Cacao – Theobroma cacao

Cacao leaf
Cacao leaf

I love chocolate, oh yes I do.

Eating chocolate is a must too.

I love chocolate, how about you?

They say dark chocolate is now good for you too.


By Nichole Kaci McKnight

‘Food of the Gods,’ the aphrodisiac of rulers and emperors, will only grow within a limited range. The tree must be planted within 20 degrees of the equator, with Hawaii being the only place in the US to grow it!

The tree was grown in Mexico, Central and South America for an extremely long time, pre-contact! The ancient races of people who lived there used chocolate as a form of currency, and found it so very valuable that only the ruling class could consume it! They also believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac. The earliest cocoa plantations were established in 600 AD, in the Yucatan, by the Mayans.

Chocolate was not introduced to Europe until 1502 on Columbus’s 4th voyage for Spain. What he brought back with him were the cacao beans (or seeds). At that time he related how to make the drink he had witnessed being consumed, which included chilies and was dyed red. This was the drink that Montezuma drank 50 goblets of daily!

The people of the Amazon basin have used cocoa butter for ages as a soothing rub for bruises. The fruit is used to treat depression, fatigue, weight gain, and reduced sex drive! In cosmetics the cocoa butter is also employed in treatments for rough or chafed skin, chapped lips, sore nipples, and fancy soaps.

The cocoa bean has up to 50% fat, when that is removed what is left is cocoa powder. This powder is used to make hot chocolate, chocolate candy, and all the other wonderfully, sinful chocolate delights. When boiled in milk, it has in the past been used as a very nutritious food for convalescing patients and invalids.

But beware! Chocolate is also a poison….pet dogs, cats, parrots, and even horses are very susceptible to poisoning from this human treat. Only 2 ounces of chocolate can cause death in smaller animals. The theobromine causes cardiac and central nervous system stimulation; early symptoms of poisoning include diarrhea, abdominal distention, restlessness, and vomiting! This may worsen with time to include hyperactivity, polyuria (abnormally large production of urine), ataxia (dysfunction of parts of the nervous system), tremors and seizures. When death does occur it is brought on by hyperthermia, respiratory failure, and cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat, too fast or slow, etc). If your animal has consumed chocolate….get it at once to the vet!!


Note on above illustration: from Koehler’s Medicinal-Plants 1887 [Image in Public Domain]

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