Theobromine is the active ingredient in chocolate. Theobromine is a caffeine-like compound that can only be found naturally in cacao. Here’s our guide to theobromine.
What is Theobromine?
Theobromine is a chemical compound found in chocolate. That chemical compound is similar to caffeine – in fact, many people believe that the reason some people mistakenly believe that chocolate contains caffeine is because theobromine and caffeine are so similar.
Both theobromine and caffeine are alkaloids and stimulants. Theobromine is the active ingredient in chocolate and it only occurs naturally in cacao.
Despite the similarities between theobromine and caffeine, the two compounds are chemically different and have different effects and origins.
(It’s important to remember that some chocolate products do have caffeine added in, but caffeine does not occur naturally in chocolate – although there is some debate over this.)
The word “theobromine” comes from the Greek words for god (theo) and the word for food (brosi). In other words, theobromine is literally “food of the gods”.
The plant alkaloid itself doesn’t taste very good. It’s bitter and it’s actually slightly poisonous.
You know how they say you shouldn’t give chocolate to your dogs because it’s poisonous? The part of chocolate that makes it poisonous is the theobromine. In dogs, theobromine causes symptoms like acute nausea, convulsions, internal bleeding, and often lethal over-stimulation of the heart.
Chemical Background for Theobromine
Chemically speaking, theobromine’s formula looks like this: C7H8N4O2.
The compound is an isomer of theophylline. It’s also similar to caffeine because it’s actually a lower homologue of caffeine.
Theobromine comes in the form of a white, crystalline, water-insoluble powder.
How Much Theobromine is in Chocolate?
Dark chocolate typically has higher concentrations of theobromine than milk chocolate. Cocoa powder also varies widely in terms of theobromine content – ranging from 2% theobromine to 10%.
Typically, a 28 gram serving of milk chocolate will contain 60 milligrams of theobromine, while the same serving of dark chocolate will contain about 200mg.
Theobromine is found in more than just chocolate. It can also be found in the kola nut, the guarana berry, coffee beans, and certain tea plants.
Benefits of Theobromine
Theobromine is lethal for dogs but it has surprising health benefits in humans.
The primary benefits of theobromine revolve around its status as a vasodilator, which means it widens blood vessels. It also acts as a diuretic and a heart stimulant.
Historically, theobromine has been used as a treatment for high blood pressure. Widening blood vessels relieves pressure on your circulatory system.
Because of this vasodilator ability, theobromine has been used to treat vascular diseases, hypertension, angina pectoris, and other conditions.
Some people take theobromine as an alternative to caffeine. If you need a boost of cognitive or physical energy, for example, then theobromine might give you that boost.
Most users report that the biggest difference between theobromine and caffeine for energy is the fact that caffeine has a greater effect on the central nervous system while theobromine has a greater effect on the heart. Caffeine also acts as a vasoconstrictor (tightens blood vessels) while theobromine is a vasodilator.
If you’re taking theobromine for energy, most people take between 500 and 1000mg per day.
However, in some studies – like this one that studied theobromine’s effectiveness as a cough medication – participants took a dosage of 32mg/kg, which is about 3.5 to 8 grams for an average-sized person.
Can You Overdose from Theobromine?
Theobromine is a type of poison. Yes, you can overdose if you take too much.
The lethal dosage for theobromine is reported to be approximately 1000mg/kg, which works out to between roughly 45 and 120 grams for people within a typical weight range.
How to Buy Theobromine
A quick Google search for theobromine turns up a number of available theobromine products online.
Amazon actually sells a 99% pure theobromine powder. That powder is sold by a supplement company called Hard Rhino. The company claims to have its own in-house lab and does not use filers or additives (although it doesn’t explain what the remaining 1% of the powder is).
That company recommends taking 100mg of theobromine once or twice per day as a dietary supplement. It also claims you should not exceed a daily dose of 500mg. At the time of writing, the supplement was out of stock on Amazon and did not list pricing information.
Another Amazon company named Barlowe’s Herbal Elixirs was selling its own theobromine 99% cocoa extract. Each bottle with 60 capsules was priced at around $20.
Theobromine and Teeth Health
Theobromine is sometimes used as a remedy for poor tooth health. The chemical compound is added to a toothpaste known as Theodent (priced at $13 per tube). The advantage of using theobromine-based toothpaste is that it is not harmful if swallowed (unlike fluoride).
Some people use Theodent to help their sensitive teeth. Other people just enjoy using the natural toothpaste because they avoid having to use fluoride.