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Cacao & Depression

Cacao is a real pick-me-up

As already described in previous blog articles, cocoa is a real pick-me-up. Not without reason, it is said that it can bring light into gloomy days and give the heart comforting warmth again. Various ingredients ensure that consumers have an all-round feeling of well-being, while worries and anxieties fade away. Because of this special gift of cocoa, we asked ourselves to what extent it can serve as a natural, herbal support for people in depressive phases or with depression. Again and again one hears and reads that with the consumption of cocoa caution is required, if already medical preparations are taken. This is a highly exciting subject area, but one that seems obscure to many people and is therefore often avoided. We delved deeper into the subject and sought a conversation with an expert in the field. Ceylo is a medical doctor with a special focus on holistic human health and also brings years of experience in using various medicinal plants to alleviate symptoms of illness on a physical and psychological level. For herself, cocoa is a central part of life that she particularly values.

This article is a summary of the most important key statements of our conversation with Ceylo. The complete and detailed transcription can be found here.

To the conversation with Ceylo

The problem of dealing with depression today

Even during her medical studies, Ceylo repeatedly questioned why patients with mental illness are offered so few treatment options. Antidepressants are often presented as the only option for medication support. The reason for this, Ceylo believes, is that many people in the medical world are unaware of any effective alternative to this medication. For Ceylo, the overall medical approach to depression today is very outdated. It's time to look for new ways to help sufferers, she said. She herself sees many ways to treat depression. In her opinion, it is problematic that mental illness is often still a taboo subject and sufferers do not want to admit to themselves if they are affected. Instead of seeking support, many of these individuals repress their feelings and hope that the depression will go away on its own. She emphasizes that, in addition to conscious self-awareness, what is needed above all is an early decision to accept support so that the depression can be treated at an early stage and its worsening averted.

Depression - A term with a wide range of meanings

To start our joint conversation on the topic of cacao and depression, we first wanted to know what exactly Ceylo understood by the term depression and asked her for a definition. In response to this question, she first pointed out that 'depression' is a very broad term that is often not sufficiently differentiated. She tells that there are many forms of depression and their severities. On the one hand, there are milder types such as seasonal depression or postpartum depression, which occur for shorter episodes. These forms are best prevented and treated, he said. On the other side of the spectrum, there are more severe forms of depression such as bipolar disorder, psychotic depression or clinical depression that can last for years. From a medical perspective, depression is said to occur when there is a disorder or problem that affects a person to such an extent that he or she can no longer go about everyday life normally. Nevertheless, there are many milder forms and preliminary stages. Typically, sufferers no longer feel happiness and lose a sense of joy and purpose in life. In more severe depressions, feelings of stress and resulting anxiety can occur. In order to avoid such severe forms, early treatment is very important.

Ceylo cites several reasons for depression. For one, the body may not produce enough neurotransmitters, hormones and enzymes to make you feel good. Further, an unbalanced diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies that cause the same thing. Other reasons can be certain life events (e.g., the sharp drop in hormone levels after childbirth) or phases (e.g., a vitamin deficiency caused by too little sunlight) . In addition, she explains that depression can also be hereditary and thus stored in the genetic material over generations.

Antidepressants as conventionally used pharmaceuticals

As a conventional medicine for depression, antidepressants are widely known and widely used. We asked Ceylo to comment on this rather 'conventional' approach to depression. Her personal opinion is that antidepressants can work in some cases, but this is very person-specific. A general problem nowadays, she says, is that it is assumed that every medicine works the same for everyone.

