What is holistic medicine?
Holistic medicine has become a widely-accepted practice in preventative medicine and daily self-care rituals, even if it is still regrettably overlooked in many clinical settings. As people advocating for our total wellness, it is our responsibility to look after all aspects of our being. As a community providing allyship, it is our responsibility to look after each other.
Holistic wellness is rooted in the idea that there are five aspects underpinning our health: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social. All of these areas form the delicate balance of our wellbeing, and forsaking any one of them for too long will eventually lead to unbalance and disease. Equally, we must not view illness or discomfort through any one aspect; e.g., there is usually an emotional component to physical suffering and vice versa.
When we take these aspects out of their silos and understand them as a complex system that makes up the whole you—and beyond that, the whole us—we start to move away from treating symptoms and move toward finding solutions to our health issues.
While walking the path of holistic health can lead to more effective lifestyle choices to support our continued wellbeing, there are some downsides. Most specifically, there are fewer quick fixes in holistic medicine than in many modern clinical modalities. Alternative physical treatments are usually a process of healing, rather than a surgery. The lasting benefits of plant medicine are usually delivered after diligent consumption, rather than a fast-acting pill. And, as we all know, our emotional, mental, spiritual, and social wellness are ongoing processes that only cease when we do. But for those who are willing to put in the effort, the rewards are sustainable and well worth it.
How can Cacao support me in my holistic wellness practice?
Before we discuss the specific aspects of Cacao on holistic wellness, let’s understand one of the most potent frameworks within which we work with the plant: ritual. The very aspect of having a slow, intentional ritual with which to meditate on our internal signals and/or share a meaningful moment with another being sets the stage for us to turn our attention on those elements of our lives that truly matter. Paying attention is the basis for our proactive wellness.
Now, how might we focus on each aspect of our whole being through our communion with Cacao?
It is no secret that Cacao is packed with vital nutrients—in fact, it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on Earth. In addition to loads of magnesium and iron to keep your body calm and well-oxygenated, 100% ceremonial-grade Cacao has off-the-charts levels of theobromine, which helps give you a gentle, sustained energy and opens up your cardiovascular system to deliver all of those great vitamins and minerals deep into your tissues. Also, ceremonial-grade cacao keeps in all the good fats and proteins from the Cacao bean, keeping you satiated longer and aiding in tissue regeneration. To go deeper, visit our Lab Report articles, part I and part II to learn all about the nutrition science behind Cacao!
A Cacao practice, whether daily or occasional, can serve as an important forum upon which to truly sit with ourselves. Life can be overwhelming, and we may find ourselves not paying attention to the feelings that bubble up constantly inside us, or worse, we never allow ourselves to feel certain things at all. These are deep emotional blockages that, I can say from personal experience, are often difficult to move past simply by meditating on them. For me, the feeling I get inside when sipping Cacao while also paying attention to these emotional phenomena—not judging them or even trying to “correct” them—can make the processing easier.
In addition to a mindfulness practice around Cacao, I have found journaling with the plant to be tremendously helpful. Again, I do not attempt to process the moment—I simply allow the thoughts and feelings to come through the pen and live on the page. A natural opening that comes along with Cacao makes this process flow a bit better for me than if I sit down to the journal without it. On another day, I might revisit the journal and reflect—or, I might just let any negative emotions wilt there on the page, now bound to the paper and not to my psyche.
We must make the delineation here between emotional and mental wellness. In this schema, we can think of mental wellness as the optimal support of our cognition. How do we keep our synapses firing so that we’re present and capable? As we have all experienced, general physical illness usually translates to poor mental wellness, so the dietary benefit Cacao provides to our whole body is an important aide to our brain balance. However, Cacao has some molecules that aide our mental processes, particularly. Cacao is packed with tryptophan for serotonin synthesis, tyramine and phenylethylamine (PEA) to support dopamine regulation, and endocannabinoid system supporters like anandamide to aide in mind-body homeostasis. Couple these benefits with evidence that theobromine increases oxygenation of the brain’s gray matter, thus improving mental clarity and acuity, Cacao can have big impacts on our mental wellness. Visit our Lab Report, Part III to dive deeper into the neurochemical effects of Cacao.
The spiritual aspects of life are unique to us all—perhaps no human experience is more unique or profound than the relationship we have with that which is beyond vision. For some, spirituality is an intensely individual experience—something that may be more about our internal connection to a grounding force. For others, it is necessarily a group activity—spirituality is about the Oneness of without, rather than the eternal connection of the within. For a multitude, it is somewhere in between. How Cacao may guide you on your spiritual path is dependent upon your connection with the nature of the plant and your identification with the years of ritual and ceremony that link you to those that have found wisdom in it before you. However, one thing is for sure: whether your Cacao ritual is a solitary moment of reflection or a joyous meeting amongst loved ones, there is always room for spiritual growth through Cacao.
As mentioned previously, a Cacao ritual can be a solitary practice for some. It certainly is for me. But there are equal and often greater joys to be found in sharing a cup in community. This is the concept behind Cacao community circles—a place to be open and share ourselves with our peers. Both supporting others and being supported is vital to our holistic wellness, and in these times of earphones in, heads down, it takes intentional space-making for our social needs. So, we invite you to take a little time for your friends. I find a cup of Cacao and a good chat to be much more nourishing way to spend time with a friend than a night out at the bar, anyway.
Lasting health means taking care of yourself and others—mind, body, and soul. We hope you find Cacao to be as great of an ally in your holistic wellness as we do in ours.