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Native to Central America, Cacao (Theobroma cacao) was used as a medicinal and religious beverage by the Aztecs and Mayans. Spanish conquistadors were responsible for its spread to Europe in the 1600s.

The plant has long been beloved and valued. Swedish taxonomer Carl Linnaeus gave it the genus Theobroma, or “food of the gods,” and cacao was so valuable that it was used as currency in Mexico until the late 19th century.

Cacao is a relative of cola and cotton, and it historically was considered to be an aphrodisiac.


Naturally bitter, Cacao is rich in antioxidants, and it’s a source of flavonoids and alkaloids, such as theobromine. It also contains caffeine. Theobromine is a natural stimulant, as is caffeine, so Cacao is often used to support healthy energy levels.*

Uses of Cacao


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Flavonoids, alkaloids, theobromine, caffeine

Parts Used

  • Beans

Important precautions

Additional Resources

Wood, Rebecca. “The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia.” 2nd edition. 2010. New York, Penguin Books.

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