass normal fat digestion and goes right to the liver, where it supports the production of ketone. The body uses ketones as a source of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an energy-carrying molecule that wraps around our cells, gives us energy, and is used for cellular metabolism.
A study (7) shows that MCT can help balance the bacteria in our gut, and a healthier gut leads to better digestion and a more robust immune system.
Moringa is a tree native to northern India and grown around the world. Every part of the moringa tree is edible and packed-full of powerhouse antioxidants, minerals, and beneficial compounds.
Humans have drawn on the healing properties of moringa for centuries, extracting its oil for purposes as diverse as healing skin issues, headaches, fatigue and easing painful joints.
With 7 times more vitamin C than oranges and 15 times more potassium than a banana, Moringa is one of the most nutritious plants.(8) It contains more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk, and more vitamin E than almonds. Moringa has been found to protect tissue (liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs) and to reduce pain.
With its high levels of antioxidants, (9) Moringa can help protect cells against free radicals produced by digesting food, smoking, and radiation exposure.
Cacao is the superpower plant with all the charm and wit to enhance your daily mood. Use our Cacao Super Blend, either day or night. You dictate the environment - Cacao is your beacon!
1. It is an energy source without the crashes or jitters of caffeine.
2. It is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and potassium.
3. It has 2,500mg of mushrooms per serving.
- Panche, AN., Diwan, AD. and Chandra, SR. (2016). ‘Flavonoids an Overview’. J Nutr Sci. 5, e47. doi: 10.1017/jns.2016.41.
- Yoneda, M., Sugimoto, N., Katakura, M., Matsuzaki, K., Tanigami, H., Yachie, A., Ohno-Shosaku, T. and Shido, O,. (2017).’Theobromine Up-Regulates Cerebral Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and Facilitates Motor Learning in Mice’. J Nutr Biochem. 39, pp.110-116. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2016.10.002.
- UCL News. (2019). People Who Eat Dark Chocolate Less Likely to be Depressed. Available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2019/aug/people-who-eat-dark-chocolate-less-likely-be-depressed#:~:text=2%20August%202019,are%20associated%20with%20mood%20disorders (Accessed: 28 March 2023)
- Lee, YJ., Kim, HR., Lee, CY., Hyun, SA., Ko, MY., Lee, BS., Hwang, DY. and Ka, M. (2020). ‘2-Phenylethylamine (PEA) Ameliorates Corticosterone-Induced Depression-Like Phenotype via the BDNF/TrkB/CREB Signaling Pathway’. Int J Mol Sci. 21(23) pp.9103. doi: 10.3390/ijms21239103.
- (2005). Tryptophan. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002332.htm#:~:text=Function&text=The%20body%20uses%20tryptophan%20to,energy%20metabolism%20and%20DNA%20production. (Accessed: 28 March 2023).
- Wachtel-Galor, S., Yuen, J., Buswell, J,A. and Benzie, I, F, F. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi). A Medicinal Mushroom. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/.
- Rial, SA., Karelis, AD., Bergeron, KF. and Mounier, C., (2016) ‘Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health: The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals’. 8 (5), pp. 281. doi: 10.3390/nu8050281.
- Wiginton, K. (2021) ‘Health Benefits of Moringa’ Available at: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-moringa. (Accessed: 28 March 2023).
- Peñalver, R., Martínez-Zamora, L., Lorenzo, JM., Ros, G. and Nieto, G., (2022) ‘Nutritional and Antioxidant Properties of Moringa OleiferaLeaves in Functional Foods’. Foods.11(8), pp.1107. doi: 10.3390/foods11081107.