They all come with the alluring names of Hershey's Hugs and Hershey's Kisses; they may also be a real a turn-on.
Chocolates and romance have always enjoyed an intimate association in many parts of the world. A gift of a box of chocolates from an admirer, or a loved one, is always cherished as special.
Chocolates and Valentine's Day are as inextricably linked as roses and love. In fact, a reputed spa advertised a Chocolate Lover's Experience as part of their romantic package for a Valentine's Day gone by. So, what is the real truth? Truth is: when it comes to chocolate, versions, fables, and myths, abound.
Chocolate's reputation as an aphrodisiac originated in South America, almost 1,500 years ago.
The American Heritage College Dictionary defines an aphrodisiac as, "arousing, or intensifying sexual desire. something such as a drug, or food, having such an effect." According to the Food and Drug Administration, US: "An aphrodisiac is a food, drink, drug, scent, or device, that promoters claim, can arouse or increase sexual desire or libido." The word was coined after Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of sexual love and beauty.
The celebrated Italian libertine Casanova is said to have consumed vast amounts of chocolate before he embarked on his famous sexual exploits. In fact, he found chocolate more stimulating than champagne and called it "the elixir of love."
In 1624, Johan Franciscus Rauch, a professor in Vienna, condemned chocolate as an inflamer of passions and urged monks not to drink it. In fact, he went to the extent of having it banned from monasteries.
It is said that Madame du Barry, courtesan and mistress of Louis XV, always served her lovers a cup of chocolate before they entered her bedroom.
It was the Aztec and Mayan cultures that first discovered chocolate. The Aztecs believed that it invigorated men and lowered inhibitions in the fairer sex. In fact, the Aztecs considered all chocolates an aphrodisiac; so, foods made of chocolate were strictly forbidden for women. Yet another parable states that the Aztecs and Mayans, who were the first to recognise the potency of this food, celebrated the harvest season with festivals of wild orgies. This seems to suggest that they did not have too many objections to women who went wild after consuming chocolate!
The Aztec emperor Montezuma is believed to have drunk fifty golden goblets of chocolate a day in order to enhance his sexual prowess; something he well might have needed with a harem of 600 women!
With all the above attributes chocolate enjoyed, its arrival in Europe only strengthened romantic connections, and it became a popular gift among courting couples.
Chocolate, the mood elevator
Chocolate contains two substances, phenylethylamine and serotonin, which are mood-enhancers. Phenylethylamine is released in the brain when people fall in love and serotonin is a chemical involved in sexual arousal. Produced in the human brain they are released into the nervous system when we're happy and also experiencing feelings of love, passion, or lust. This is accompanied by a rapid mood change, rise in blood pressure, increase in heart rate and feelings of mild euphoria.
Women are more susceptible to the effects of phenylethylamine and serotonin than men.
Chocolate contains chemicals that induce pleasurable feelings. However, there is no consensus in the scientific community that it should be classified an aphrodisiac, although it contains substances that increase energy, stamina and feelings of wellbeing. For instance, a gift of chocolate makes one feel loved.
As far as research studies go, one appeared to contradict the aphrodisiac associations of chocolate. This study, which included a random sample of about 160+ women in the 35-plus age group, found no significant differences between reported rates of sexual arousal, or distress, among those who regularly consumed one serving of chocolate a day, those who consumed three, or more servings, or those who generally consumed none. As a result, researchers say that if chocolate has any aphrodisiacal qualities, they are purely psychological, and not physiological.
- Experts say that one should consume chocolate in small quantities. This restraint, or the "forbidden fruit" lure, of chocolate explains the binge that chocolate-lovers occasionally go on
- Chocolate has strong associations as a treat, or a "bribe." This adds to its mysterious allure
- Chocolate is credited with being a comforter, a highly desirable food. Women are known to experience special cravings just before the onset of the menstrual period. And, those who find themselves down in the dumps use chocolate to feel better
- Advertisers exploit its romantic associations. Many an advert depicts a young couple bashfully biting into a chocolate bar
- Psychologists see it as an emotional substitute for love. Jilted women are a big market
- Its combination of sweet taste and fatty texture, two characteristics that match our innate eating preferences, gives chocolate its unique melt-in-the-mouth enjoyment
- Its enticing aroma and ability to create "taste memories," combined with its rich flavour, make it an irresistible temptation.
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