A few years ago, I wrote and maintained a web site called "Let them eat chocolate." It contained articles about chocolate, chocolate recipes, and as many things chocolate as I could find. It is one interest I dropped. I did learn a lot about chocolate. Recently, I was looking through some of my material and came across an article called "Chocolate and the Libido." I decided to reprint it on this page. It is a subject that is still interesting.
One enjoyable aspect of chocolate history is the lore associated with chocolate as an aphrodisiac or libido enhancer. Stories are still around about the Aztec, Montezuma, emperor of the13th century Mexican region. He is said to have drunk 50 cups of chocolate every day from a golden goblet.
Since Montezuma had a harem of 600 wives, he possibly felt some pressure to enhance his sexual prowess. Women, of course, were not permitted to drink chocolate. Chocolate was considered a royal aphrodiasic and only the gods and rulers were supposed to drink it. Montezuma's chocolate drink was a combination of ground cocoa beans, hot peppers and ground vanilla beans. The European explorers who tried it were not impressed.
Chilies, curries and other spicy foods have physiological effects--raised heart and blood pressure rates--similar to the physical reactions of sex. Perhaps the hot peppers helped Montezuma believe he was sexually enhanced. Centuries later, Spanish Queen Isabella's cook substituted sugar for the hot peppers. The new sweet drink instantly became the rage.
Casanova, the famous Italian lover, thought chocolate aided his libido. He preferred drinking chocolate to champagne before going out on his nightly adventures. In his memoirs, he writes of drinking chocolate for breakfast.
Chocolate is the favorite gift of love. Millions of heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold every Valentine's Day. It was Richard Cadbury, son of the founder of Cadbury Ltd, who created the heart-shaped candy box for Valentine's Day in 1861.
Stories of chocolate as an aphrodisiac are interesting, but is there any scientific evidence that chocolate enhances the libido? Much has been written on the subject. Some research proposes that the neurotransmitter in falling in love may be phenylethylamine (PEA), which is found in chocolate. It can heighten senses, raise blood pressure and sugar levels and give a feeling of well being. Chocolate also contains substances that stimulate the brain in ways similar to marijuana and coffee. Chocolate contains theobromine, a mild stimulant and phenlethylamine, a euphoric.
On the other side of the question, Randy Cornelius in his book The Science of Emotion writes, "The true aphrodisiacs are our beliefs about certain things. If you believe chocolate is a food of love and romance, that belief sparks the romantic flames when it is given as a gift." Have the aphrodisiac properties proclaimed all these years only been in our heads?