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"All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt! 
Lucy Van Pelt in Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz

Although chocolate is loved by the majority of the female population, what does chocolate have to do with aromatherapy?  True aromatherapy that is.  After all, we've all seen the "aromatic" chocolate body lotions and candles with synthetic fragrances that do not have the healing powers that true essential oils do. However, chocolate, to use the term broadly, does have a place in aromatherapy if you consider the following facts...      

So, have you actually considered where chocolate comes from?  I know its difficult to think past that all intoxicating, melt-in-your-mouth, "I simply have to have some chocolate now" feeling or "It's just sitting there on the store shelf enticing me to buy it" (we all have those days!) but how does it get there?  What is chocolate made from?


The Mayan People and the Cacao Tree

The ancient Maya believed that money really did grow on trees; cacao trees, that is.  The cacao tree takes its name from the Mayan word kakaw and it is native to South and Central America ;the seeds of the cacao tree are used to make theobroma oil (theobroma cacao) or, as it is more commonly known, cocoa butter.

There are a few steps involved in the processing of the cacao seeds including fermenting, washing and drying the seeds before hulling, roasting and hot expressing the oil from the roasted seeds.  The end result is something we are all familiar with - cocoa and cocoa butter.

The Maya people traded the prized cacao bean throughout their empire and used it as a form of currency.  They were the first to produce hot chocolate which was used in many events of their lives from births to marriages to death. The Aztec people of central Mexico also paid much tribute to cacao but were not as successful in growing it in their slightly cooler and less humid climate.

Cacao was first cultivated to make cocoa butter in 1695 by the Europeans, when the Spanish "discovered" the Americas and exported it back to Europe.  It was an Englishman by the name of Joseph Fry who, in 1847, invented the first form of solid chocolate as we know it today.


Uses of Chocolate in Aromatherapy

In cooking, the main use of cocoa beans is for chocolate.  The "oil" was used in traditional plant medicine to treat of wrinkles, particularly on the face and neck.  The Europeans used it combined with other ingredients to treat diarrhea, lung congestion, infectious intestinal disease and bronchitis.  Cosmetically, the "oi"' is used in lipsticks, soaps, massage creams and nail whiteners.  Therapeutically, the "oil" is used as a massage lubricant and in ointments, particularly as a carrier for essential oils.


Benefits of Chocolate Aromatherapy

Chocolate is said to produce the same europhic feelings as those experienced during sex so chocolate combined with aromatherapy is the ultimate indulgence!  Using true cocoa butter, with the added ingredients of essential oils, there are true aromatic and therapeutic benefits from this form of aromatherapy. Cocoa butter is also good for the skin; used correctly and with true aromatherapy ingredients, "chocolate" really is beneficial in aromatherapy!

References:

- Price, Len 1999 Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy and Massage Riverhead, Stratford-upon-Avon, England

- "A Gift from the Gods: Chocolate" AR Williams in National Geographic Collectors Edition                   
aromattherapy and chocolate
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By Sharon Falsetto
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Aromatherapy and Chocolate