Peru is a country steeped in traditions and spiritual practices dating back thousands of years. From the Incan culture in the Andean mountains to the Shipibo-Conibo people of the Amazon jungle there is a deep-seated connection to the use and worship of traditional plant medicines. Two of the most sacred plants that are still used today include Maca (Lepidium meyenii) – the sacred root of the Andes and Cacao (Theobroma cacao) – the sacred tree of the jungle. Considered “master plants” they are believed to hold special medicinal properties to open and unlock emotions, fears, trauma, stresses and to promote balance and smooth flow of internal energy. Interestingly both plants have been shown to be powerful modulators of human endocannabinoid function through the natural entourage effect.
Maca has been used for centuries by the Incan people of Peru for its medicinal properties. Known locally as the food of the brain, it is an adaptogen that improves the way the brain and body respond and adapt to stress to return internal balance and harmony. The health benefits of maca are numerous; In clinical studies, maca powder has shown benefit for those suffering from hormonal imbalances like PMS, menopause, PCOS, endometriosis, and more. It also can assist in managing stress-related conditions such as chronic fatigue (CFS), fibromyalgia, auto-immunity, adrenal, and thyroid issues. And finally, maca can assist with mental health, mental focus, depression, anxiety, and motor neuron function. However, when it comes to treating with maca, not one size fits all as there are different colours of maca and different forms of maca that need to be used correctly for different health conditions. Upon discovery of maca in the West, researchers were intrigued in understanding how maca works, given it’s long-standing history of traditional use. It turns out that maca actually functions predominantly as an endocannabinoid regulator via the entourage effect by protecting and increasing natural levels of the human cannabinoid – anandamide. When cultivated and dried properly maca was shown to possess high levels of novel fatty acid derivatives called macamides[i] that act as inhibitors of an enzyme called FAAH involved in the break down natural anandamide[ii]. Regular consumption of maca protects anandamide breakdown and enhances natural human cannabinoid activity.
Similar to maca, cacao has been used traditionally as a tonic in ceremony to unlock the heart and allow inwards reflection to hear true self, work through blockages, past traumas, and to dissolve any pent up negative energy. Cacao is actually a seed that comes wrapped in a white sweet fruit inside a pod that grows on the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao). Once harvested it is sundried or fermented and sundried before being ground into a thick paste and traditionally blessed with spiritual intention by a shaman before use. This type of cacao is known as ceremonial cacao paste and is derived from the whole bean. It is very different from chocolate or cacao powder, which is what we are more familiar within our culture. Both chocolate and cacao are made by pressing and separating out the fats and cacao mass before combining with milk solids and sugar in the case of chocolate or the mass itself in the case of cacao powder. Cacao powder is a rich source of antioxidants and feel-good chemicals that can increase serotonin production and endorphin levels in our body. It is full of minerals like magnesium and zinc and also contains uplifting chemicals like theobromine. But it differs from ceremonial paste as it lacks many of the fat-soluble molecules that acts as cannabinoid regulators like the class of FAAH inhibitors known as N-acetyl-ethanolamines[iii]. These fat-soluble acids protect natural anandamide production and augment its activity to offer endocannabinoid entourage, similar to macamides in maca.
Both maca and cacao are considered sacred feminine master plants in Peru and are involved in spiritual ceremonies for those wanting to unlock, release, heal, and bring harmony back to the body. The key to using each of them is to do so with the correct intention and respect for their sacredness and healing power. In Peru, before harvest maca is respected through a ceremony called Pagapu, or payment to mother earth. The intention is created and then given with an offering to mother earth to ensure that the maca will be returned with loving and healing powers. How maca grows is linked to its healing powers, which is why intention and respect are so important to ensure it is therapeutic. Similarly, cacao is often used in ceremony to allow closure to the outside world, internal reflection, creation of intention and realisation of the journey of the master plant to you and vice versa. The healers believe the intention when using any master plant is key to its success. So next time you want to connect internally and use either maca or cacao, ensure you use a premium, ethically sourced brand, create the right intention and use with the greatest respect towards the sacredness of the plant.
For those wanting to connect with maca or cacao and use it to enhance their terpene and or cannabis experience we highly recommend using The Maca Experts to guide you to the right maca and Seleno Health to find your ceremonial cacao paste. Cacao and maca combine amazingly well with terpenes and other cannabinoid entourage plants and extracts. Better living through plant synergy!!
[i] Esparza E, Hadzich A, Kofer W, Mithöfer A, Cosio EG. Bioactive maca (Lepidium meyenii) alkamides are a result of traditional Andean postharvest drying practices. Phytochemistry. 2015;116:138‐148. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2015.02.030
[ii] McCollom MM, Villinski JR, McPhail KL, Craker LE, Gafner S. Analysis of macamides in samples of Maca (Lepidium meyenii) by HPLC-UV-MS/MS. Phytochem Anal. 2005;16(6):463‐469. doi:10.1002/pca.871
[iii] (a) di Tomaso E, Beltramo M, Piomelli D. Brain cannabinoids in chocolate. Nature. 1996;382(6593):677‐678. doi:10.1038/382677a0 (b) Di Marzo V, Sepe N, De Petrocellis L, Berger A, Crozier G, Fride E, Mechoulam R. Trick or treat from food endocannabinoids? Nature. 1998;396(6712):636–637. doi: 10.1038/25267