This may sound surprising to you but here it is: Cacao can be a drug, and I personally find it to be one of the most useful drugs for personal and spiritual development I’ve ever encountered.
The secret is this: for cacao to be a drug, it needs to be raw, something that doesn’t normally happen. Cacao made for food consumption is always treated with heat. Online and in health food stores, you can find raw cacao (note: it *has* to say raw on the packet or it is not raw!) and if you have a reasonably large dose, it can take you on what can be called nothing else but an actual “trip”.
Some prefer to call cacao a “plant teacher”. I like to say “drug” because drugs are not necessarily bad things, and I don’t like beating about the bush with names. You can buy so-called “ceremonial cacao”, but in fact any raw cacao will do, and actually I find defatted cacao is easier to handle.
I’ve now taken cacao about thirty times, and while it can’t match say, MDMA for sheer power, I’d still say it’s far and away the drug which has done most for my development. It has helped me heal my trauma to a great extent, has given me clarity on my life path, has stabilised me after jarring life events, and has stimulated me to make changes to my lifestyle. After every cacao trip, I have the sensation of having made real progress.
Its relative lack of power is maybe one of its advantages, in fact. MDMA requires (for me) a recovery period of at least a week, a time in which I’m pretty wiped out. Magic mushrooms need at least a day, maybe two, before I feel ready to face really-real life again. Cacao, on the other hand, usually has no recovery period; at most I’m a bit sluggish or low the next day, though I’ve found ways to reduce even that.
On cacao, I rarely feel like I have no control of what goes on with me. With mushrooms there is no way out if you don’t feel like tripping any more. Whatever happens, you have no choice but to flow with it. MDMA is rarely an unwelcome guest but it still fucking kicks down the door. As “Cacao shaman” Keith says, cacao shows you the door but doesn’t push you through. I haven’t found that to be always 100% true, but I do always somehow feel in control on cacao in a way I don’t with other drugs. I usually have little or no fear when taking it.
On cacao, I experience visions as well as a warm, glowy feeling in my body, and a deeper connection to my emotions. It’s easier to talk about my emotions, have insights about them, and work through them. I often frequently experience guidance or intuitions. It’s often subtle, but sometimes it’s really not: I can suddenly “just know” something important to my healing or life path with an intense clarity and an accompanying impulse to act on it. I have come to call these peculiar downloads “cacao intuitions”.
The vividness of my cacao experience varies. Sometimes I have almost no hallucinations, and other times I have deeply immersive voyages. When I have few visions, I still find I make good use of the trip through the improved intuition and ability to process my emotions. When I have many visions, it can be quite impressive.
I actually took cacao the first time in a cacao ceremony, which I found mostly useless except for opening me to the reality of cacao as a drug. The second time I took cacao, then, was the more important experience. I did it at home with my partner, in a comfortable and relaxed setting, which has come to be my preferred way of doing it.
As the cacao came up, I swiftly found myself face to face with the Cacao Spirit herself*. I saw her as a strongly built woman with dark purple skin and a red jewel on her forehead. Sometimes this jewel would be a red eye instead. She had me understand that she was working on me as a doctor would, and I had a strongly healing process that night.
*My first couple of mushroom trips also involved the mushroom spirit; I think these beings like to “introduce themselves”.
From then on, I often took cacao for healing. Many of my first trips were focused on healing my trauma from being beaten as a child. I would relax, light candles, and focus on my breathing and the warm feeling which cacao would generate in my body. Then – sometimes on my own initiative and sometimes more by following the guidance of the drug – I would go into my trauma and related issues, which would be represented by feelings in my body. Then I’d experience the pain which was trapped there, often strongly but never more than I felt I could handle. Sometimes I’d have visions of my father beating me. Sometimes I’d see energy being released from my body in a beam of green energy coming out of my mouth.
In one trip, I guided my attention to the energy of the trauma again. I was noticing a strong sense of the feeling of vulnerability which that part of my body held. That part of my body contained a physical opening to the outside world, after all; that’s symbolically quite a powerful thing.
Then, suddenly, I began experiencing giving birth. I felt contractions, my water breaking, expanding and — the moment itself. For whatever reason I also experienced the gory detail of the afterbirth and cutting the umbilical chrod. Then, for some time afterwards I enjoyed bonding with my new baby. (In case you’re wondering, I didn’t exactly see him as if he was really there; it was something like dreaming while awake).
It was an intense experience. I had such a strong feeling of connection with this baby, such that I felt almost sure it must be a spirit who had come to me and not “just” a hallucination. When the cacao wore off enough for the visions to disippate, I freaked out pretty hard, though I managed to get my head around it after a while. For the rest of the day I felt the vivid feeling as if I had really had a baby, that he had really been mine, and wondered if I would feel this way for my whole life. Thankfully, I guess, the next day the whole experience started feeling more like a dream I had and less like something real.
