Not many people realize or know that chocolate used to be used as medicine. Lets take a step back in time and learn about chocolate medicine. Without going into great detail about the history of chocolate I’d like to help you get a deeper understanding of how chocolate was used as medicine prior to Dutch Processing and those steps that stripped away the ‘medicinal properties’ of chocolate.
Early discoveries have shown writings found in the Yucatan that in the 1500’s potions that contained cacao and mixed with spices, honey, pepper and tobacco juice were used to treat various diseases and skin eruptions. In 1529 a Spanish Priest, Bernardino de Sahagun compiled oral histories from informants on chocolate in the Florentine Codex. One of his comments and warning was to not drink green cacao because it makes one drunk but that an ordinary amount of cacao is drunk ‘it gladdens one’. It is said, “I take cacao. I we my lips. I refresh myself.”
1552 – Cacao flowers were mixed with herbs and used as a poultice for injured feet.
1577 – Francisco Hernandez (New Spain) was a naturalist and court physician to the King of Spain who mentioned numerous nutritional and medical uses of the chocolate beverage and noted, “A straight dose of cacao is useful for problems of the liver.”
1592 – Agustin Farfon mentioned, “Chocolate that is served as a hot beverage is used as a laxative.”
1658 – Francisco Redi (Italian Chief Physician) became court physician to Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and created a recipe for him who relied on this drink daily. It was thought that the prince was a hypocrondriac or that his illness claims were to disguise his need for the chocolate drink.
1662 – Henry Stubbe (English Explorer) created his own recipe that consisted of cacao, anise seeds, nutmeg and cornmeal. He also noted that adding Vanilla would strengthen the heart. He also noted that mixing cacao with peppers would help women and their menstrual cycles. He recommended that people drink at least two cups a day.
1672 – William Hughes noted in “The American Physcian or a Treaties of the Roots, Plants, Trees, Shrubs, Fruit, Herbs Growing in the English Plantations of America” described chocolate as a nourishing and speedy refreshment of travel or hard labor and exercise.
It was soon after William Hughes publication that American cookbooks began to promote chocolate as a nutritious breakfast food and that lasted through the 19th Century.
1719 – D. de Quelus (French) recommended drinking chocolate for ‘exhausted spirits’ and noted that one ounce of chocolate contains as much nutrition as a pound of beef. He began to create his own recipes and began adding spices like Cinnamon. Drinking this recipe would cause a ‘good purge’.
1727 – Sir Hans Sloan was the physician for Queen Anne and King George II. He would combine chocolate with milk to increase digestibility. Later, Cadbury would use this recipe from 1849-1885. This recipe was considered a health food and was noted to be ‘light on the stomach.’ It was considered a great use for all ‘consumptive’ cases.
1728 – An Italian observed and mentioned, “There is no counting the money that Europeans nowadays spend on cocoa and other chocolate drugs.”
1741 – Carolus Linnaeus didn’t like the name ‘cacao’ and gave it it’s botanical name ‘Theobroma’. He began to examine it’s medical uses and responded by saying, “Chocolate responded well to wasting or thinness caused by lung and muscled disease, hypochondria and hemorrhoids.”
The possibilities are very real and within reach for more wellness practitioners to begin incorporating raw organic chocolate into their existing practices bridging the gap between medical uses of chocolate from the past to where it will go into the future. People are searching for alternatives to feeling better. People are tired of swallowing expensive medications that may or may not be working. They are searching and finding that raw organic chocolate is a natural medicine.
1806 – Lewis and Clark Expedition. Clark noted on September 13th “I felt my Self very unwell and derected a little Chocolate which Mr. McClellen gave us, prepared of which I drank about a pint and found great relief.”
1825 – Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (French Lawyer and Author) offered a recipe and perfect cure for hangovers, insomnia, and problems with concentration.
1846 – A. Saint-Arroman wrote about chocolate in his book ‘Coffee, Tea and Chocolate: Their Influence Upon Health, The Intellect and Moral Nature of Man’ stating “this alimentary paste, which some persons in good health honour with their partiality and which the physicians recommended to certain sick persons, deserves to be well known, that all may know what temperaments it suits and in what circumstances it may be injurious.” He also began to warn that there were ‘greedy merchants’ who were stretching their chocolate by adding Rice Flour along with other starches. This warning was letting others know that some who consumed ‘adulterated’ chocolate may have stomach and digestive problems. (The was the Industrial Revolution and when chocolate began to lose it’s medicinal properties.)
1870 – Florence Nightingale used chocolate and considered it a basic staple to treat the ill. She mentioned in her notes, “….soup, wine and chocolate could certainly have saved hundreds of lives.”
1895 – 1930’s – Pharmaceutical companies began producing chocolate covered pills to disguise the bad taste of medicine. You may know of a laxative called ‘Ex-Lax’ that was very popular. There were many chocolate companies that extended their roots into the pharmaceutical arena.
1983 – Dr. Andrew Weil concluded that chocolate was a drug. He was the director of Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona and has written many books on natural medicine and healing. He is noted as saying, “Chocolate has very little caffeine but it has a lot of theobromine, a close relative with similar affects.” He also comments that chocolate is a ‘mood-altering substance that can have strong effects on body and mind and can certainly be addictive.’
1994 – Allen M. Young wrote in his book “Chocolate contains more than 300 identified chemical substances including theobromine and methylxanthine; two mildly addictive caffeine-like substances and phenylethylamine a stimulant chemically similar to the human body’s own dopamine and adrenaline.”
In the USA
World renowned raw food specialist, David Wolfe, discusses raw unprocessed chocolate and the extreme nutritional benefits to the highest superfood given to us on our planet.
Chocolate is a universal word; everyone knows about chocolate. There are two types of ‘chocolate’:
1) candy with chocolate in it that is bad for you because of the fillers and sugar that is added.
2) raw organic chocolate that is really good for you.
Along with the Industrial Revolution came the stripping of the medicinal properties in chocolate. Mention chocolate to anyone that does not know or understand the power of raw chocolate and most likely they will comment about how much they love chocolate but that it makes them fat or that it is not good for them. Education and knowledge are powerful!! Let’s help those people to discover that raw organic chocolate is a natural medicine could be life changing for them. It was for me.