In the spirit of Autumn Equinox, which is all about the balance between polarities (masculine/feminine, light/dark, hot/cold, inward/outward, etc.) I’m inspired to share about the medicine of Cacao, theobroma cacao (the plant that chocolate comes from).

The Essence of Cacao

I have used cacao for years as a heart opener and an aphrodisiac, but only recently learned that its essence helps to balance the masculine and feminine polarities within us. We carry Cacao Spirit Essence by Brigid’s Way, which comes with this description:

“Releases and dissolves pains and wounds held in the body, particularly in the female breasts and male genitals. Helps to heal limiting beliefs around sex, and see the Divine aspect of Lovemaking. Facilitates ecstatic union of the masculine and feminine, as well as sensuality.”

This certainly explains the aphrodisiac effects of cacao, but masculine and feminine energies are not limited to gender and sexuality. It’s really more about yin and yang and the primordial separation of unified source energy into two poles, which simultaneously attract and repel one another in a dance that creates life. We are all seeking to unify these opposite forces within us (although most of us are looking for something outside of ourselves to complete us). When we do balance these energies within our own bodies, we experience amplified bliss, energy and power.

History of Chocolate

The cacao tree has been cultivated for 11,000 years and was considered by Mesoamerican empires including the Mayans and the Aztecs. The Aztecs believed that cacao seeds had been brought from paradise and that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cacao tree. The Aztecs prepared cacao into a thick, bitter and frothy brew made of mashed corn flour, roasted cacao beans and water and flavored with cinnamon and chili pepper. And it was primarily consumed by the elite, including nobility and warriors.  It was served at weddings and was used in offerings and rituals, including human sacrifice. The Aztec king Montezuma supposedly drank 50 goblets a day and an extra hefty dose of the beverage before visiting his harem.
The hot chocolate drink that we think of today is credited to Spanish nuns living in Chiapas, who added cane sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, omitting the chilis and salt.  They were so enamored with their creation that they would drink it in mass, despite the bishop’s attempt to suppress this behavior. Claiming that it helped them overcome ‘the weakness of the stomach’ and thus assisted their efforts to worship, they were allowed to continue.

 Therapeutics of Cacao

  • Actions: Diuretic, stimulant, aphrodisiac, anti-depressant/uplifting nervine, nutritive
  • Energetics: bitter, drying, initially warming, then cooling
  • Properties: Cacao contains psychoactive and mood altering compounds including tryptophan, a building block of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Cacao also contains phenylethylamine (PEA), an alkaloid that triggers the release of norepinephrine and dopamine, all of which contribute to feelings of euphoria. PEA is identical to a hormone produced by the brain when a person feels infatuated [raises blood pressure, heart rate, heightens sensation, arousal, giddiness, nervousness and sleeplessness while lowering appetite.]
  • It also contains Theobromine, a close structural relative of caffeine. It is a stimulant but its effect on the central nervous system is less intense.
  • And cacao has compounds similar to THC (anandamine) which bind to cannabinoid receptor sites in the brain and produce a subtle pain-relieving effect and a sense of well-being.
  • Cacao is rich in antioxidants, which improve mental clarity as well as physical endurance, and support cardiovascular health as well as minerals like magnesium and copper.
  • Cautions: Ceremonial cacao is contraindicated with anti-depressants. A little bit of chocolate for dessert is okay, but avoid large, therapeutic doses with SSRIs or MAO inhibitors. Cacao is also stimulating, so you will want to use caution if you’re taking other stimulating medications such as ephedrine, Sudafed and amphetamines. Also because of its stimulating nature, high doses of cacao could exacerbate anxiety, high blood pressure and IBS.


Cacao can be enjoyed as a chocolate bar, hot cocoa, added to smoothies, baked goods, or even teas and liqueurs. Dark chocolate is the best for medicinal purposes (look for 70% cacao or higher).  Cacao pairs well with rose, damiana for enhanced heart-opening effect. Maca, damiana, ginseng or epimedium will enhance its stimulating aphrodisiac qualities. And CBD, skullcap, kava or hops will create a more relaxing yet euphoric experience. Check out some delicious recipe ideas below:

  • Aztec Sipping Cocoa (Hot chocolate blend with maca, chipotle and sweetened with coconut sugar)
  • Kava Cocoa (A relaxing hot cocoa with kava kava, cinnamon, vanilla and organic cane sugar)
  • Damiana Cacao Liqueur Blend (a heart-opening blend of roasted cacao nibs, damiana and rose petals and a touch of cinnamon to infuse into your choice of liquor)

My favorite way to enjoy cacao is with a little bit of CBD (25mg), either as an infused chocolate square or a hot cocoa with CBD added. Then I light some incense, turn on some music and either dance, do some yoga or meditate depending on my energy level. You can also take a walk, journal, paint/draw, play music, hang out with friends, or anything else that makes you feel good and keeps you out of your analytical mind. I highly recommend carving out an hour or more in the evening, or whenever you can fully relax and spend some time doing whatever brings you joy.