Another time I had a trip where I was working on a feeling of being unworthy of love. I saw my child self (appearing as she “should” appear and not as the discordant male self I knew back then) at around the beginning of puberty, when I started to begin to experience crushes and romantic love. I felt the intense feeling of the love, coupled with the pain of thinking I was unworthy of love – that pain had always been there, but I had just thought that was supposed to be a part of the feeling of love. This contrast, shown in such clarity, was so harsh and powerful that I vomited.
I found the vomiting to be a sort of release (this is a well known experience on other drugs) and from then on started working on this pain in my heart. I went deep, into a sort of forest which seemed to represent some part of my unconscious mind. My heart was there, very big and yet somehow cloaked in shadow; I couldn’t look at it directly. I was, I think, experiencing this through the eyes of my inner child, and as much as I tried it was hard to make progress. At some point, I willed myself to come “up” out of that place, with a feeling of rising up out of deep water. I spent some time in a more usual mindspace, then had the inspiration to return — but this time, I was my adult self, and I could give my child self comfort and the perspective of experience. And I could heal my heart enough that it became possible to look at it directly.
Another time, more recently, I was healing my fear of losing my place to live. Though I didn’t have many visions on this particular trip, I had one vision that lasted a good long time. I saw myself as a seagull, flying over the sea, or perhaps flying in an endless sky which was both above and below. What occurred to me as I saw this was that seagulls fly for a long time without seeing land. They are almost a perfect metaphor for leaving behind security. I could learn to live in this space, in this endless sky, and feel comfortable in it, for long as I needed to be there. After all, I thought, when there is sky in every direction, there’s nowhere you can fall.
So much for my visions. Now, if you want to take cacao yourself I’ll give you a little guide in following.
First, as I mentioned before, the key to cacao being a psychadelic rather than just tasting good is that it has to be RAW. Cacao is only ever raw if it explicitly says so on the packet – otherwise it has been prepared with heat! You can find raw cacao online or in most health food shops. After trying several brands I’ve decided that “Dragon Superfoods” brand is my favourite.
And yes, I have experimented with using cheap normal cacao and with preparing raw cacao with hot water. These don’t work, so don’t waste your time.
Now, plan to be tripping for about six hours. The drug will come up after half an hour, and peak about half an hour after that. Hallucinations are usually only in the first four hours or so, though the warm, connected feeling lasts a while longer.
Prepare your cacao in warm to hot but not burning water – you should be able to keep your finger in it. To trip properly, you need about 40g or 100ml or 6 tablespoons. (Note: as tablespoons are a vague measure you should probably use a dedicated measuring tablespoon for this). I also suggest adding a teaspoon of ginger powder. Ginger helps combat nausea, which is a common side effect of psychoactive cacao. I’ve also sometimes used cayenne pepper, which is supposed to act as a synergist, making the cacao effect stronger. I can’t tell if it really makes a difference, but I really do recommend the ginger.
It’s okay to add sugar or other sweeteners, in fact I recommend it. It’s also okay to use soymilk as the liquid though I’ve heard cow milk might not be good because of some interaction with the milk protein – I can’t confirm that as I’m vegan anyway.
If desired, you can also dilute this amount of cacao into 600ml of soymilk. This will make it taste like any old chocolate milk, with the downside that drinking three glasses of milk isn’t necessarily what you feel like doing when you’re trying to get into the tripping mood. This is up to you. Concentrating the 40g into one cup of liquid, on the other hand, is rather intense flavoured; I find it okay, but not super enjoyable.
It’s best you drink on an empty stomach or after only a light meal. I also find it helpful to do it at night, especially in winter when night falls early, in bed, with some tealight candles lit. This helps me get into a very relaxed state. I relax so deeply I would probably sleep if I was not on the drug, but cacao keeps me awake or at least on the edge of sleep. (On that note: never take cacao fewer than 5 hours before you intend to sleep. 6 hours to be sure).
I think cacao needs a bit of work to show its full potential. I recommend using meditative focus and intention, and perhaps have another person there who can help you find a deeper state. On its own, without some extra input, cacao may simply be an enjoyable high.
Finally, note that cacao contains MAO inhibitors which can interact with some antidepressants (the SSRIs if I remember right). From Cacao Shaman Keith’s experience, the worst that can happen is a serious headache, but that’s worth avoiding if possible. I don’t bother with MAOI diets, though, in case you’re wondering about that; they don’t seem to be necessary. On that note, as a MAO inhibitor cacao should potentiate other drugs, such as mushrooms (a combination which is believed to have been used by the ancient Mayans). Never take cacao with MDMA.
Cacao has been known as a drug (at least, in the modern world) for a pretty short time – I would say about 10 or 15 years. Currently it’s fashionable in the Berlin spiritual scene, where it is mostly used in “cacao ceremonies”. Cacao ceremonies are nice, but I also feel like the drug has an incredible potential for individual or therapeutic use. In fact, I’m studying to become a therapist (a goal which became clear to me in a sudden, almost surreal revelation on a cacao trip) and I have the idea to use cacao with my clients.
I would recommend you give it a try!