Cacao and Medicinal Mushrooms, A Match Made in Heaven
Both cacao and medicinal mushrooms boast rich histories of use, each revered in their own right for their unique qualities for mind, body and spirit. Their harmonious relationship is something that has been explored throughout ancient history and the reverence surrounding cacao and mushrooms endures today.
The Origins of Cacao
The cacao powders, blocks and pastes we know today stem from the evergreen theobroma cacao tree native to Central and South America. Theobroma is its botanical species name that translates to food of the gods, ‘theo,’ ‘god’ and ‘broma,’ ‘food’. While cacao is derived from the Nahuatl Aztec word xocolatl meaning 'bitter water’.
Cacao first entered the pages of history as we know it through it revered status among the ancient Maya and Aztec civilisations though they each had their own divine beliefs about its origin. For the Maya cacao was part of their creation myth gifted to them by the god Ek Chuah at the birth of their people. In the culture of the Aztecs, cacao was bestowed upon them by Quetzalcoatl, sometimes depicted as a feathered serpent but more often a mysterious man, an emissary, who came via the sea to teach the ancient inhabitants of Mexico the skills of building and agriculture and the knowledge of astronomy.
Cacao played an important role in both Mayan and Aztec culture thought to be a vigour-enhancing and state-altering plant medicine that allowed access to higher states of consciousness. Cacao was ceremoniously consumed as a beverage and was integral to many spiritual and religious rituals.
The Meeting of Cacao and Mushrooms
Aztec culture often saw ceremonial cacao combined with sacred mushrooms to enhance its potency, this was most commonly the teonanacatl mushroom known as ‘the flesh of the gods’. This is where we see the ‘food of the gods’, cacao synergistically combined with ‘the flesh of the gods’. Teonanacatl is a psychedelic mushroom native to North and Central America that was prepared with cacao as a vessel to heighten the spiritual experience of the mushroom promoting feelings of love, and unity and bring about visions.
The Science Behind Cacao
When it comes to understanding why cacao was traditionally considered as a means by which to access higher states of consciousness science now provides some validation to the wisdom of the ancients.
Cacao, an Ancient Mood Elevator
Cacao is linked to neurotransmitters serotonin, tryptophan, dopamine, anandamide and phenylethylamine (PEA) which can support feelings of wellbeing and elevate mood.
Dopamine, Serotonin and Tryptophan – The Feel-Good Molecules
Cacao has been found to interact with the neurotransmitter systems of dopamine, serotonin and tryptophan helping the body produce and release more of these feel-good molecules naturally. Dopamine is responsible for a hit of temporary feelings of pleasure, while serotonin and its precursor tryptophan are known to create longer-lasting feelings of well-being, relaxation and happiness which explains that post-cacao-high feeling!
Anandamide – The Bliss Molecule
Anandamide is an endocannabinoid derived from unsaturated fatty arachidonic acid. Ananda is the Sanskrit word for bliss and happiness. Bliss indeed! When anandamide attaches to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body they work to elevate feelings of happiness, pleasure and contentment.
PEA (Phenylethylamine) – The Love Molecule
PEA is a neurotransmitter that is naturally released in the body when we fall in love. It triggers the brain's pleasure centres bringing about feelings of lust and attraction. It makes sense why cacao has been used throughout history as an aphrodisiac!
The Additional Benefits of Cacao
Mineral Rich ~ Magnesium & Iron
Cacao is known to be rich in minerals like magnesium and iron to name a few.
Magnesium is a critical mineral needed to power more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It supports energy production, muscle function and relaxation, nervous system regulation, bone health, cardiovascular health and more.
When it comes to iron, cacao is one of the richest plant sources of this essential mineral making it a valuable companion for those who follow a vegan or plant-based lifestyle. Iron most notably is key to making haemoglobin a protein in red blood cells which transport oxygen throughout the body.
Cacao is bursting with polyphenols like flavonoids and the stilbenoid resveratrol. Flavonoids protect the body from oxidative stress, inflammation, support cardiovascular health and cognitive health; overall they're key for longevity and healthy ageing which we like to hear!
The Benefits of Combining Cacao and Medicinal Mushrooms
Our love affair with medicinal mushrooms is pretty evident here at Inner Atlas and one of our favourite ways to enjoy them is in a tonic beverage as has been done throughout the ages.
Cacao acts as a beautiful vessel for medicinal mushrooms allowing their benefits to come forth just like in the ceremonial rituals of the Maya and the Aztecs – this is a sacred relationship that has stood the test of time. We now know today that contains enzyme inhibitors called MAO or mechanism of action inhibitors which are capable of slowing down the release of the medicinal mushrooms the cacao is combined with thereby amplifying and sustaining their effect.
Cacao is also a vasodilator, relaxing and widening the blood vessels allowing for free-flowing circulation and assimilation of medicinal mushrooms and their unique benefits.
Dawn Blend combines cacao, Cordyceps and Turkey Tail mushrooms delivering a smooth morning energy boost and immune support. Dusk Blend divinely combines cacao and Reishi mushroom; a supreme heart opener, the perfect tonic to steady the spirit.
We crafted our Blends to provide a way to access the benefits of medicinal mushrooms with ease. We like to think Dawn and Dusk are like deliciously bookending the day with small moments of bliss.
Our Adaptogenic Blends