For centuries, people have enjoyed dark chocolate for both recreational and medicinal reasons. The ancient Americans had over 1000 medicinal uses of cacao and its derivatives. It has long been known to have restorative properties as well as elevating mood. We are going to discuss some of the reasons for these mood-enhancing benefits and the similarities with cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids are fat-soluble (lipophilic), often-medicinal, chemical compounds found in plants and mammals and some have medicinal properties as well as causing feelings of euphoria. Of the 85, or so, known cannabinoids, the most well-known natural cannabinoid chemical is Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the primary psychoactive compound found in the cannabis genus of plants.
In 1996, Daniele Piomelli and fellow researchers isolated a cannabinoid neurotransmitter called anandamide (n-arachidonoylethanolamine or AEA) in chocolate. The interesting thing about anandamide is that it is also a naturally endogenous (internally occurring) cannabinoid found in the human brain and nervous system that plays a role in feelings of overall well-being. The word anandamide is derived from the Sanskrit word, ananda, meaning, bliss.
This discovery came about through research into cannabinoid receptor sites. A receptor site is a structure on the surface of a cell that can lock onto certain molecules, making it possible to carry a signal through the cell wall — a “lock-and-key” system. It had long been known that the human brain contains receptor sites that interact with cannabis’ THC molecule. It was inevitable that an endogenous, naturally-occurring, chemical — namely: anandamide — would be found to explain the presence of these receptors. Anandamide is very different from THC and, as previously mentioned, is naturally occurring in the brain. Anandamide gives a general sense of bliss and happiness.
High levels of anandamide were found in young men who ran or cycled at a moderate rate for about an hour, according to a study published in the journal NeuroReport by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of California, Irvine. Anandamide may be responsible for the euphoric feeling some people experience when they exercise that we sometimes call “runner’s high.” Arne Dietrich, the study’s principal investigator believes the body releases cannabinoids to help cope with the prolonged stress and pain of moderate or intense exercise. Studies have linked anandamide to analgesic reactions produced by the body during exercise, especially by running.
While there is very little anandamide in cacao, there are 2 important chemicals found in much higher concentrations in cacao that are more than likely the reason why we notice the mood elevating effects from cacao: N-oleolethanolamine (OEA), a known inhibitor of weight gain in mice, and N-linoleoylethanolamine (18:3 NAE), a known anti-inflammatory molecule — like anandamide — via the TRPV1 receptor). These two structural cousins of anandamide both inhibit the metabolic breakdown of anandamide and could potentially inhibit the breakdown of other cannabinoids including THC and CBD causing these compounds to stick around longer, providing even more benefits
All of these mood-enhancing benefits are compounded by theobromine, the primary stimulant in chocolate. Theobromine is a known vasodilator that acts as a “driver” of nutrients and chemicals into the tissues. It could also be responsible for amplifying the effects of the anandamide found in chocolate as it is also a mood enhancer.
In addition to anandamide and theobromine, cacao has serotonin, Phenylethylamine, and dopamine, all of which help us to feel more optimistic and peaceful. All of these combined provide us with an overall sense of well being while providing gentle, natural, long-lasting energy.
The reasons to love chocolate are many and if you consume high cacao content dark chocolate, or better yet, Crio Bru, you will not have to worry about the fat and calories. So Please...Drink in peace!