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Theobromine: How Chocolate Complements Cannabis

Sheldon Sommer

by Sheldon Sommer

May 15, 2023 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 4 Minutes
Fact checked by Kymberly Drapcho Medically reviewed by Dr. Abraham Benavides
Theobromine: How Chocolate Complements Cannabis

From brownie edibles to infused candy bars, chocolate and cannabis are a winning combo. That said, there’s more to the pair’s special bond than just taste. Chocolate contains various organic compounds that can improve our health and complement the effects of cannabis.

One of these famous naturally-occurring substances in the cacao bean is called theobromine. Theobromine is a bitter-tasting alkaloid naturally found in certain plants. This component is used in some cannabis products to enhance the medicinal effects and psychoactive experiences produced by cannabis. It can also be found in many common herbal supplements, usually aimed at boosting energy and focus. Let’s dive into theobromine’s history and its benefits.

The History of Theobromine

Theobromine was first identified in the 1840s in cocoa beans. The alkaloid can also be found in coffee beans, carob, guarana, kola nuts, and Yerba maté. The cacao plant (Theobroma cacao), however, is by far the most abundant source of the chemical compound. Cocoa beans have 1.2-2% theobromine, while refined chocolate contains 0.5–2.7% theobromine. Darker chocolate contains greater concentrations of the molecule and produces stronger effects because it is less processed.

Interestingly, there is no bromine (Br) present in the theobromine molecule, which is C7H8N4O – just carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. In fact, the letters spelling the “bromine” part of the name are there by coincidence.

Biologists who initially encountered cacao trees used the name “Theobroma” for this new genus of plants they observed in Central and South America. “Theobroma” is a Greek term that roughly translates to “food of the gods.” The name appears to be inspired by positive experiences with the derivatives of these plants.

Theobromine vs. Caffeine

Theobromine is a mild stimulant similar to caffeine. It interacts with other neurotransmitters in the brain to improve mood and increase alertness.

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Despite producing similar effects, there are several differences between the two substances. The biggest is that theobromine has about one-tenth of caffeine’s potency. Further, theobromine’s effects are longer-lasting without making you jittery or inducing a crash after its effects wear off.

All that said, the thing that really put theobromine in a league of its own — well over caffeine — is its anti-inflammatory and dilatory effects. By widening blood vessels, theobromine can help manage blood pressure, increase oxygen supply, enhance blood flow, and improve circulation. These properties make theobromine a promising candidate for potentially treating respiratory ailments like asthma. The alkaloid is so effective at treating these issues, in fact, that South Korea approved theobromine as a treatment for persistent coughs in 2009, however, the evidence is not strong enough for US FDA approval.

Theobromine & Cannabis: A Perfect Match

With its unique mood-lifting and cognitive-improving qualities, theobromine serves as a perfect complement to CBD and THC. The most obvious reason is that theobromine’s energizing properties fight off unwanted sleepiness brought upon by cannabinoids. However, a deeper look shows how theobromine and CBD — specifically — can bolster each other’s effects to create a powerful therapeutic tool. Cannabinoids and chocolate are also commonly used aphrodisiacs to enhance sexual experiences.

Certain cannabinoids like CBD are packed with anti-inflammatory properties relevant to many conditions. Recent animal studies have even shown that CBD can significantly reduce inflammation, particularly in the lungs — not to mention its immunomodulatory properties that further contribute to the reduction of asthma symptoms.

As mentioned above, theobromine, with its muscle-calming and vasodilation properties, has also demonstrated benefits for the cardiovascular system. Combining the two substances by eating something like a chocolate edible, or even just eating a chocolate after taking your CBD dosage, could give you greater effects. For individuals dealing with asthma or consistent coughing — this combo may result in increased relief. Note that large, direct clinical trials still need to verify this.


Recent studies have demonstrated the potential positive effects of theobromine and cannabinoids on mood, breathing, and heart health. That said, further investigation is needed to understand the extent of these benefits and how we can most effectively achieve them.

Given its interesting profile of health-promoting properties, chocolate appears to have much more to offer us than just tasty desserts. Depending on what benefits you are seeking from cannabis products, it may be helpful to select a chocolate-based edible for the added support of theobromine to enhance the effects of cannabis consumption. Just keep in mind that chocolate tends to add a lot of sugar, so just be mindful and moderate your consumption!=

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