Ceremonial Cacao

Cacao ceremonies are a great way amplify the effects of cacao, to connect with the spirit of the plant, to more fully occupy your heart space, and to experience an expanded state of consciousness.  A Cacao ceremony is simply ingesting cacao with intention. The intention is up to you, but since cacao is so great at opening the heart chakra and uplifting your mood, intentions related to joy, connection, and self-love are good suggestions. Ceremonial grade cacao is ideal, but you can use any high quality 80-100% cacao (in bar or paste form rather than powder). It can be a solo or a group experience.  Read more about how to create your own cacao ceremony HERE.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This article is not meant to prevent, treat or cure any disease.


(Asparagus racemosus)

Shatavari is an herb from the Ayurvedic tradition. In Hindi, its name means “one who possesses a hundred husbands,” a hint that this herb has been used traditionally as a fertility tonic. Like all herbs, it has dozens of uses. Read on to learn more about some of its applications.

Family: Schisandraceae
Names: Indian asparagus, Shatamuli
Parts Used: stems, root

Energetics: sweet, bitter, cooling, moistening

Actionsadaptogen, immunomodulator, yin tonic, antitussive, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac, galactogogue, diuretic, haemostatic

Chemistry: contains steroidal saponins, isoflavones, polysaccharides and mucilage.

Uses: Traditional use in the Ayurvedic traditions lists dozens of conditions where Shatavari may be helpful. These include rheumatism, cough, diarrhea, dysentery, gastric irritation, infertility, threat of miscarriage, menopausal symptoms, bleeding disorders, chronic fever and any other signs of internal heat or irritation. It is considered to be a nutritive and rejuvenative tonic, especially to pitta constitutions. 

In recent studies, shatavari has been shown to increase both the weight of mammary lobulo-aveolar tissue and the total volume of milk produced. It was found to inhibit oxytocin-induced contractions in vivo. It has shown significant antitussive activity in mice, and in vitro, has proven effective against E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella and Staph. All of this supports the traditional use in treating cough, dysentery, diarrhea, and as a support during pregnancy & breast-feeding. 

Probably the most common use of shatavari is among menopausal women suffering from hot flashes, insomnia, night sweats and vaginal dryness. Again, traditional use of shatavari for menopausal health and as an overall female reproductive tonic has been validated. One study found that over 80% of participants experienced better sleep and reduced hot flashes from using shatavari (Shrestha et. al, 2003). 

Shatavari is thought to strengthen the reproductive organs in both men and women by nourishing the ojas, or the highly refined and nourishing substance that resides in the reproductive tissues of the body. The steroidal saponins in shatavari support the production of reproductive hormones.  

As a nutritive tonic, shatavari enriches the body’s fluids, plasma and white blood cells, strengthening the immune system and providing lubrication and nutrition for the entire body.  This is what makes it a yin tonic in Chinese Medicine. 

Its cooling and demulcent properties soothe all forms of heat and irritation in the urinary, respiratory and GI tracts. Shatavari may be useful for any form of excess heat in the body such as chronic fever, ulcers, and bleeding disorders such as menorrhagia. Bleeding is actually considered to be a heat condition. The cooling quality of shatavari causes blood vessels to constrict which is why it’s used as a haemostatic. 

Indications: infertility, vaginal dryness, low libido, dry, achy joints, anemia, low immunity, inflammation of the GI tract (IBS, gastritis), GI irritation to alcohol consumption, gastric ulcers, menorrhagia, chronic fever, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia due to yin deficiency, food poisoning, dysentery, diarrhea due to heat or infection, dry, ticklish coughs, threat of miscarriage, insufficient milk flow, postpartum weakness, irritation of the urinary tract (cystitis, urethritis)  and any other sign by heat or dryness (even dry skin)–especially when accompanied by chronic stress or adrenal fatigue.

Contraindications: because of its cooling and moistening properties, avoid in cases of sluggish digestion with watery diarrhea, or excessive mucus production. This can be balanced in a formula with warming & drying herbs. 

Dosage:  40-80 drops tincture (1:5), 2 tsp/ 20 g dried powdered root per day, either mixed into food or decodted for 10-15 minutes in 8 oz of water. 

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease**

Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief by David Winston; Healing Arts Press 2007
Herbal Therapeutics: Specific Indications for Herbs and Herbal Formulas by David Winston; Herbal Therapeutics Research Library (2014)
Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra. Twin Lakes, Wis.: Lotus Press (1992)