What a great question!
Historians have deduced that for many centuries it has been. You probably already know that the Aztec leader, Montezuma, is purported to have guzzled 50 goblets of cocoa each day. This was, it is reported, so that he would have all the energy he needed to not only run his kingdom, but to likewise please the many women in his harem.
And even Casanova preferred chocolate to champagne!
I have had many clients tell me from their own personal experience how chocolate seems to lift their romantic spirits. Never argue with a client!
These many reports passed on through many decades is probably why chocolate and Valentines are so closely intertwined. Well, actually it was probably because Richard, the son of Cadbury, the chocolate inventor, created a heart shaped box and filled it with chocolate in the 1800's to give to his sweetheart. The tradition evolved from there in 1901 when NECCO started to print "Be Mine" on mini candy hearts in New England and then in 1907 with Hershey producing their infamous "Hershey Kiss". And then of course we were all done in by mass marketing when Hallmark started producing Valentines cards in 1916! Chocolate and Valentines have been intertwined for almost two centuries!
Alas, as desperate as many are who would love to be able to prove that chocolate is indeed a true aphrodisiac, it has been a scientific challenge to precisely prove that it physically creates the specific aphrodisiacal arousing effects to the extent many would like.
So let’s get a little scientific. It is known that chocolate does contain the following mood enhancing chemicals:
- Theobromine - a mood elevator
- Caffeine - a mood elevator, energy booster
- The endorphin Phenyl ethylamine (PEA) which produces an energy boost
- Tryptophan - which stimulates serotonin production in small amounts which does elevate mood and an arousal response.
- Anandamide - binds to dopamine receptors in the brain creating feelings such as heightened sensitivity, euphoria and a sense of well-being
- N-acyl-ethanolamines (NAEs) - slow the breakdown of Anandamide, prolonging its effect
- L-arginine - increases nitric oxide and promotes blood flow to "certain" organs, which increases sensation, satisfaction, and desire.
- Sugar - energy producer, mood elevator
Some of these chemicals are scary on their own in high doses. But the amount in chocolate is not significant enough be harmful in any way. Studies show that for a person to actually achieve a chemical response of some kind, they would have to eat over 20 pounds of chocolate....in one day! Good luck with that. The closest I have gotten is about 14 - 16 ounces in one day. But it sure does make me feel good as soon as I put some in my mouth and it starts to melt. Hmmm...Maybe that is why I get chocolate cravings? (That is my story and I am sticking to it!)
Another question is why does it seem that women are more infatuated with chocolate than men? Well the New York Times reported in July 2016 about a research project conducted in Italy in May 2016 with 163 women. Unfortunately, they did not discover an aphrodisiac effect when consuming a few servings of chocolate compared to a placebo group.
One modern reason people think that chocolate is really an aphrodisiac is because in the early 1980's doctors at the New York State Phsychiatric Institute (Donald F. Klein and Michael R. Liebowitz) noticed that people in love produce a chemical called Phenyl ethylamine (PEA). Yes, this is the same PEA that is found in chocolate. PEA triggers the hormones norepinephrine and dopamine which do produce feelings of euphoria and make people feel happy. Anandamide binds to dopamine receptors in the brain creating feelings such as heightened sensitivity, euphoria and a sense of well-being. Cacao also contains two N-acyl-ethanolamines (NAEs) which slow the breakdown of anandamide, prolonging its effect. Lastly, chocolate contains L-arginine which works by increasing nitric oxide and promotes blood flow to certain organs, which increases sensation, satisfaction, and desire.
The logic assumes that since chocolate contains PEA and people in love produce PEA then eating chocolate makes people fall in love! They even published a book in 1984 calld "The Chemistry of Love".
Besides chocolate, there are quite a number of other foods that are purported to have an aphrodisiac effect like: Hot chilis, figs, asparagus, oysters, avocados, bananas, pomegranates, red wine, salmon, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, olive oil, artichokes, vanilla, watermelon, honey, coffee, strawberries, cherries, and whipped cream. Ok... just kidding on the last one! So, my new task is to come up with a recipe to include all of those ingredients into one full meal, app, entree, and dessert. Let’s see what happens.
Actually, Martha Hopkins, coauthor of InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook did produce a fascinating cookbook on aphrodisiac foods.
Since 2003, the only psychologist conducting research on the mood effects of eating chocolate reported that eating chocolate makes people feel more joyful than eating an apple. (Unless it is an apple dipped in chocolate!)
My personal conclusion is that giving your special someone a beautiful box of chocolate elegantly and romantically adorned is sure to brighten their spirits and remind them of how much they love you and you love them. Add to that cook up a great meal, get amazing flowers, and write a heartfelt card! Romance is well on its way.
And of course the best place in the DC area to get chocolate is at www.thechocolatehousedc.com.
Go. Play. Have fun. Be happy. Eat chocolate! Live. Love.