Furthermore, Ceylo draws attention to the many side effects of antidepressants, which are due to the fact that these drugs consist of only one extracted and isolated active ingredient. This active ingredient either reduces the reuptake of some neurotransmitters in the brain or stimulates the production of certain neurotransmitters. There are approximately six different types of antidepressants used in the medical world. The most commonly used are SSRIs and MAO inhibitors. SSRIs are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, while MAO inhibitors curb the activity of enzymes called MAO. Other types include Tsr's, Tsa's, NRI's, NaSSA's and SNaRIS's. All of them work in a similar way. They work in the brain to stop the breakdown of certain neurotransmitters that are critical to well-being, emotional cognition, the body's reward system and physical activity. One of the best known of these neurotransmitters is serotonin, which provides the sensation of happiness and love. The targeted increase in the level of these neurotransmitters could achieve a desired effect in a specific part of the body, but it lacks a holistic interaction with other substances that have a complementary effect in other parts of the body. As a result, the 'more' neurotransmitters could lead to more side effects in other areas of the body and cause problems. For example, while a higher serotonin level in the brain makes people feel better, it can also cause anxiety and shakiness, increase the heartbeat and reduce the activity of the reproductive organs.

Ceylo recognizes the value of antidepressants in helping in really difficult episodes as a temporary solution and in keeping people from harming themselves. Nevertheless, she doubts that these drugs can really solve anything, because you certainly can't get to the root of the problem of depression by administering antidepressants alone.

Cocoa for the prevention and support of depression

Cocoa is a superfood with many valuable ingredients that have an effect on well-being and can be helpful in depression and its prevention. This was emphasized repeatedly by expert Ceylo in our conversation. On the one hand, cocoa contains caffeine and other stimulants, and on the other hand it provides many ingredients such as magnesium and iron, which have a positive effect on the immune system. It also contains various mood-enhancing substances such as tryptophan. This amino acid is used to produce neurotransmitters, enzymes, hormones and proteins that are essential for well-being, but cannot be produced by the body itself. In Ceylo's words, the heart-opening effect of cocoa is so noticeable that it helps to connect with oneself and one's environment. It also enables one to take a higher perspective on a situation. Every person already has the ability to see this 'bigger picture' within themselves. In certain substances or medicines such as cocoa, she sees the potential to help people realize this and to look at their own situation from a loving perspective. Ceylo has often experienced how wonderful cocoa can be as a medicine, especially in a ceremonial setting. A ceremonial setting combined with a conscious intention ensure a special receptivity to the effects of cocoa.

Ceylo sees great potential in the preventive effect of cocoa, so she sees it as one of the best ways to ward off more severe depression. It can also be very helpful for milder types of depression. In addition, according to our interviewee, this heart medicine can help to deal with stress and anxiety. In the case of more severe depression, other treatment approaches are definitely needed in addition to cocoa. Reducing it to a single medicine is usually not enough here.

Unlike antidepressants, cocoa does not work as an isolated substance, but as a whole. It contains many different substances that work together and in different areas of the body. Just like antidepressants, cocoa also contains MAO inhibitors, which increase the amount of serotonin in the body. At the same time, however, it also supplies the body with energy, so that this effect can be directly translated into activity. Cocoa also opens the heart and lungs, which means that issues that arise can be let go more easily.

About the intake of cocoa and possible interactions

According to Ceylo, the dosage of cocoa that should be consumed as a preventative measure or to deal with depression depends on various factors. The decisive factor here is the type of depression, as well as other treatment options that are already being pursued. Other important aspects are sensitivity to cocoa and the phase of depression that the person is currently in. Ceylo advises those affected to work with a specialist such as a psychologist, doctor or cocoa expert to find out which dosage is appropriate for the person at the time. Working with a specialist will always provide an opportunity to find out how cocoa can be used. In some cases, cocoa can be a great everyday companion as a daily drink. For other people, one or two cups a week, followed by an integration period, are enough. In general, you should never consume more than 40 g of cocoa per day. Since cocoa contains caffeine and other stimulants, it is best to take it in the morning or during the day to provide the body with energy throughout the day.

According to our expert, cocoa has no negative effects in small doses. It can even be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding, although due to the stimulants it contains, a little more caution is required. If a person is already taking antidepressants or other substances with MAO inhibitors, their effect can be increased and result in more side effects. Consuming cocoa in excess of the recommended amount can also lead to unwanted effects such as migraines and mild nausea. For this reason, you should always start with a lower dose of cocoa and only increase the amount slowly and in consultation with a specialist.

