A Short History of Chocolate in the United States

chocolate health

The use of chocolate as medicine has a long and interesting history in Europe and South America. This history is very well documented. Little is known about the medicinal use of chocolate in Northern America until recent.

Eighteenth century Anglo-Americans brought from Europe long-held medical beliefs to the newly formed Colonial Territories. Medicine practiced in 17th and 18th century Europe was based upon the humoral hot–cold/wet– dry system of bodily balance where illness was perceived as an imbalance to the system. Classifying foodstuffs into hot/cold and wet/dry was practiced in both Mesoamerica and Europe during this era: persons who became sick were prescribed foods of specific heat and dryness categories that supposedly returned them to “balance.”

Chocolate or cacao was presumed to be of benefit for the sick because it could be served as drink or substance, hot or cold. In this article many authentic sources were found that with a significant body of literature that documents chocolate used medicinally, specifically for a well defined range of diseases. Cholera, tuberculosis (consumption), asthma, small pox, yellow fever, to name a few.

Chocolate or cocoa doesn’t have a curing effect for these diseases, the only advantage of chocolate being high in calories and improving weight.

There is a rich history of chocolate usage to combat some of North America’s most horrific epidemics. It was recognized
that chocolate consumption could aid in weight gain. Further, as a beverage, chocolate’s high fat ratio created a product with a viscosity that almost seemed like a solid food. Being a liquid, however, supported the idea that the invalid should not consume solid foods because digestion
taxed the body. As a result, chocolate consumption fit the prevailing medical treatment paradigm and was widely utilized.

After the third decade of the 19th century chocolate lost it’s role as “medicine”. This might be due to technological advances in manufacturing chocolate. This dramatically altered chocolate production patterns it also began to be produced as a confection in solid form.
In the 1950s chocolate was associated with three marketing concepts: fun, pleasure, and snacking. Since recent laboratory research findings suggest a positive associate between dark chocolate consumption and improved heart health. Chocolate as part of an overall healthy eating pattern does promote good health – then as now.

You can read the whole article: The Medicinal Use of Chocolate in Early North America, here. Have fun.

Deanna L. Pucciarelli, Louis E. Grivetti (2008). The Medicinal Use of Chocolate in Early North America Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 52 (10), 1215-1227 DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.200700264