Theobroma cacao – aka The Cacao Tree

The cocoa tree is a small evergreen tree in the family Malvaceae. Its seeds, cocoa beans, are used to make chocolate liquor, cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and chocolate. The largest producer of cocoa beans in 2018 was Ivory Coast, with 37% of the world total.

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Taxonomic Tree

  • Domain: Eukaryota
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Phylum: Spermatophyta
  • Subphylum: Angiospermae
  • Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Order: Malvales
  • Family: Malvaceae
  • Genus: Theobroma
  • Species: Theobroma cacao


The cocoa tree is the source of one of the world’s most delicious and familiar products… chocolate.

The edible properties of Theobroma cacao were discovered over 2,000 years ago by the local people of Central America living deep in the tropical rainforests. In the year 2008-2009 world cocoa production was 3,515,000 tones. This is equivalent to the weight of a line of double-decker buses stretching more than three times the length of Britain!

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The scientific name Theobroma cacao was given to the species by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753 when he published it in his famous book Species Plantarum. Theobroma means ‘food of the god’s in Latin, and cacao is derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec language) word xocolatl, from xococ (bitter), and atl (water).

Chocolate is more than just a delicacy; evidence suggests that eating between 46 and 105g of chocolate a day can have a moderate effect on lowering blood pressure. Cocoa has been used for an array of medicinal purpose

General Description

Theobroma cacao (or ‘Theobroma cacao’ is sometimes known) has some of the highest concentrations of flavonoids, phenolic compounds, and polyphenols of any food or drink. These compounds are known to have positive health effects and have even been used to treat cancer and AIDS! It is one of the most healthy substances found in nature.

Theobroma cacao is a large berry that is often eaten dried or roasted as an emulsified paste, together with other foods or beverages. Theobroma cacao is the source of one of the world’s most delicious and familiar products… chocolate.

Theobroma cacao is a fruit-bearing tree that reaches heights of up to 30 meters. It is found throughout the tropics, particularly in Central America and South America.

Theobroma cacao L. in medicine


Theobroma cacao has several health benefits:

  • Contains dietary fiber and is a good source of vitamin C.
  • Strengthens the immune system.
  • Possible applications in liver regeneration, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Evidence suggests that theobromine, a stimulant used in chocolate, may reduce migraines.
  • It is anti-inflammatory and so could benefit chronic pain conditions such as arthritis, gout, and ulcers.
  • Reducing blood pressure

In 2008-2009 the consumption of chocolate was reported to have caused a significant decrease in the systolic blood pressure for both men and women in countries such as Italy, Japan, and Mexico. The data suggests a higher correlation between chocolate consumption and lowered blood pressure (a “sweet spot”) in the populations of those countries.

Cocoa has been used for an array of medicinal purposes

Suffice it to say that chocolate is not only delicious, but it’s also nutritious and healthful too. One cup of chocolate-flavored rice pudding has the same amount of carbohydrate and protein as a bowl of spaghetti Bolognese. But a full ounce of dark chocolate (about a fifth of a cup) has the same amount of antioxidants and flavonoids as an orange. This is how healthy eating works. To make matters even more remarkable, chocolate contains more health-promoting antioxidants than almost all other food we eat, including red wine, strawberries, apples, broccoli, carrots, and even cabbage.

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Cocoa’s attributes and benefits

  • Cocoa’s attributes and benefits include:
  • Low in fat
  • Low in sugar
  • Sweet in flavor and taste
  • Considered as nature’s stress buster and mood booster
  • Good for cardiovascular and brain health
  • Helps in reducing symptoms of PMS
  • Supports healthy immune system
  • Good source of energy and muscle building properties
  • Rich in B Vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and trace minerals
  • Has been linked to reduced risk of breast cancer
  • Great source of energy and muscle building properties

One cup of cocoa powder contains about 110 calories, 7 grams of sugar (0% sucrose), around 4 grams of protein (3% from whey protein), and 20 calories of healthy fats (from saturated and monounsaturated fats, and trans fats).

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Cocoa trees belong to the genus Theobroma, which means “food of the gods” in Latin. The leaves of the trees are very similar to certain species of the Asteraceae (chicory) family and are often referred to as Theobroma beans. However, while the above-mentioned species are grown for food purposes, Theobroma cacao is mainly known for its health benefits.

Jungle Blunts use many species of trees and plants. Guava is another leaf we use.

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Learn more about Guava Trees here.