(Originally published 1/27/2021. Updated 1/25/2023)
There are different reasons people ask, and there's not a single answer either.
But based on our 8 years of working with ceremonial cacao and consulting with experts in Guatemala, we have developed a reliable perspective on the matter.
Ceremonial cacao is really the original form of chocolate.
But since it's not heavily processed and diluted like commercial chocolate (or even some "fair trade" cacao), it contains more theobromine – the main activating compound.
Theobromine is a mild cardiovascular stimulant that increases blood flow throughout the body.
There is also some caffeine in cacao, but not nearly as much as the theobromine. So the effects of cacao are not like coffee or even black tea.
People report that cacao doesn't cause jitters, crash, or cravings like drinks that contain only caffeine.
But it's still good to be aware about amount and frequency when enjoying cacao.
One is daily dosage. While the idea of a "ceremonial serving" is more modern than historical, typically that's thought to be 1.5oz (43g) of pure cacao paste. That could be made into a 12oz drink.
A "daily dose" could be considered 1 oz (28g) of cacao, which makes a 6-8oz drink.
But some people choose to have even less. A 4oz drink made with 1/2oz (14g) of cacao can be more like an espresso-sized serving.
We recommend not having more than 2oz of cacao in any given day. Doing so could lead to nausea or headaches, especially if you don't drink enough water or eat enough food before and/or after the cacao experience.
It can also be effective to have a very small amount of cacao. A nibble might be enough to let you feel some of the magical energy. (Some people think of it like a "microdose" or "homeopathic" dose.)
As for weekly consumption, we recommend taking at least 2-3 days off per week.
Cacao is a plant medicine, after all. And it's important to let the energies settle and not misuse this special "Food of the Gods."
Cacao doesn't have a tolerance effect, so it doesn't take more over time to feel the same energy. If anything, there's a reverse tolerance. Some people report needing less over time to feel the cacao energy.
Longer term, it can sometime be a good idea to take a longer hiatus from working with cacao.
If you ever start to feel like your heart is "too open" or your energy becomes a little frazzled, you might want to take 1-4 weeks off from working with cacao.
It's all very subjective.
We haven't seen evidence of any legitimate health concerns for working with ceremonial cacao long-term (unless someone has a pre-existing heart condition or is mixing cacao with illegal drugs).
Recently there has been a spike in worries about heavy metals in chocolate and cacao. But after examining the research and having all our cacao varieties tested for heavy metals by a third-party laboratory, we think the fears are exaggerated. We published a long report on the subject in the hopes of clearing up the confusion and sensationalism.
Ultimately no one else can tell you how often to have ceremonial cacao. The bottom line is that your body will tell you what is the right amount and frequency.
Cacao "speaks" in different ways. The more you can listen to the subtle messages, the more you will benefit from the relationship with this special plant.