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Medicine of the month: Cacao, gift from the Gods.

Back in 2002 when I first visited the jungle in

Chiapas, Mexico I discovered the many wonders of the Cacao plant or Cocoa.

I didn't know then that Cacao was a bean and grew on a tree in the subtropical jungle.

I sort of suspected it didn't grow in bars wrapped in aluminum and displayed on supermarket shelves, but I had no idea what a treasure it really was.

One day as I was out on an expedition, a companion showed me the tree.

My eyes grew big" really? Is this where chocolate comes from?" My companion, a unique character of wits and unbeatable humor, picked a whole pod ,split it open and showed me the beans. " meet your chocolate bar en nude" he said proudly.

I held the pod and as I always do, smelled its contents. It was so different from what I knew, it smelled strong and exotic. We brought it back to camp and my companion toasted it on the fire. That night he started the long process of grinding it with a rock and then boiling it with water. Some time later we sat around the fire and tried the brew. Gosh was it bitter!! Nothing to do with the so familiar hot chocolate.

Somehow my friend enjoyed it and claimed that it was the real thing and it's only a matter of getting used to it.

I remember adding sugar and having to add more and even more but it was still too bitter for my taste buds, used to the commercial surrogate.

What don't we do for love? As a Chocolate lover I was willing to go the extra mile to honour the food from the Gods.

The same year I traveled through Guatemala and found chocolate cigars which were artisan crafted with the real cacao powder mixed with tons of sugar and other spices .

The texture was crumbly but the taste was more palatable for my buds than the jungle brew.

In the years that followed I found myself having romantic remembrance of the Guatemalan chocolate cigars.

Cacao is like the jungle, once you meet it, you cannot forget it.

It's too precious

No wonder the Mayas considered it their most precious material.

Cacao was in fact the currency in the ancient world and it was considered more precious than gold.

Cacao was in fact the currency in the ancient world and it was considered more precious than gold.

They probably knew of its amazing qualities as a health booster.

We all know that chocolate boosts our mood and brings comfort to our mind. The raw product has many health benefits. It is first and foremost medicine for the heart with its anti inflammatory and heart protective antioxidants. It contains 700 compounds called polyphenols which reduce bad cholesterol and reduces the risk of stroke. It helps expand the heart and bring overall wellbeing. The ceremonial grade cacao helps the heart chakra open and connect to the unconditional love from within.

Cacao boosts brain levels of serotonin, the feel good brain chemical which helps balance hormonal mood swings, making it an essential part of women's diet especially during their moon cycle.

In recent years I found raw chocolate products more available and I'm gradually substituting the processed product with the real thing . I got so used to it that by now if I can't find good chocolate I'd rather go no-chocolate.

The commercial chocolate brands contain a minuscule part of raw cacao, which has been processed and sourced unethically and contains unnecessary quantities of sugar and dairy, which inhibits the absorption of the antioxidants.

There are really good brands out there that make good chocolate which is finely crafted and tastes divine. Some of these ethical companies make vegan chocolate which is suitable for non dairy diets and many use unrefined sweeteners, natural spices and no preservatives.

I also use raw cacao powder in my smoothie in the morning , together with fresh mango and banana or fresh coconut water ( coconut or other nuts milk is also good) and it provides plenty of healthy energy for the day ahead.

When I make hot chocolate, I boil the raw cacao powder with water and add spices, cinnamon and a tablespoon of raw sugar.

Cacao is also used for cooking. One of my favourite Mexican dishes, Mole is made with a paste that contains cacao and a parade of spices of different colours and taste that make a unique, aphrodisiac recipe.

Other than the scientific evidence about its amazing qualities, when something is so delicious and makes you feel so good, it can only be a ( Mayan) God's send.

I have taken to offer cacao beans to the Abuelos in ceremony and I treat myself to a good cup of real hot chocolate whenever I can. Every excuse is good.

It just makes life more happy

If you haven't noticed, chocolate is one of my greatest passions, I would spend hours talking about it, but then I wouldn't have time to actually eat it so see you next month.

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