Chocolate: Medicine for the Heart and Mind

Chocolate can nurture and nourishes. It is derived from the cacao tree (Theobroma cacoa). The word Theobroma means ‘food of the gods’. Americans consume, on average, 11 pounds of chocolate per person per year and we are ranked as the 5th major consumer of chocolate worldwide. Research on the health benefits of chocolate shows it to be of benefit to heart or cardiovascular health, to our physiologic response to stress and potentially to our state of mind.

Chocolate contains cocoa polyphenols, which have been shown to reduce oxidative stress and lead to reduced risks of cardiovascular disease, lowered blood pressure and improved blood flow to the brain. Psychosocial stress is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease and cocoa polyphenols have been shown to protect the body against the deleterious effects of stress (by decreasing the spike in cortisol that is typically elicited upon exposure to a stressor/series thereof). These effects are stronger in dark chocolate (as it contains higher levels of polyphenols than milk chocolate). (Wirtz, P. H., von Kanel, R., Meister, R.E., Arpagaus, A., Treichler, S., Kuebler, U et al., 2014)

In a randomized double-blind study examining the effects of cocoa polyphenols (ingested in a dark chocolate drink) on cognition and mood, it was found that cocoa polyphenol ingestion resulted in improved self-rated calmness and contentedness (in the high dose group consuming cocoa for 30 days), though did not lead to observed cognitive benefits. (Pase, M.P., Scholey, A.B., Pipingas, A., Kras, M., Nolidin, K., Gibbs, A. et al.,2013)

In a systematic review published this year to investigate the potential role of cocoa (and coffee and tea) consumption on affective disorders (depression, bipolar and anxiety disorders), the authors concluded that “Consumption of cocoa may have protective effects against depression.” (Garcia-Blanco, T., Davalos, A. & Visioli, F., 2017)

Delving deeper into the nature of the cacoa plant, we turn to the energetic properties and characteristics of chocolate as described in the homeopathic literature. The homeopathic remedy, Chocolatum, is indicated for an individual who did not receive enough nurturing as an infant and thus struggles with how to give and receive nurturing and to exist in relationship. There is a fundamental tension between being in relationship and a desire to escape, flee and abandon loved ones. There can be a complete disinterest in children and irritability and anger towards their loved ones (and others). These feelings stem from a deep-seated feeling of isolation and vulnerability and a feeling of not belonging. There is anxiety, self-consciousness and fear of failure often observed in this remedy picture.

People needing this remedy can feel isolated and vulnerable – leading them to want to be alone and to hide away from the world and also to not wanting to be restricted or trapped. There is restlessness, a desire for activity and difficulty being still. They dislike being observed and can be overly sensitive to criticism and rejection. Physically, there is often oversensitivity. There is a heightened awareness of the heart (which can beat too fast or slow or irregularly). A range of gastrointestinal symptoms can be present in this remedy. There is a tendency to be chilly and to have dry hair and skin. Food cravings are often seen in this remedy picture (for chocolate, oranges and other fruit and refreshing things).

For those needing this remedy, Chocolatum can help heal old wounds, calm and nurture the mind, body and spirit to greater health and a sense of well-being. So next time you are looking for a lift in spirits, a buffer against stress, a boost to your heart health or a little nurturing, remember that (dark) chocolate is your medicine. (For those relating to the remedy picture of Chocolatum, you will not get the benefits that may be needed from simply eating chocolate (homeopathic remedies are prepared via serial dilution and succussion to elicit subtle energetic properties from a substance). If you are interested in learning more, I recommend that you consult with a skilled homeopath or health professional versed in this modality to determine if this remedy is a good fit for you.

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References:

Fixsen, A. (2006). “My Parents Weren’t Interested in What I Felt.” The Homeopath, 25(1), 27-31.

Fraser. PD. (n.d.). A Supplement to Clarke’s Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica. Chocolatum. Retrieved from http://www.hominf.org/remedy/chocolat.htm

Garcia-Blanco, T., Davalos, A. & Visioli, F. (2017). Tea, cocoa, coffee, and affective disorders: vicious or virtuous cycle? Journal of Affective Disorders, 224, 61-68.

Pase, M.P., Scholey, A.B., Pipingas, A., Kras, M., Nolidin, K., Gibbs, A.,…Stough, C. (2013). Cocoa polyphenols enhance positive mood states but not cognitive performance: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 27(5), 451-458.

Vermeulen, F. (2003). Synoptic Materia Medica 2. The Complement to Prisma. (3rd. ed.). Haarlem, Netherlands: Emryss Publishers.

Wirtz, P. H., von Kanel, R., Meister, R.E., Arpagaus, A., Treichler, S., Kuebler, U.,…Ehlert, U. (2014). Dark Chocolate Intake Buffers Stress Reactivity in Humans. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 63(21), 2297-2299.

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