In a time when many have experienced depleted levels of motivation and satisfaction, we turn towards natural, plant-based powerhouses that ignite greater feelings of pleasure, bliss, and bring us more in touch with ourselves and those we care about. For eons, humans have experienced great fascination around the discovery of plants, herbs, and natural compounds that can lift us up and bring us greater joy and a sense of connection.
The term, aphrodisiac, stems from the Greek word, aphrodisios, meaning “pertaining to Aphrodite”, the Goddess of Love. Aphrodisiacs are abundant in the natural world and may even be gracing your very own pantry shelves. Aphrodisiacs are plants, foods, herbs, spices, substances, and natural or synthetic compounds that boost libido, inspire pleasure, and ignite a sense of passion and desire.
Aphrodisiacs that have been found to benefit both men and women include maca, ginkgo biloba, saffron, fenugreek, figs, and (of course) chocolate.
Chocolate, specifically dark chocolate, happens to be a powerhouse of an aphrodisiac, full of compounds that activate the pleasure and reward centers of the brain and produce blissful and pleasurable feelings. It’s no wonder why the ancient Mayans and Aztecs of Central America revered chocolate (xocolatl), believing it to be a gift from the gods that possessed magical and divine properties. The beneficial compounds in chocolate include:
Anandamide: Chocolate is the world’s richest source of anandamide, known as “the bliss molecule.” This is part of the reason it feels so good to eat it. This neurotransmitter activates pleasure receptors in the brain.
Phenylethylamine (PEA): This compound occurs in chocolate in small quantities and triggers the release of endorphins and dopamine, a neurochemical associated with feelings of pleasure and motivation.
Tryptophan and serotonin: Chocolate contains small quantities of tryptophan, an amino acid and the precursor for serotonin. They create feelings of relaxation, easefulness, and a sense of closeness.
Tyrosine: Chocolate contains a compound called tyramine, which is derived from the amino acid, tyrosine. Tyrosine is the amino acid precursor to dopamine, which activates the reward center of the brain. It’s likely one of the reasons you can’t just have one bite of chocolate.
Theobromine: A heart-healthy compound in dark chocolate that acts as a stimulant and vasodilator, increasing blood flow, and found to lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Flavonols: Compounds that have been found to boost blood flow to the brain and heart and protect brain cells from toxins and inflammation, truly making both your heart and mind happy.
Now hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) is making the ranks of nature’s aphrodisiacs. Not only does CBD help ease anxieties, but it inhibits the activity of the FAAH enzyme, which is responsible for breaking down anandamide in the system. By inhibiting this enzyme’s activity, the “bliss molecule” is able to maintain levels in your body and mind for longer than usual. Think of it like a bliss-extender.
Research from UC Irvine revealed that oxytocin, known as the “love hormone”, enhanced the production of anandamide within the same area of the brain that’s responsible for reward and motivation. Oxytocin is a key component for strengthening emotional bonds and connection.
The intake of CBD can also aid in the nourishment of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which contains many cannabinoid receptors throughout the reproductive organs and tissue and has been found to affect levels of arousal.
Whether an act of self-love or sharing with another person in your life, enjoying some CBD chocolate can ignite greater feelings of connection and satisfaction. This is one that has truly won over both the heart and the mind.