Cacao is Food, Cacao is Medicine
Knowledge of cacao, its uses, and benefits was all traditionally passed down through oral history and art such as the codices and stonework. Though much of this has remained shrouded in mystery, once the Spaniards had contact with the Indigenous, many descriptions of cacao were published.
Here’s what remained most consistent throughout all the accounts of cacao:
Cacao was used medicinally as a remedy and as a vehicle to deliver other medicinal plants.
The top three primary uses include:
- To treat people that lacked proper nutrition
- To stimulate the nervous system and energize the body
- To improve digestion and bowel movements
What’s even more interesting is that other medicinal preparations can be made with the rest of the cacao plant. Cacao bark, butter, and leaves and flowers, have the capacity to treat burns, cuts, and even bowel dysfunction.
Cacao Is Sacred, Cacao Is Divine
The origin story of cacao in both Mayan and Aztec traditions holds many similarities. In the Mayan cosmovision, it is said that Kukulkan, the plumed serpent gave cacao to the Maya as a gift, and in the Aztec cosmovision, the story tells that the feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl, discovered cacao on a mountain and gifted it to the human civilization.
Being such a sacred plant, cacao was never regarded as just another treat. Cacao was treated with reverence and thus treated as medicine and an ally for sacred rituals such as offerings to the deceased.
In The Ritual of the Bacabs (also known as the Princeton Codex of Myana origin) medical incantations were found that were spoken over those with fever, skin eruptions, and seizures. Once the chants were finished, the patient would be served a bowl of medicinal chocolate mixed with two peppers, honey, and tobacco juice.
It is quite incredible to think of the syncretism between spiritual acts such as prayer and serving cacao as a medicine.
Some more ways in which cacao was used by the Aztec & Maya:
To treat gastrointestinal issues such as constipation and infections
To treat cough and phlegm when combined with vanilla, Mexican pepperleaf, and what is known as “monkey’s hand tree”
Cacao flower bath to cure fatigue
To increase chances of conception
To facilitate the process of giving birth during the delivery
Preparations for added benefits:
As the Aztecs and Mayas did, and likely some still do, you can add vanilla to your cacao to fortify your brain and, for women, your womb as well. And, as we’ve now seen, cacao is a great ally for healthy digestion and you can add achiote to your cacao to add some extra power to strengthen your stomach.
Closing Cacao Notes
The information we shared with you today is really just the tip of the iceberg. Thankfully, there is much more that we can continue discovering about the wonders of cacao!
Here’s to continuing learning and treating cacao with love and honoring it as medicine!