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Chocolate Wasn't Always For Eating

With state fairs hawking chocolate-covered pickles, and quirky candy shops advertising chocolate-dipped insects, you might think that every conceivable use of chocolate has been exhausted by now. Well, think again. People from decades and centuries ago were using chocolate in ways not even the most hipster Brooklyn chocolatier has ever considered. The following bizarre collection of economic policies, medicines, and everything in between seriously redefines the term "chocoholic."


Yeah, you might love chocolate, but how many of you carry around a Hershey's bar in your wallet? This one goes all the way back to the Aztecs who had such a crush on the cacao bean that they literally used it as currency. To be clear, the Aztecs had actual currency too, namely gold and silver coins. These coins though, had their value set in, wait for it...cacao beans. Nowadays something is 'worth its weight in gold,' but for the Aztecs, gold itself was only worth its weight in chocolate.

New economic stimulus plan: air-drop crates of Ferrero Rocher over failing neighborhoods. Would it work? Probably not, but I bet it would still be the most popular decision the Fed has made in years.


Snake oil salesmen and respectable doctors alike have touted chocolate as the cure to just about everything over the years. WebMD recommending small amounts of dark chocolate for heart health is one thing, but people like Francisco Hernandez back in the 1500s were grinding it up with tree bark and taking it to treat liver disease. The litany of curious curatives doesn't stop there: in the 1600s, Spanish, French and English doctors prescribed chocolate to treat kidney failure, flatulence, psychosis, nerves and anything else they could think of. Not weird enough? How about the attempt by Thomas Willis in 1662 to cure melancholy and hypochondria by subjecting his patients to a horrifying mixture of cocoa beans, "root of the male peony," and powdered human skull.

One last person deserves mention here: Dr. Filippo Baldini, a true hero. Baldini became every 6-year-old's dream come true when he wrote a 1775 book called De' Sorbetti. In it, Baldini argues that various flavors of ice cream were good for treating various illnesses. According to him, chocolate ice cream was effective at treating gout and scurvy, making this the first time that having either one of those diseases sounded appealing to anyone.


The theory that chocolate can help put you 'in the mood' has been around so long that there are even people today who still believe it. You can still find some witch-doctor remedies online that hype up chocolate like its steroids for you, despite the fact that most studies have disproved the claim. If humans have one talent throughout the ages, it has to be ignoring inconvenient facts. The Aztec emperor Montezuma II believed in chocolate's aphrodisiac properties so much that traditional records have him drinking 50 cups of it a day. By the way, this was before they were adding sugar, so picture 50 cups brimming with an odd slurry of chocolate, chili peppers and cornmeal. Yum.

The Mayans might have started this rumor by paying their prostitutes with cocoa beans (remember it was actual money), but however it started, it never really went away. The romantic powers of chocolate captivated a few truly notable historical figures. The infamous lover Casanova of Venice, for instance, fully bought into the myth. He touted its seductive effects and consumed copious amounts, notably drinking a cup before every *ahem* amorous interaction.

Again, no scientific evidence exists suggesting a strong relationship between chocolate and the feeling of love. Speaking personally though, I'm a total sucker for anyone giving me chocolate.

If nothing else, these somewhat questionable uses for chocolate should make you feel better about eating that entire bag of Halloween candy. After all, it's certainly not the worst thing anyone has ever done with chocolate. Just, you know, don't start garnishing your Twix with powdered human bones, or paying for your latte with truffles.


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