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Phenethylamine blog cacao

Phenethylamine - the LOVE molecule in cacao

Cacao is filled with unique compounds. This one definitely deserves some special attention. Its scientific name is phenethylamine or phenylethylamine, also called PEA, but even better known as the ‘love molecule’. It is an organic compound that is naturally present in our body and in cacao.

In short what it does:

  • Improves mood.
  • Reduces stress and anxiety.
  • Feeling of falling in love.
  • Improves libido, but in a more connective way.
  • Amphetamine like effect: stimulates serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline release.
  • Runner’s high effect from endorphins.
  • Increased focus, concentration and attention.
  • Already naturally present in our body and can cross the blood-brain barrier when consumed in a cacao drink.

A natural love drug

One of the main effects of Phenethylamine is that it gives us the feeling of falling in love. Similar to amphetamines it stimulates the release of serotonin and dopamine. This sounds wild (and it is!), but is has a much milder effect then amphetamines, shorter life span and no come down or side effects (at least in cacao concentrations).

PEA naturally breaks down in our body into natural endorphins. Endorphins make us feel very good and are also linked to the runner’s high effect. This explains a lot about this loving, emphatic and good mood effect of cacao. Our body naturally makes more PEA after 30min of exercise for example.


PEA can cross the blood-brain barrier, this is an important feature and explains its effect when consumed it in a cacao drink.

It is even sold as a supplement against depression and for ADHD. This might explain why some gain very positive effects on these matters.

Its concentrations are especially high in cacao that is well fermented and roasted. Traditionally cacao was always roasted in preparation, although it remains important to not roast it too strong.

Phenethylamine is part of wide group of psychoactive substances, its precursor is phenylalanine. Which is also present in cacao!


Some useful links if you want to dive deeper into it:

β-phenylethylamine, a small molecule with a large impact
Sustained antidepressant effect of PEA replacement
Influence of roasting conditions on the biogenic amine content in cocoa beans of different Theobroma cacao cultivars
Wikipedia Phenethylamine
Formation of amines and aldehydes from parent amino acids during thermal processing of cocoa and model systems: new insights into pathways of the strecker reaction

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