Ceylo’s experience with cocoa for depression

After hearing about the diverse potential of cocoa in the context of depression, we were curious about what experiences Ceylo had already had in her immediate environment. She said that, on her recommendation, cocoa had already helped many people deal with depressive feelings, both big and small. She saw how cocoa could help to bring out the emotions of those affected and get to the root of what was going on inside them. Cocoa was and is a loving companion for many people in her environment, helping those affected to accept and love their situation and themselves more.

Cocoa as a therapeutic companion

Ceylo told us that integrating cocoa into a therapy session can significantly increase its effectiveness. This piqued our interest and we asked more about how exactly cocoa could be combined with therapy. Ceylo believes that this depends entirely on what form of psychotherapy is needed and to what extent. Combining it with speech therapy would work wonderfully, because cocoa puts consumers in a calm, open-hearted state in which it is easier to get through to the problem. Cocoa could also be used together with somatic therapy or body therapy. Certain breathing techniques such as holotropic breathing offer great potential for bringing out deeper issues and traumas so that they can be worked with. Ultimately, spending time in nature is also becoming an increasingly popular form of therapy. Depending on the problem, one would look individually at which form(s) of therapy can support the affected person and how.

Other alternative treatment options

When asked about other ways to treat depression, Ceylo shares that there are a huge variety of plants that can help with their healing powers. While some plants support the immune system, others have a calming effect on the nervous system. Therapies with entheogenic plants such as psychoactive mushrooms, ayahuasca, and even other lesser-known ones such as cacao and blue lotus can also have a big impact. St. John's wort and valerian root can also be very effective. However, St. John's wort should be used with caution as it is quite strong.

Many mood-enhancing herbs combine wonderfully with cocoa. These include, for example, chamomile, lavender, lemon balm and blue lotus. They have a calming effect on the nervous system and can significantly improve well-being when combined with cocoa. Ceylo recommends making a tea from these herbs that can be used as a liquid for the cocoa. She also believes that rose goes well with cocoa. This plant is also said to have a heart-opening effect and also stimulates the production of serotonin. The combination of cocoa with medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi also works excellently.

Following the motto 'If you want to change something, you have to change yourself', Ceylo emphasises the importance of the lifestyle of those affected. A balanced diet and enough exercise are crucial to producing sufficient hormones and neurotransmitters. Dancing, for example, is an excellent combination with cocoa, which can release the emotions pent up in the body. Stress factors should also be reduced as much as possible. Practices such as yoga can be helpful in this regard. What exactly works for a person is ultimately very individual and often a mix of different options.

Key message and outlook

All in all, Ceylo says a clear 'yes' to the use of cocoa to prevent and support mild depression. In some cases, antidepressants are a sensible option to bridge the gap. However, she sees a strong need to find alternative ways of dealing with depression. Cocoa is one of these alternative options, which can help a lot when used in conjunction with therapy or other medicine. She emphasizes that we humans are not here in this world to simply survive, but to flourish and live truly. To do this, we need the help of medicinal plants that have the potential to reveal the way to a place within ourselves that we would never have found on our own. Ceylo is sure that the time is ripe to spread this message to the world and thereby help those affected.

She also sees the need of many people to get evidence of the effectiveness of cocoa. In order for a form of treatment to work, it is very important that the person being treated feels safe and believes that they are doing the right thing for their own body. She adds:

'To heal, you have to be convinced and put your whole heart into it. You have to believe in it.'

Against this background, Ceylo believes it is extremely important, despite her own knowledge and many positive experiences, that further research is carried out into the topic of cocoa and depression. She would like to see more doctors and clinical experts open up to the potential of cocoa and give it a chance in the treatment of depression.

Follow Suyana on Instagram and learn more about the world of cocoa: Suyana.spirit

27 February, 2023

Eva & Elias

Reading time
10 mins

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