Theobroma cacao or Cacao is a small, evergreen tree about 8 m in height and 30 cm in trunk diameter. It is native to Central and South America. The leaves are large, simple, and alternate, about 40 cm long and 5-20 cm broad. The flowers, small with pink calyx, occur in clusters on the trunk and older branches. It is pollinated by small flies. Fruits are ovoid, yellow to orange pods containing 20 to 60 seeds each. There are three main types of cacao: Criollio Cacaos, which originated from Central America, red-skinned, highest grade but low-yielding; Trinitario Cacaos, from Trinidad and high grade; and Forastero Cacaos, from the Amazon Basin. The seeds, known as cacao beans, are widely used to make chocolates. It is dried, fermented, and roasted to yield cocoa chocolate and cocoa butter. The fruit pulp can be eaten raw or made into juices and jealous. Although mainly cultivated for food use, cacao also has medicinal uses. It is used to stimulate the nervous system, lower blood pressure, dilates the coronary arteries, and soothes and softens damaged skin. It is also used against anemia, angina, bruises, chapped skin and burns, diarrhea, and leprosy spots. Cacao tree also provides other commodities for local use such as fiber for clothing, thread, and paper, wood for construction and implements, etc., and coverings for houses, among many other items.

Although used mainly as a food, cacao does also have some therapeutic value. The seed contains a range of medically active constituents including xanthines, a fixed oil and endorphins. It is a bitter, stimulant, diuretic herb that stimulates the nervous system, lowers blood pressure and dilates the coronary arteries. Cacao powder and butter are nutritive, the latter also soothes and softens damaged skin. The seed is used in central America and the Caribbean as a heart and kidney tonic. An infusion of the baked seed-membranes is drunk as a remedy for anaemia. Combined with the stems of Chromolaena odorata and the wood of Cecropia obtusa, the seed is applied externally as an emollient in a remedy to extract splinters or prickles embedded in the skin. Cacao powder is taken internally in the treatment of angina and high blood pressure. The rural people in Amazonas State, Brazil, rub cocoa butter on bruises[303 ]. It is often used to treat chapped skin and burns. Research has shown that it can help to counter the bacteria responsible for boils and septicaemia. The leaf contains genistic acid. This has been shown to be antirheumatic and analgesic. An infusion of the leaf buds is used with incense to treat diarrhoea. An infusion of the dry pods is used to decrease leprosy spots. 


Information on the Cacao Plant is courtesy of Plants for A Future