What's the Deal Behind Chocolate as Medicine? When Did This Idea Start?

Chocolate has been consumed for thousands of years! It all started in a small dark cave as a hot beverage. Shared with friends and new acquaintances we became obsessed with the brown food.

*stops to take a bite of the chocolate beside me*

In all honesty, when did we start consuming chocolate for its health benefits and why did it all go awry over the years?

Where Did Chocolate Come From?

Chocolate first originated in Mesoamerica back in 450 BC, where people maintained that cacao beans were a gift from Quetzalcoatl, the god of life, love and wisdom (and who are we to disagree?). Mixed with spices and served as a drink, this early form of chocolate was believed to give the drinker strength and sometimes used an aphrodisiac. In fact, the careful and complex rituals that went into preparing this ‘brown gold’ for consumption could be thought of as the very first chocolate art.

Revered by Mayans, Olmecs and Aztecs, cacao beans were often used as currency, such was their perceived value, and, as a drink, it was served with reverence. Sometimes used in religious rituals, it was widely noted for its medicinal properties during this time (and, like all the best medicines, retained its naturally bitter taste).

Drinking chocolate was the most common way of benefiting from its healing properties but the Mayans, Olmecs and Aztecs also formed a paste from cacao beans so that it could be applied to cuts, burns and skin irritations

Chocolate Comes to Europe

Although Christopher Columbus encountered cacao beans in Guanaja in 1502, it was Hernando Cortéz and his troops who recognised the value and importance of cacao beans when they arrived on the east coast of Mexico. By 1928, samples of cacao had been transported to King Charles of Spain and so began chocolate’s journey through Europe.

Chocolate quickly became popular amongst the great and good of Europe, although it was common for honey or sugar to be added to the drink to give it a sweeter taste. When Anne of Austria bought chocolate samples to celebrate her marriage to French King Louis XIII, it sparked a love of chocolate that continues throughout the continent to this day.

While chocolate was considered a luxury for aristocrats and noblemen, it was still recognised for its health-boosting qualities. In fact, chocolate was recommended as a treatment for more than 100 ailments, including fevers, gout, kidney stones, mental fatigue, anaemia and even tuberculosis. Given the wide range of medicinal uses chocolate had, it’s not surprising that we still continue to think of it as a cure-all today!

With special ‘chocolate houses’ and even chocolate schools popping up in Britain by the 17th century, the art of chocolate was well and truly beloved by the people, but it was the creation of the chocolate press and the launch of chocolate bars that made this ‘brown gold’ more widely available.

Did Chocolate Lose Its Way?

When chocolate was first introduced to Europe, it was common for spices to be added to the drink to modify its flavour. The Spanish added cinnamon and vanilla, Italians combined it with ambergris, jasmine or lemon peel, while the French preferred cloves, for example.

However, it was the addition of sugar (or honey) that resulted in chocolate taking on newer properties. When the chocolate press gave rise to the chocolate bar, the inclusion of high volumes of sugar continued to provide the energy boost that many people associated with the drink, but it also minimised its health-boosting properties.

Despite this, the milder taste of chocolate bars compared to the traditional chocolate drink first crafted in Mesoamerica meant that it could be consumed in higher quantities. As we now know, too much sugar can have negative health impacts, so it’s not surprising that chocolate became more well-known for its tantalising taste than its medicinal properties.

As mass production took off and modern manufacturing came about, the widespread use of additives and preservatives in chocolate products replaced the natural ingredients that were once used and many of chocolate’s health benefits fell by the wayside.

Back to Its Roots: Artisan Chocolate

The world’s love affair with chocolate has never diminished but we have discovered a love for chocolate in its purest form. Chocolate made from natural ingredients and crafted with care has become the order of the day and, as a result, the healthy properties that chocolate was once known for has come to the fore. With demand for plant-based foods also soaring, we’re seeing an increase in vegan chocolate too.

Known for its ability to protect against inflammation, provide cardiovascular support, improve skin elasticity and even lower blood pressure, chocolate has a wealth of health-enhancing properties that shouldn’t be overlooked.

However, the type and quality of the chocolate you consume does determine how many health benefits you’ll get from this delicious ‘brown gold’. Dark chocolate, with a high percentage of cacao, is recognised as the healthiest form of chocolate, while choosing a variety that’s made from natural ingredients, without additives, can also be beneficial.

How to combine Chocolate with other healing ingredients

Chocolate may have been revered for its medicinal effects throughout the centuries, but it isn’t the only food that has healing properties.

Without further ado… (drumroll, please), please welcome our all-star Eat It Like Healers bar.

The star of our Healers Bar is the mushrooms. The medicinal properties of mushrooms were discovered centuries ago in Asia. They were used, and are still used in Chinese, Tibetan, and Siberian medicine. In our Healers Bar we have added three varieties of mushrooms specifically for their healing properties.

Cordyceps are associated with longevity and stamina. Reishi has anti-aging properties and has been used in Chinese culture as a talisman of wellness, healing, and luck. Then, last but not least, Chaga has immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties.

These healers do well when paired with the antioxidant properties of chocolate and minimal additional ingredients to create a mouthwatering memorable chocolate bar.

Crafted from only six ingredients, this artisan vegan chocolate UK is crafted by talented chocolatiers and created to delight. Whether you savour the flavour or relish the melt-in-your-mouth texture, there’s no doubt that this exquisite combination will leave you feeling brighter!