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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Alkaloids

It is obtained from seeds of Theobroma cocoa, belonging to family Sterculiaceae.






Cocao seed, cocoa bean, Chocolate Tree.


Biological Source


It is obtained from seeds of Theobroma cocoa, belonging to family Sterculiaceae.


Geographical Source


Cultivated in Tropical America, Ceylon, Java, South American countries like Brazil, Ecuador, Guiana, and Caribbean islands.


Cultivation and Collection


Cocoa is cultivated up to an altitude of 1,000 m. The plant can tolerate a rain fall of 150–500 cm per annum but the rain should be properly distributed. It requires well drained soil, with a capacity to hold moisture. The top soil (15–30 cm) should have sufficient organic matter. Proper irrigation is essential at least for the first two years of cultivation so as to facilitate tap root of the plant to penetrate deep in the soil. Though cocoa plant requires adequate sun light, it cannot tolerate direct sun light. So, permanent evergreen forest trees are developed to provide shade. Coconut or areca nut trees are cultivated in between cocoa plants. Cocoa plants start bearing fruits after three years of planting and survive for 60–70 years. The flowers are small and are succeeded by deep red fruits or orange coloured fruits. The fruits are about 15–20 cm long, containing 40–50 colourless, fleshy seeds embedded in the mucilaginous pulp,


The usual season for gathering the fruit is June and December. When ripe they are cut open and the beans or nuts surrounded by their sweetish acid pulp are allowed to ferment so that they may be more easily separated from the shell. The beans are then usually dried in the sun, though sometimes in a steam drying shed.




The tree is handsome, 12–16 feet high, trunk about 5 feet long, wood light and white coloured, bark brown. Leaves are lanceolate, bright green and entire. Flowers are small reddish and almost odourless. Fruits are yellowish red, smooth; rind flesh coloured; pulp white; when seeds are ripe they rattle in the capsule when shaken; each capsule contains about 25 seeds; if separated from the capsule they soon become infertile, but if kept therein they retain their fertility for a long time.


Chemical Constituents


Cocoa beans mainly contain theobromine and cocoa butter. The percentage of caffeine is less in this, various volatile compounds, polyphenols, together with mucilage, etc., are also present.





It is used as an ingredient in cosmetic ointments and in pharmacy for coating pills and preparing suppositories. It has excellent emollient properties and is used to soften and protect chapped hands and lips. Theobromine, the alkaloid in the beans, resembles caffeine in its action, but its effect on the CNS is less powerful. It is also used as diuretic. It is also employed in high blood pressure as it dilates the blood-vessels. Cocoa is also used as nutritive.


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