Structural Biochemistry/Nucleic Acid/Nitrogenous Bases/Purines/Theobromine


  Theobromine (xantheose) is a xanthine derivative and bitter alkaloid commonly found in cacao plants. Its name is derived from the name of the genus of the cacao tree. It doesn’t contain bromine, as its name might indicate. It shares a similar structure to that of another well-known purine and xanthine derivative known as caffeine, except it contains one more methyl group. It was first discovered in the cacao plant in 1841, isolated in 1878, and synthesized from xanthine by Hermann Emil Fischer shortly thereafter. In its pure form, it is a water-insoluble, crystalline white powder that has a milder effect than caffeine. Since dark chocolate has higher concentrations of theobromine than milk chocolate, its beneficial effects are better attained from the less diluted dark chocolate.

Therapeutic usesEdit

Theobromine is known as a diuretic, which promotes the removal of excess fluids accumulated in the body from edema, or the flushing of excess salts through the increase production of urine.

It is also widely used as a vasodilator, which widens blood vessels and improves blood flow. This, in turn, helps reduce blood pressure, although it is reputed that flavanols have a bigger role in promoting that effect.

A 2004 patent on the future use of theobromine for cancer prevention was granted due to recent research that revealed anti-carcinogenic activity.



Theobromine has a weaker effect on the human central nervous system than caffeine because of its weaker inhibition effects on cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases and its antagonism of adenosine receptors. As for its effect on the heart, theobromine stimulates it to a much greater degree than caffeine. It is cited as being involved in contributing to chocolate’s role as an aphrodisiac.

Since theobromine is a myocardial stimulator, it increases the heartbeat. As stated above it also dilates blood vessels and reduces blood pressure by enlarging the vessels. It is possible that theobromine might be able to treat cardiac failure since it has properties which allowing draining. Ingesting too much theobromine could lead to some adverse effects. Since it is a diuretic, it will increase the amount of urine produced in the person. It could also possible cause nausea, restlessness, sleeplessness, and anxiety.


A helpful hint in responsible pet-keeping is to not feed dogs or cats cacao containing products. This is because they metabolize theobromine much more slowly than humans. Complications that arise from doing such an action is succumbing your pet to theobromine poisoning, which causes digestive issues, dehydration, excitability, and a slow heart rate. Larger quantities of theobromine can result in epileptic-like seizures and even death.