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Cardiovascular Herbs: Cacao & Damiana Rose Chocolate Hearts

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Damiana Rose Chocoates - Cacao

Cardiovascular Herbs: Cacao & Damiana Rose Chocolate Hearts

Devon No Comments

Cacao is good for mood and cardiovascular health, and these damiana and rose infused dark chocolates are made with lovin’ in mind.

Cacao (Theobroma cacao)

Energetics: slightly warming, dry (cacao nibs/powder), moist (cocoa butter)

Therapeutic Actions: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cardiovascular, hypotensive, nervine, nutritive, relaxant, stimulant.

Perhaps you have heard that dark chocolate has significant health benefits…  Perhaps that makes you happy.  Chocolate, by way of cacao, is actually amazingly good for you.

And as an herbalist, this makes me very, very happy.

Medicinal chocolate? Heck, yes!  Sign me up!

What is the difference between cacao and chocolate/cocoa?  Think of cacao as the herb, an ingredient, while chocolate is the end product, what you eat.  Cacao is what is good for you – chocolate or cocoa, depending on how it is prepared, may or may not be particularly healthful.  Swiss Miss and a Hershey’s bar – probably not super great.  On the other hand, handmade dark chocolates prepared with raw cacao – maybe just so…

Cacao Medicinal Benefits

Cacao is known for its cardiovascular benefits – supportive of heart and arterial health.  It is full of polyphenols, such as that found in tea and red wine, which are associated with cardiovascular health.  In particular, it contains a specific sub-category of polyphenols called flavonoids (which can be further broken down into specific constituents).  Flavonoids in cacao are specifically linked to reductions in blood pressure, lipid accumulation, and pro-inflammatory states, while simultaneously increasing nitric oxide availability and improving mitochondrial health.  Antioxidant and anti-platelet actions may also reduce risk of heart attack and stroke. All very good things for cardiovascular health.  Due to its fiber content, cacao may be helpful for managing blood glucose levels.  Additionally, it contains small amounts of a phenethylamine, a compound linked to mood enhancement and our sense of “love”.  From a nutritional standpoint, it is a good source of iron and magnesium.

Cacao & Damiana Rose Chocolate Hearts

Cacao Identification and Processing

It probably goes without saying that most of us probably are not going to forage or grow our own cacao.  The pod bearing trees grow in a narrow band of tropical regions usually within about 10 degrees of the equator.  Although the trees are native to the Americas, they are now grown in Africa and Asia for commercial purposes.  Within the leathery pods, 30-50 pale almost lilac colored, cacao beans can be found.  These beans are separated from the pod and pulp, then cured/fermented until they become the characteristic brown we would associate with chocolate.  The beans are further processed, separated into butter and nibs, and transformed into confections by manufacturers throughout the world.

cacao pod

 

Cacao Safety

Chocolate/cacao is largely considered safe as a food stuff except were allergy is a factor.  In my research for this post, I did find one study mentioned that drew a link between beta-phenethylamine (a constituent of cacao) and Parkinson’s disease.  However, this seemed another example of a large amount of a specific constituent being examined, rather than what would be considered normal consumption.  Even the author of the article mentions that the polyphenols in chocolate would negate many of the negative effects of beta-phenethylamine anyway.  Clearly another case for whole herb use, rather than specific, isolated constituents.  And, as with anything, moderation in consumption is always appropriate.


FDA Disclosure

I am a trained herbalist with a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, I am not, however, a doctor. Posts in this blog are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Before using any herbs, check for appropriate dosage, drug interactions, and contraindications. Information contained herein is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe. Please consult your primary care physician regarding your specific health concerns.


Come on people, you can at least attempt chocolate moderation, right?

One can experience the medicinal benefits of cacao by incorporating it into baked goods (like these brownies), hot cocoa (like this one with medicinal mushrooms), added to smoothies, and even in savory dishes like mole sauce and chilis.  Prepared as a dark chocolate confection, cacao can be a particularly enticing “medicinal”.

