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  • Writer's pictureClaudia Regojo

Chocolate Love

History of Chocolate

Chocolate is made from the fruit of the cacao tree, a low-growing shrub native to Central and South America. Our knowledge of the history of chocolate starts around 1500 B.C. It is believed that the ancient Olmecs of southern Mexico were first to use the cacao bean to produce a ceremonial bitter drink they called xocoatl. Their knowledge was passed to the Aztecs who believed chocolate was a gift from the gods (I tend to agree!). It is rumored that the Aztec ruler Montezuma II drank gallons of xocolatl each day as an aphrodisiac and energy booster.

Chocolate remained a secret from the rest of the world until the European conquerors arrived in the New World and introduced it to Europe. Much like sugar and cotton, as demand for chocolate increased, European colonizers established cacao plantations throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America as well as in Africa and Southeast Asia. They used indigenous people and enslaved Africans to work the fields. By 1830 Venezuela, Ecuador and Trinidad and Tobago were the largest producers of cocoa amounting to 20% of the World’s total production.

It wasn’t until around 1827 when Dutch physicist Coenraad Van Houten invented cocoa powder that solid chocolate came into being. And in 1847, the British chocolate company Fry’s figured out how to mold it and created the first chocolate bar. Mass production of chocolate took off shortly thereafter with companies like Cadburry’s, Lindt, Nestle and Hersheys.

Types of Cacao Beans

There are three types of cacao beans: Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario. Most chocolate is made from Forastero beans, a high-yielding variety that grows mostly in Venezuela, Brazil and West Africa. Today, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Indonesia and Brazil account for around 80% of the world's cacao production.

Criollo and Trinitario varieties are lower yielding and thus more rare. The Criollo variety is originally from Mexico. It is very high in quality, aromatic, and lacks a lot of the bitterness. For many years this shrub was endangered as the decline of cacao plantations left many of the fields abandoned. Today, Criollo cacao is only used to make luxury chocolate. Criollo beans account for less than 3% of the world's cocoa production.

The third type of bean is the Trinitario bean. It was created in Trinidad by crossbreeding the Forastero tree with the Criollo tree after a major hurricane in 1727 decimated their crops. Trinitario beans are high in quality. They make up about 17% of the world’s total cocoa production.

The Positive Side of Chocolate

As one already intuitively knows, chocolate makes us happy. Consuming chocolate seems to improve one’s mood and reduce anxiety. Chocolate contains compounds such as caffeine, theobromine, and phenylethylamine, which are known to boost mood and improve mental alertness. These compounds stimulate the production of endorphins, the "feel-good" chemicals in the brain. In fact, phenylethylamine is an amino acid released by the brain when we fall in love which has aphrodisiac properties, which is why we feel so good when we eat chocolate and probably why we have such a close association of chocolate and love.

Other studies show that chocolate may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow, and reducing inflammation. Contrary to popular belief, chocolate is not high in cholesterol - cocoa beans themselves do not contain cholesterol. The cholesterol is found in the milk, and in poor quality chocolate. Poor quality chocolate contains easily absorbed saturated fats while high quality chocolate uses cocoa butter, a mono-unsaturated fat that is not easily absorbed. Even wilder is that high quality cocoa butter is high in staeric acid, which has been found to reduce cholesterol levels.

Chocolate contains minerals important for human health, including potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc and magnesium. Dark chocolate, in particular, is also rich in flavonoids, a group of antioxidants that can help protect the body from oxidative stress and improve blood flow to the brain, reducing the risk of chronic diseases and cognitive decline.

The Dark Side of Chocolate

Like many foods, chocolate is healthiest when eaten in moderation. The sugars and fats that are added to chocolate make it high in calories, which may lead to weight gain. Furthermore, many of the protective effects that chocolate may offer are negated by overconsumption and poor quality. Consumption of high amounts of chocolate contributes to acne, cavities, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Much chocolate that is on sale in supermarkets contains 20% or less cocoa solids and a great deal of sugar. This poor quality chocolate has led to the negative association with health.

When it comes to mass production of chocolate, there is also a negative side. Clear cutting of forests to accommodate for cacao plantations results in soil erosion, less fertile land, flooding and landslides. Moreover, many cacao tree plantations are rampant with poor working conditions and child labor. It is important to purchase chocolate that is harvested in sustainable farms under fair working conditions that protect the workers and the community at large.

Chocolate & Homeopathy

In homeopathy there is a remedy made from Belgian Dark Chocolate. The remedy has a variety of applications that relate to how we have come to use chocolate in our society - as an over-commercialized and over-consumed poor quality staple rather than as a powerful elixir.

Chocolatum suits a sharp, confident yet lonely overweight woman who sometimes wants to hide from the world and hide chocolate in her desk at work. She is disgusted with her husband and tired of taking care of her children. She likes babies but let's face it, raising them is a pain; at least that's what her mother always said. She prefers to be at work where she can be professional. She exudes confidence when she is with her clients.

Many days she feels heavy and lethargic and wants to hibernate in bed. Other times she can rock a Zumba class like no other. She is likely menopausal, but unlike her friends, she is oddly sensitive to cold. She feels better walking outside when it’s warm and dry; damp, cold weather brings her aches and pains all over, in particular her back. She has other physical issues like breast pain, PCOS, dysmenorrhea, menstrual issues and migraines. Her diet is poor. She is a busy woman so she eats on the run and it causes her constant rumbling and gas pain after dinner along with bloating and nausea. She is never thirsty though sometimes she craves fresh fruits like orangers or berries. Tea and other warm drinks make her feel queasy.

Case Example

Pam’s chief complaint is weight gain. But along with that she has several other issues that are troubling her health that stem from her weight and age.

Pam is nearing 50. She is a very successful saleswoman who has risen to regional manager through her sharp sales skills and hard work. She is also a busy mom of two teenagers who need her to drive them around regularly. Pam lives in the suburbs with her husband. She has a big house but it is unkempt because she has no time for it. She is the main income earner of the family and her husband is incapable of stepping in to help. She explained she and her husband are not really a couple. They sleep in separate rooms and lead very different schedules. She has a normal family schedule, he is up late hours and sleeps in late. It works out well for her as she does not like him. In fact, she is completely indifferent to him. She feels he has not been an even partner in their relationship and is a detriment to the family overall so she pretends he is not there and remains detached from him.

Pam is not great with eating at appropriate times. She is with clients all day and forgets. By the time she remembers she is starving and makes unhealthy choices. She also gets home late so cooking at that time is unlikely. The whole family ends up eating a lot of junk. This has resulted in weight gain that has been hard to shed. She likes fruit and thinks she would be better off just having fresh shakes all day. She has craved chocolate around the time of her period ever since she was a teenager.

Pam worries constantly about her children. Now that they are teenagers she has different concerns than when they were babies. She worries about car accidents or that something terrible will happen. It’s not that strange I guess given today’s society. This makes her feel restless and anxious.

Pam is not very happy in her current life. She daydreams of better situations: the comfort of a lover, moving somewhere warm and sunny, and having freedom and independence from her responsibilities at home.

After trying a few other remedies that did not bring out the desired effect on her health, Pam took a single dose of the homeopathic remedy Chocolatum in a 1M potency. She felt immediate results, in particular her anxiety and restlessness decreased and she started to sleep better at night. After a few days she was not having as much bloating and gas after meals. Now, she reports having more energy to cope with her days and has been finding time for herself to do group workouts.


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