maoi and cacao

Cacao and MAOIs: Properties, Benefits and Potential Risks

Cacao is valued for its health properties. One of the more intriguing aspects of cacao is its content of phenylethylamine (PEA), which, when combined with MAOI drugs, can affect the human body in various ways. Little is said about this, and we consider it an important issue, especially concerning conscious cacao consumption and sharing it with others.

The leading theory is that cacao contains PEA but does not inherently contain MAOI substances. However, some sources, particularly those promoting ceremonial cacao consumption, suggest that it may also contain MAOI substances. However, this is not supported by research, and we leave readers to draw their own conclusions, also referring to scientific sources at the bottom of the article.

PEA and MAOI are substances that influence each other, so caution is advised when combining the consumption of large amounts of cacao with certain medications and other psychoactive substances.

Phenylethylamine (PEA):

Phenylethylamine (PEA) is a natural chemical compound found in many foods, including cacao. It is a neurotransmitter that affects brain functions such as mood, energy, and pleasure. It is also known as the “chemical love neurotransmitter” because PEA levels in the brain typically increase during romantic love. PEA works by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels, two other important neurotransmitters that influence mood and behavior.

Health Benefits of PEA:

Support for Mental Health: Due to its impact on mood, PEA is sometimes used as a supplement to support mental health, including in the treatment of depression and anxiety.

Increased Energy Levels: PEA can help increase energy and endurance, which is especially beneficial for athletes and individuals leading active lifestyles.

Enhanced Sense of Satisfaction: Because of its effect on dopamine levels in the brain, PEA can also enhance the feeling of satisfaction and contentment after a meal, which can be beneficial for those trying to control appetite and maintain a healthy body weight.

Warnings and Contraindications of PEA:

Hypertension: Individuals with high blood pressure should exercise caution when consuming products containing PEA, as it can lead to increased blood pressure.

Mental Disorders: People with mental disorders such as schizophrenia or mania should avoid consuming large amounts of PEA, as it may exacerbate symptoms of these conditions.

Dizziness and Lightheadedness: Some individuals may experience dizziness and lightheadedness after consuming large amounts of PEA. If such symptoms occur, consumption of this compound should be limited.

What are MAOIs?

MAOI stands for monoamine oxidase inhibitors, which primarily function by blocking the enzyme of the same name responsible for breaking down neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which play key roles in regulating mood, behavior, and other brain functions. MAOIs work by inhibiting the MAO enzyme, leading to increased levels of these neurotransmitters in the brain. For this reason, MAOIs are sometimes used as antidepressant medications, as they can help elevate mood and reduce depression symptoms.

Health Benefits of MAOIs:

Elevated Neurotransmitter Levels in the brain offer several potential health benefits:

Improved Mood: Higher levels of serotonin and dopamine can help alleviate depression symptoms and increase feelings of happiness and contentment.

Increased Energy: Dopamine and norepinephrine are associated with activation and stimulation, so their elevation can lead to greater energy and alertness.

Enhanced Cognitive Function: MAO inhibitors can contribute to improved cognitive function in individuals with depression. Increased levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine can lead to enhanced concentration, memory, and decision-making abilities in patients with mood disorders that may negatively impact cognitive functions.

Warnings and Contraindications of MAOIs:

Drug Interactions: MAOIs can interact unfavorably with many medications, especially with anxiolytics, antidepressants (such as SSRIs), and antipsychotic drugs. Decreased monoamine oxidase activity can lead to excessive accumulation of neurotransmitters in the brain, potentially causing life-threatening reactions such as serotonin syndrome.

Interactions with Psychoactive Substances: MAOIs can also interact with certain psychoactive substances such as alcohol, nicotine, and drugs. When combined with these substances, unforeseen side effects may occur, including increased blood pressure, headaches, or disorientation.

Diet: Individuals regularly consuming MAOIs should be cautious in their dietary choices. Some foods, such as aged cheese, sausages, deli meats, alcohol, or soy products, may contain biogenic amines that can interact with MAOIs, leading to elevated blood pressure or other adverse effects.

Cacao, PEA, and MAOIs

The interaction between the PEA contained in cacao and MAOI medications can be dangerous for several reasons. First and foremost, MAO inhibitors increase the levels of PEA in the brain, which can lead to excessive blood pressure elevation known as “serotonin syndrome” or “serotonin syndrome.” This is a serious condition that can lead to seizures, stroke, and even death.

Therefore, individuals taking MAOI medications should avoid consuming large amounts of cacao or chocolate. It is recommended that patients taking these medications consult a doctor to determine safe levels of consumption of these products.

It is also worth noting other food products that may contain PEA. Some cheeses, wines, and beers may contain significant amounts of this chemical compound, so individuals taking MAO inhibitors should exercise caution when consuming these products.


We hope to have shed some light on the complexities of Cacao, MAOIs, and PEA. The aim of the above text is mainly to draw greater attention to individuals taking strong medications and their consumption of large amounts of cacao. Therefore, it is suggested to use smaller doses and, as usual, consult with a specialist.

Please refer to the research on this topic:

And consider purchasing 100% cacao available in our SHOP.