Title

The Use and Abuse of Chocolate in 17th Century Medical Theory

Document Type

Article

Publication Title

Food and Foodways

Department

History

ISSN

0740-9710

Volume

15

Issue

1-/-2

DOI

10.1080/07409710701193381

First Page

53

Last Page

74

Publication Date

6-6-2007

Abstract

Cacao and chocolate were first introduced to Europe both as food and medicine. However, physicians had difficulty classifying them within the dominant system of humoral physiology and their arguments eventually undermined the authority of this system, especially as new scientific methods of analysis gained popularity. Authors in the late 16th and early 17th centuries attempted to restrict the use of chocolate to specific pathological states, but later, particularly in Northern Europe, and in competition with other purveyors, the therapeutic applications of chocolate were extended so broadly as to ultimately make any real medical use seem obsolete. This aided the transformation of chocolate from a medicinal food to a purely recreational drink in subsequent centuries. The case of chocolate provides an excellent example of how products once considered medicinal gain popular appeal with the aid of medical controversy.