Sept. 30, 2009 12:00

A celebration of chocolate's psychoactive properties

A celebration of chocolate’s psychoactive properties

The basement of the Millennium Center in Winston-Salem was transformed into a primordial cave den of chocolate ecstasy during the Raw Food Party on Sept. 25. No primordial cave den would be complete without a shaman and Daniel Vitalis, a raw food nutrition expert, shared important information about the enormous health benefits of consuming the cacao bean — which is traditionally delivered in the form of chocolate.

Vitalis’ message could best be described as part alchemy lesson, part conspiracy theory. He emphasized that chocolate is a psychoactive drug made from the seeds of the tropical cacao tree known as “Theobroma cacao.” “Theobroma” means “food of the gods” and it turns out that cacao is the perfect vehicle for delivering other medicines to the human body, Vitalis said. At that point, chocolate becomes a Trojan horse to deliver healing herbs into the body.

“Just so you know, you can suffer through bitter medicine or you can eat chocolate,” Vitalis said.

Eating raw chocolate appeared to be the top priority of the roughly 60 people in attendance. The bar area was chock-full of females sampling the dozen or so varieties of the well-known aphrodisiac and endorphin-deliverer, while sipping wine. The 8-to-1 ratio of women to men came as no surprise. There are a number of scientific theories as to why women have an affinity for chocolate, none of them proven. Whatever the reason, the ladies in attendance seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly, and paid rapt attention to Vitalis’ information session.

A brief sampling of the raw chocolate delicacies revealed the following observations: The spicy nature of the Wild Fire Rose diminished the pleasure of eating raw chocolate, while the “SuperChoc” delivered a deep, tangy vibe with a hint of Goji berries. The Still Pointe mint flavor offered a dark, light mint concoction with a mellow aftertaste, while the Fluffy Citrus overwhelmed the palate with lemon and orange, masking the raw chocolate underneath. The Immune Mushroom had an earthy feel and taste, and the India Sunset presented a chai and curry rapture — a warm, smooth, pleasant blend of sweet and spicy flavors.

The Purple Sage was not one of my favorites. It tasted like something akin to grandma’s potpourri. The Heart of Cocoa, a 100-percent cacao delight, offered raw chocolate pleasure. The Coco Nibby offered a slightly nutty, sweet mixture with a hint of coconut.

Early in the evening, event organizer Julie Wilson grabbed the microphone and debunked some of the myths about chocolate.

“Listen folks, raw chocolate — chocolate in its raw state from the cacao bean, which is actually a nut — is good for you,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t make you fat; it makes you skinnier. It heightens your metabolism; it’s an aphrodisiac and a brain booster. It has all these amino acids in it — it’s wonderful for you.”

According to the website, cacao has numerous health benefits due to the fact it contains such compounds as anandamide, theobromine and tryptophan. An essential amino acid, tryptophan is associated with the brain’s production of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Vitalis picked up on the theme of alchemy, stating that psychoactive plants, like the cacao tree, are the No. 1 missing nutrient in our diet.

“When you consume psychoactive plants, here’s what happens: The plant makes neural transmitters, brain chemicals just like the one your brain makes, but better,” he explained. “In the presence of neurotransmitters, new neural pathways are laid down. We call them synaptic networks. These networks are where the neurons of your brain start to link together, connecting this thought to this thought, so when you start to take in these plant substances, you become more intelligent.”

Vitalis encouraged the audience to experiment with the raw chocolate and let the psychoactive properties wash over them, and then observe its impact on the social interaction in the room. Although, it would take consuming pounds and pounds of chocolate to get some of the physical and psychological benefits Vitalis espoused, the audience appeared to relish the small samples of the cacao delicacies offered and the endorphin rush that filled the dark den of pleasure in the catacombs of the Millennium Center.

The Raw Food Party held in the lower level of the Millennium Center on Sept. 25 featured a dozen varieties of raw chocolate with psychoactive properties and excellent health benefits. (photo by Keith T. Barber)