Cacao (Theobroma cacao) is native to the deep tropical region of South America and Mexico. Cacao, also called cacao tree and cocoa tree, is a small tree in the family Malvaceae which retains its green leaves throughout the year. Cacao grows from 13 to 26 feet tall. The fruit, called a cacao pod which ripens to yellow to orange contains 20 to 60 seeds, usually called “beans”, embedded in a white pulp. Its seeds are used to make cocoa powder and chocolate.
Cacao was named Theobroma by Linnaeus, the word meaning ‘food of the gods,’ so called from the good of its seeds. Mexicans named the pounded seeds ‘Chocolate.’ In Mexico during the time of the Aztec kings the small seeds were used as coins necessary for small transactions. The method is still used in some parts of Mexico. Cocoa is made by grinding the cacao nibs into a paste between hot rollers and combining it with starch and sugar, part of the fat being removed. Chocolate is prepared in much the same process, but the fat is saved. Oil of Theobroma or cacao butter is a yellowish white solid, with a smell resembling that of cocoa, taste mild and agreeable; generally obtained by expression. Cacao nibs is used as an ingredient in cosmetic ointments and in pharmacy for covering pills and preparing suppositories. It has excellent emollient assets and is used to protect and soften chapped hands and lips. Theobromine, the alkaloid included in the beans, looks like caffeine in its action, but its outcome on the central nervous system is not that powerful. The terms Cacao and Cocoa are often mistakenly used interchangeably to mean the same thing. Cocoa is now a term to describe the processed and sweetened cacao. Cacao is used to describe the seeds, the, and the pods. The useful ingredients found in the Cacao nibs (raw chocolate) are Phenylethylamine, Antioxidants, Theobromine, Vitamins, and Essential Minerals. The healthy benefits of cacao are the following:
- Increased blood circulation which can enhance focus, reduce headaches, and more.
- Suppress coughing.
- Lower cholesterol which is good for heart health.
- Known in some circles as a mild smart food (increases brain power synergistically due to the ingredients effect on the body, blood, and more).