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Theobroma Cacao

The roasted bean ground with sugar constitutes chocolate, one of the most generally used foods of the Philippines

NOM. VULG.—Cacao.

USES.—The roasted bean ground with sugar constitutes chocolate, one of the most generally used foods of the Philippines.

It is very nutritious by virtue of the fat and sugar it contains, but all stomachs do not bear it well and its use is the unsuspected cause of much dyspepsia. The custom of drinking it very hot and following with a large quantity of cold water is a very common cause of dilatation of the stomach in the Philippines. The seed of the cacao contains several substances: cacao butter, albumin, theobromine, starch, glucose, gum, tartaric acid, free or combined, tannin, and mineral substances. Of these the butter and theobromine are the most important.

Theobromine (C7H8N4O2) is a weak alkaloid, crystalline, slightly bitter, slightly soluble in cold water, more soluble in hot water, less soluble in alcohol and ether; stable in the air up to 100°; sublimes without decomposition at 290° in microscopic crystals of the form of rhomboid prisms ending in an octohedric point (Keller).

This alkaloid is very little used in therapeutics and its physiological action is said to be analogous to that of caffeine but weaker. It is better to use the salt of the alkaloid, and that most frequently employed is the salicylate of soda and theobromine in doses of from 2 to 6 grams daily in solution or pill. Lately, however, Dr. Gram has maintained that theobromine is a powerful diuretic operating when other diuretics fail and further that this effect is produced without injuring the heart. The double salt is non-toxic, though sometimes in exceedingly weak patients it produces vertigo. Dr. Gram administers 6 grams a day in one-gram doses.

Cacao butter is a white substance, slightly yellowish, unctuous to the touch, brittle; with the agreeable odor peculiar to cacao, and a sweet and pleasant taste.

Its density is 0.961, it melts at 30°–33°, and solidifies at 25°. It dissolves in 20 parts of boiling alcohol, in 100 parts of cold alcohol and in twice its weight of benzin. Cacao butter is obtained by grinding or mashing the roasted seeds in a hot apparatus and mixing the mass with a fifth or tenth of its weight of boiling water. It is then pressed between two hot iron plates and the butter thus obtained is refined by boiling water. It is then put aside in earthen pans, or still better, in moulds, where it solidifies. It does not easily become rancid and, for this reason, enters into the composition of many ointments and pomades, or is used alone. It serves as the base for suppositories and is, finally, a highly valued cosmetic. A common substitute is made by mixing oil of almonds, wax and animal fat.

Before going further let us describe the composition of Spanish chocolate according to the French chemist Boussingault: Cane sugar 41.40 grams.

Cacao butter 29.24 grams.

Starch, glucose 1.48 grams.

Theobromine 1.93 grams.

Asparagin a trace Albumin 6.25 grams.

Gum 1.42 grams.

Tartaric acid 1.98 grams.

Tannin and coloring matter 0.022 grams.

Soluble cellulose 6.21 grams.

Ash 2.34 grams.

Water 4.36 grams.

Undetermined material 3.27 grams.

100.00 BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION.—A small tree about 10° high, with leaves broad, 6–12′ long, hanging or drooping, lanceolate, entire, and somewhat pubescent on both surfaces. Petioles very short with 2 deciduous stipules at the base. Flowers in clusters on the roots, trunk and branches. Peduncle very long. Nectary divided in 5 parts, straight, awl-shaped and 2-nerved. Calyx, 5 sepals. Corolla, 5 petals curved upward in the form of a bow as far as the middle, where they form a hollow with two little horns; then curving downwards, then upwards, widening at the end, the edge finely dentate. Stamens 5, inserted on the nectary, and alternating with the lobes of the latter. Anthers 2 on each filament, concealed in the hollows of the petals. Ovary globose. Style awl-shaped. Stigma cleft almost to the middle, 5-parted. Fruit broad, spindle-shaped, 4′ or more long, dark reddish, warty, 10-ribbed, with 5 compartments each containing many compressed, ovoid seeds.

HABITAT.—Common in orchards and gardens throughout the islands.

Reference book: The Medicinal Plants of the Philippines

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