Cacao Tree


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Common Name: Cacao Tree
Scientific Name: Theobroma cacao
Family Name: Malvaceae

Edible Usages:
The dried, fermented and roasted seeds of this plant, called cacao beans, are the source of cocoa, chocolate and cocoa butter. These are widely used in the confectionery industry to made chocolate confections, cakes, ice cream, drinks etc. The somewhat bitter flavour is usually moderated by adding sugar or other sweeteners. The seed contains up to 50% fat. The ripe seeds are cured by pressing, fermenting and then drying them. The cured seeds are then roasted and ground into a powder to make cocoa. A butter-like fat (called cocoa butter) is extracted from the seeds. The fruit contains about 20 – 40 seeds surrounded by a thin, succulent pulp with a slightly sweet flavour. This pulp is sucked as a sweet snack. It can be made into juices and jellies. The seed contains a pigment that is said to be useful as a food colouring.

Medicinal Usages:
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. 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.


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