Feeling a bit under the weather? Have some chocolate: the best medical minds of the seventeenth century claim that it will cure just about anything. Seriously.
According to public-domain documents from the 1600s, tea, coffee, chocolate and other hot beverages were once prescribed by doctors and pharmacists as potent (and potentially dangerous) drugs. When explorers first brought the cocoa bean back to Europe, it was considered a dangerous, unpredictable and potentially deadly remedy. In reality, that was just delicious snake-oil.
So, how did this tasty misclassification happen? Blame Humorism — an ancient medical theory that claimed the body was made up of four hot, dry, wet, and cold “humours.” If any one of them was out of balance, the body contracted a disease. Bloodletting, herbs or chocolate could be used to put things back in order. Chocolate’s curative properties grew in infamy for years, eventually being sold to the public as a cure for jaundice, assorted lung diseases, plagues, urinary infections and even poisons! One sales pitch to British consumer even promises that chocolate can clean your teeth and “sweetneth the breath”. That last one might even be true.
Ask a modern doctor what they think of chocolate and they might tell you that its natural cocoa flavanols are a good antioxidant — but they will probably just warn you not to eat too much. [Public Domain Review]
Picture: Clever Cupcakes/Flickr
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