The notion that chocolate might arouse amorous feelings has been around since the time of the Aztecs. Rumor has it that Emperor Montezuma consumed copious amounts of cocoa beans to fuel his romantic encounters. The connection is an easy one to draw since chocolate is rich, silky, and decadent. Just thinking about it is sensual. But does chocolate really cause physical arousal? Well, let’s see about that.
Chocolate contains two chemicals that are linked to arousal, tryptophan, one of the building blocks of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in arousal, and phenylethylamine, a stimulant related to amphetamines which is released in the brain when people fall in love. With those two chemicals at play it’s easy to assume that a nice box of chocolates is the perfect thing to set the mood for a long night of intimacy. Sadly, it turns out that the amount of these two chemicals present in a piece of chocolate just aren’t significant enough to cause a significant change in brain chemistry. Basically, and this has been backed up by multiple studies, the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate are probably more psychological than physical.
Don’t give up on your box of Valentine’s Day chocolates quite yet! As it so happens, it doesn’t matter that the chemicals found in chocolate don’t make people more amorous, because the act of receiving an amazing gift does.
All sorts of incredible things happen to someone’s brain when they receive a gift. Even just catching a glimpse of a wrapped present ignites the brain’s reward center and releases a flood of dopamine, the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter. If the gift in question turns out to be good, like, say, a gorgeous box of delectable chocolates, the brain’s reasoning and emotion center starts pumping out oxytocin, the chemical that causes love and bonding. The release of oxytocin, in turn, releases stress reducing serotonin. If it’s a big present or the gift is a massive surprise, then the brain triggers arousal signals.
In short, a spectacular box of chocolates, carefully selected for the recipient, will trigger all sorts of loving feelings towards the gifter, feelings that can last for up to a whole month. And if you need yet another reason to spoil your Valentine, then know that the good feelings that someone feels when they receive an awesome gift are felt even more strongly by the person giving the present and last even longer making chocolate the gift that just keeps on giving and that everyone gets to enjoy.