A spoonful of ... chocolate? Cacao has a history of medicinal use
While many recent studies have suggested that chocolate might be good for you, there also is a long history of cacao being used as medicine.
Philip K. Wilson and W. Jeffrey Hurst delved into the history of chocolate for their book, “Chocolate as Medicine: A Quest Over the Centuries,” released in October. They studied word-of-mouth traditions in ancient Mesoamericans — the people living in the region from roughly central Mexico to parts of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and Nicaragua — early medical case reports from the 17th and 18th centuries and early nutritionist literature.
Wilson is a professor of humanities and the director of The Doctors of Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine, and Hurst is a principal scientist at Hershey Foods Technical Center and an adjunct professor of comparative medicine at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Evidence shows that documented chocolate use dates to 1800 B.C. (“Before Chocolate” as Hurst jokingly calls it) in Mexico. Thanks to the Spanish explorers, its use spread around the world in the following centuries, eventually leading many companies — including The Hershey Co. — to advertise the health benefits of their chocolate products.
Today, modern science is taking a look at historical claims.
“We still see a lot of indigenous healers around the world using cacao,” Wilson said. “There are now chapters on chocolate in books on integrative medicine.”
Integrative medicine is a combination of mainstream medical practices and complimentary and alternative medicine.
In addition to the purported mood-enhancing effects — which research supports — and the use of cocoa butter as an emollient, here we take a look at a few of the historical medicinal uses and current areas of study mentioned in “Chocolate as Medicine.”
Have you heard of any of these or other uses for chocolate?