Chocolate is an herb, too!
We're not the only civilization to treasure chocolate. The Mayans (whose civilization peaked about a thousand years ago) worshipped the cacao plant (Theobroma cacao), used its beans as currency, and brewed them into a medicinal drink called xocolatl. The Aztecs (about five hundred years ago) believed that the god of agriculture carried the cocoa plant to earth and used it (mixed with chiles) as an aphrodisiac. The Spanish explorers knew a good thing when they saw it, and took the cacoa beans home to make a drink for their wealthy patrons. The French feared it might raise passions to a frenzy, but the Brits loved it enough to take the risk, and chocolate-loving English emigrants carried it with them to North America in the late 1700s. Now, scientists tell us that dark chocolate can lower blood pressure and has other health benefits as well. The next time you bite down into a piece of rich chocolate, think of its long travels, its rich cultural history, and remember that chocolate is an herb, too!