The Chocolate Tree & Medical Applications of Chocolate

Cacao trees or Theobroma cacao are called the food of the gods. While you cant pick chocolate from a tree and eat it, like you do oranges and apples, the idea is appealing!

The cacao tree is a tropical evergreen that grows in many places, but always within 20 degrees of the equator. Most of the plantations are in South and Central America, Africa and some parts of Asia. This is not the same tree that produces cocaine, which is the cocae or coca bush, not a tree at all, nor is it a coco palm which produces coconuts.

On most plantations, the trees get their start in nurseries or from cuttings of a mother tree which are high yielding. For the first few months they are nursed and taken great care of, then they are transplanted to the plantation in the shade of other trees, rubber or banana trees are common. Using other crop producing trees allows a second means of income for the plantation owners as cacao is only harvested twice a year.

They start bearing fruit when they are between three and five years of age, cacao trees produce fruit all year long, it is not uncommon to see one tree with pods at several stages of development. The pods grow from the main trunk or the thinker older branches only, they flower first and each flower turns into a pod.

The pods are harvested very carefully so as not to damage the cushion which is what the flowers and pods grow from. The cacao tree has no means of naturally distributing its seeds, in nature the pods are eaten by squirrels, rats and monkeys who do not eat the bitter seeds, but only the sweet pulp. On plantations the pods are harvested and opened by people using machetes, and the seeds and pulp are separated by hand.

Medical Applications of Chocolate:
Mars, Incorporated which is a candy company based in Virginia spends millions each year on flavonol research. Pharmaceutical companies have been contacted to license drugs using synthesized cocoa flavonol molecules. Cocoa based prescription drugs could possible help diabetes, dementia and other diseases; this is according to researchers funded by Mars at Harvard, the University of California and several European universities.

Theobromine, a substance in chocolate, has been found to be effective at treating persistent coughing, nearly 1/3 more effective than codeine which is the leading cough medicine. The throat also seems to be soothed and moistened by the chocolate. While there is no positive proof that chocolate is an phrodisiac, it as been identified as one in romantic lore for centuries.

The feeling causing the belief in chocolate as an aphrodisiac is most commonly associated with the simple pleasure of eating chocolate and may have created the myth. Serotonin which is one of the chemicals in chocolate, especially phenethylamine, does act as a mild sexual stimulant. The belief has existed for years that eating chocolate causes acne, while in reality chocolate is high in anti-oxidants which creates a better complexion.

In experiments subjects were fed chocolate or a bar with equal amounts of fat, sugar etc. and found that consumption of chocolate had no effect on the development of acne. It was shown that women who drink 3 or mores glasses of milk per day were 22% more likely to develop severe acne than women who drank less milk, therefore, chocolate bars with milk may contribute to this belief.

It is not the chocolate but the milk it is mixed with that may lead to acne. Chocolate is believed to act as an antiseptic, diuretic and pilatory and has been used to treat many illnesses including; burns, coughs, listlessness, pregnancy and even snake bite. Chocolate stimulates the heart, kidneys and themuscles and can relieve the congestion of a cold by opening the bronchial passages of the lungs.

Appendix: A History of Chocolate
From the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs of Mexico, the word chocolate is derived for the word xocolatl a combination of the words, xocolli which means bitter and atl which is water.

It has been suggested that the Spaniards coined the word using the Maya word chocol and replacing the Maya term for water which was haa with the Aztec word atl, therefore the word chocolate. It is more likely the term was created by the Aztecs who had used the familiar Mayan word for the "cacao" bean. The first reports of chocolate to the known world were when Cortes reported the drink known as xocolatl to the Spanish King.

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About The Author, Stephen Campbell
Stephen C Campbell is a Business Consultant, Internet Marketer & Entrepreneur. He produces topical articles, & newsletters for his clients such as those at