Chocolate and love go hand in hand…  As previously mentioned, cacao enhances mood and our sense of love.  It doesn’t require a huge leap to move things in the aphrodisiac direction.  I created these chocolates with super sexy, libido boosting damiana and soulful, anxiety reducing rose.  These chocolates are made for lovin’ – so to speak.

Cacao & Damiana Rose Chocolate Hearts

I decided on a combination of both cocoa butter and real grass fed dairy butter for the fat quotient of this recipe; the combination of flavors adds complexity and nuance to the chocolates.  I infused the damiana and rose into the butters prior to adding the cacao to extract all the “love-ly” constituents, which also adds a soft floral and citrus undertone to the chocolates.  For full medicinal benefit, use raw cacao, although roasted versions and cocoa powder both have medicinal benefit as well.

cacao - damiana rose chocolate hearts

This particular recipe makes about a cup of liquid chocolate, which is a bit too much for this super adorable heart mold. You can plan ahead for more silicone molds or simply line a tins with plastic wrap that has been slightly greased with butter or coconut oil.  The resulting chocolates have a smooth shiny exterior and a truffle-y center.  Store chocolates in the refrigerator, as they tend to become a little soft at room temperature.

Damiana Rose Chocoates - Cacao

Not that they would last if set out.  It is probably best to keep a fridge door between you and these chocolates.  Because moderation…

{NOTE:  make sure your molds are bone dry or you will have little speckles on the resulting chocolates like mine due to the moisture.  I should have photographed my first recipe “run” as they looked perfect– but we ate those chocolates! Blogging people problems, folks.}

Interested in learning more about common medicinal plants?  Check out my new book The Backyard Herbal Apothecary!

Cacao & Damiana Rose Chocolate Hearts Recipe

Damiana Rose Chocolate Hearts

These super sexy dark chocolates are good for you AND your lover...

Ingredients

  • 2.5 ounces cacao powder (raw is ideal)
  • 2 ounces cocoa butter
  • 2 ounces butter (dairy)
  • 4-6 tbsp organic sugar or honey
  • 1 tbsp damiana leaf dried
  • 1 tbsp rose petal dried
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Add butters, sugar, damiana and rose petals to a heat proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water (if using honey, do NOT include honey in this step).  Do not allow the bottom of bowl to touch the water.  Melt the butters and allow the herbs to infuse for about 20 minutes.  
    Pour butters/herb/sugar mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a separate bowl, pressing herbs to squeeze out as much butter as possible.  NOTE: the sugar may not be completely dissolve, but should still pass through sieve with the melted butters.
    Return infused butter to a bowl over the simmering water and add cacao powder and vanilla extract.  If you are using honey, you will want to add it at this step and keep stirring until it blends into mixture.  Adjust sweetness if desired, if using sugar.  Stir until melted, smooth, and shiny.
    Pour into silicone or other prepared molds.  Refrigerate until hardened.  Pop out of molds  These chocolate become somewhat soft at room temperature and should be stored in the refrigerator.

Cacao & Damiana Rose Chocolate Hearts

References:

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-benefits-raw-cacao-nibs-7364.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26456559

https://nuts.com/healthy-eating/cacao-vs-cocoa

http://www.livestrong.com/article/492244-what-are-the-health-benefits-of-flavonoids/

https://www.icco.org/about-cocoa/processing-cocoa.html

Devon

Devon is a writer and author on subjects of holistic and sustainable living. She has a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine from the American College of Healthcare Sciences, and her first book, The Backyard Herbal Apothecary, will be published by Page Street Publishing in Spring 2019. Devon's work outside of NittyGrittyLife.com can be seen at LearningHerbs.com, GrowForageCookFerment.com, AttainableSustainable.net, and in the magazine The Backwoods Home. Devon's second book, as yet untitled will be published Fall 2019.

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