I love chocolate, I just… love it; it’s delicious, it’s gorgeous, it’s fun to work with and create from, it makes you feel good, what’s not to love? As an artist I also love working with chocolate as a medium - there is so much more than just the visual nature of it - there’s the art of flavors and combinations of textures, it’s a full spectrum sensory experience if you ask me, and this is just a part of why I love it. As an Acupuncturist and Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine I also know that chocolate isn’t only a love affair for the senses either, it actually has some medicinal and therapeutic qualities that can help balance and nourish the body and mind. In Chinese Medicine we think of all food as medicine, all foods have certain properties and qualities that affect the body in specific ways, when we bring more awareness to these properties we can turn our entire diet into a nourishing experience directed at what parts of us need direct healing. It’s this love affair with chocolate and Chinese medicine that brought me to the intersection of combining the two - making high quality chocolates that are flavored to work with the spirit, elements and organs of the body.
Qiao Ke Li (pronounced “chao kuh lee”) aka: Chocolate in Traditional Chinese Medicine
The qualities of chocolate - specifically cacao, like we get in cacao nibs, 100% bars or fine quality chocolate over 70% cacao has the qualities of being bitter, warming and slightly pungent. Chocolate nourishes the Heart and Shen, promotes energy, enters the Liver and moves the Blood, and helps to tonify Kidney Yang - helping with our vital life force energy and fatigue. In the Western medical sense, chocolate can help lower blood pressure, improve weakness after a long term illness, has anti-aging properties, releases fevers from cold and promotes appetite. Chocolate helps the heart, skin, brain and immune system and has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, relaxant, sedative, anti-depressant, analgesic, aphrodisiac and emollient properties. When we add some sugar to chocolate it now embodies a sweet flavor, which is the flavor of the Spleen, Earth Element and the Spirit - Yi, the Spleen loves sweet, but not too sweet. Sugary foods actually damage and weaken the Spleen - Stomach system, so we need to be modest and purposeful with our use of sweet chocolate as a Spleen tonic - a little goes a long way in this practice. When we tonify the Spleen our thoughts and worries relax and energy levels improve.
Chocolate is often associated with romance in love in Western cultures, and rightfully so! As you can tell above from a Chinese medicine perspective it’s actually a great herb for stirring the passion of the heart and igniting sexual energies by tonifying Kidney Yang. A key factor in how we experience chocolate can actually be in how we ingest it - if we’re just treating it as a candy treat it’s healing effects may be minimal or even causative of issues, but if we used chocolate with awareness and respect like a medicine it can enhance it’s healing potential. I often see ‘cacao ceremonies’ as a great way to fully embrace and experience this healing. The effect of chocolate on the Liver, Spleen, Heart and Kidney is like a warm, soft hug of peace and energy simultaneously embracing the user - making it a great practice for anyone who suffers from stress, irritations, PMS, anger or overwork and tiredness. But as we know, too much of anything can take away from the healing and actually begin to cause issues.
A Fine Line for Healing with Chocolate
I think it’s important to always use any drug, medicine, herb or practice with awareness - we need to be fully present and fully experience whatever it is we are doing in order to receive the maximum benefit. Chocolate is no different, and in fact, it may require this awareness even more so than traditional herbal formulas because of our general experience of consuming chocolate as candy and not as medicine. It’s best to always use high cacao percentage chocolate to receive healing benefits - over 70% minimum, the higher the better. Use small doses and truly take the time to have awareness and presence as you eat the chocolate, breathe deeply and taste the richness and variety of flavor that is present, be curious to how your body assimilates it.
Some people may not be good candidates for using chocolate as herbal medicine - including those who are allergic or sensitive, as chocolate can be a migraine trigger for many, those who have diabetes, insomnia, obesity and heat syndromes - this may be characterized by sweating, high blood pressure, a general feeling of heat, however your Acupuncturist should be the one to help you determine this. From a TCM perspective, chocolate can increase Damp-Heat and Phlegm in the body, this is particularly common if the chocolate is sweet or consumed in excess.
In simple terms phlegm or damp-heat can be excess fat accumulation (i.e. weight gain), but it can also produce effects on the emotional body and spirit - clouding the mind, segwaying to a need for chocolate or other comfort foods in time of distress, or causing a general heaviness and fatigue in the body as dampness and phlegm have a tendency to slow and block the flow of Qi - and without proper Qi flow any system in the body can begin to break down and illness or symptoms arise.
With that in mind we also need to remember that chocolate is a strong herb - it’s potent and powerful. A good dosing regimen for chocolate is 70% or more cacao in a quantity of about ½ ounce per day. With my 5 Spirits Healing Chocolates you can choose which flavor to use each day depending on how you’re feeling. By taking the time to consume the chocolate and holding your awareness strong throughout the experience we can benefit from the chocolate in more ways than just the comfort of enjoying a fine chocolate bar.
Five Spirits Healing Chocolates Available Now!
As I’ve said above, I love chocolate, and working with it is a passion of mine, I’ve developed some new recipes and am really excited to share with you these Five Spirits Healing Chocolates! The recipes are formulated with the flavors and herbs associated with each spirit, element and organ system in Chinese medicine so that we are really directing each bar to a specific healing and nourishment for that particular system.
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Dr. Kim Peirano, DACM, LAc is the Owner and Acupuncturist at Lion's Heart Wellness, the San Francisco Bay Area and Marin's #1 Cosmetic Acupuncturist and #1 Holistic Healer.
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