The best dark chocolate melts in your mouth and boosts mood.
Most people generally agree that chocolate is good to eat. But, could it actually improve your mood? And could cannabis help enhance these effects? It may do. Here’s the latest on chocolate research and a recipe for the best dark chocolate (hint: it’s infused) ever.
A recent study published in Depression and Anxiety (2019) investigated the link between chocolate consumption and depressive symptoms. Researchers wanted to find out if chocolate really does make one feel happier.
The investigation used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007-2008 and 2013-14. Surveyors asked participants about both daily chocolate consumption and depressive symptoms. The study found that participants who reported the largest quantity of chocolate consumption (104-454 g per day) had a 57 percent less chance of reporting symptoms of depression than those whom reported zero chocolate consumption. The data associated dark chocolate consumption with reduced symptoms of depression. The conclusion was that there is a 70 percent lower chance of symptoms in participants who reported dark chocolate consumption.
But, that isn’t the only research linking chocolate consumption to reduced depression levels. A 2013 review also found that chocolate may improve both mood and cognitive functioning.
How Might Chocolate Improve Mood?
Sure chocolate tastes good, but there seems to be more than the pleasure of taste that is boosting mood. Let’s take a closer look.
Chocolate contains psychoactive ingredients, such as anandamide. Anandamide induces euphoria effects similar to THC, and therefore may contribute to potential positive mood benefits. The human body also makes anandamide. It is our very own natural “bliss” chemical.
In addition, one of the amines present in chocolate, called phenylethylamine, is a neuromodulator. It is thought to play a key role in regulating mood and may be involved in the management of depressive symptoms.
These ingredients, in chocolate, interact with body neurotransmitter systems. This possibly improves mood and initiates reward pathways by modulating dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.
It also seems that the simple fact that chocolate tastes good may play a role in improving mood. One study looked into the effect of palatable and unpalatable chocolate and found that an immediate improvement to mood was seen after consuming palatable chocolate.
Why is Dark Chocolate More Effective than Milk Chocolate?
The research indicates that dark chocolate may have a more significant effect on mood than other types of chocolate. But why? Flavonoids may provide the answer to this. Flavonoids are a group of plant chemicals found in dark chocolate. There are early studies that explore a possible link between depression and chronic inflammation. Separate studies indicate that flavonoids may be very effective in reducing systemic inflammation. So, using this (as yet unproven) connection, this could demonstrate why dark chocolate may boost mental wellness.
Potential Antidepressant Qualities of THC
Like its chemical analogue, anandamide, THC also induces euphoria and feelings of wellbeing. Moreover, one study published in Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior (2010), indicated that a dose of 2.5mg/kg THC, in mice, delivered significant antidepressant-like effects.
The CB1 receptor, a cannabinoid receptor to which THC binds, is thought to play a key role in this antidepressant-like effect. Studies have shown that activation of CB1 in mice resulted in antidepressant-like effects similar to prescribed antidepressant medication. Further research has demonstrated that CB1 may play a role in defending against symptoms of depression because its activation leads to neurochemical changes. These include the enhancement of noradrenaline, 5-hydroxytryptamine, and dopamine in regions of the brain associated with mood.
Furthermore, activation of cannabinoid receptors reduces cortisol levels, a stress hormone closely linked to both inflammation and depression. Research has found that the activation of cannabinoid receptors plays a key role in the negative feedback of the neuroendocrine stress response. Cannabinoid receptor activation may be able to inhibit the stress-cascade, which results in the release of corticotropin-releasing hormone. This then produces adrenocorticotropin hormone, which initiates cortisol production.
Is There a Link Between CBD and Mental Health?
A rodent study, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology (2010), found that CBD treatment results in antidepressant-like effects comparable to pharmacological antidepressants. In addition, a preliminary study published in Neuropsychopharmacology (2011) indicated that CBD may potentially reduce anxiety levels, improve cognitive impairment, and enhance mood in humans. The subjects in the study were afflicted with Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and asked to participate in a simulated public speaking activity, with or without CBD. The results indicate that CBD may have anxiolytic effects.
Additionally, CBD may modulate levels of serotonin. This is a nerve cell chemical associated with improving mood and treating depression. Research has found CBD to immediately increase levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin in the mouse model. Essentially, when CBD activates the 5-HT1A receptor, it initiates serotonin production.
Recipe for the Best Dark Chocolate Infused with Cannabis
Research has shown that cannabis and chocolate both induce many similar antidepressant-like effects. So, it stands to reason that a combination of the two might result in an even greater improvement in mood. In the spirit of delicious mental wellness, here’s the recipe for a dark chocolate cannabis bar.
- 3 grams of finely ground cannabis
- 100 grams dark chocolate, chopped
- Glass bowl
- Chocolate bar mold
- Place your cannabis in a 240 degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes to decarboxylate, or use a water bath.
- Melt the chocolate by placing in the glass bowl and then placing the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Constantly stir the chocolate until melted but make sure the bowl never touches the water below.
- Add your decarboxylated cannabis to the melted chocolate, and stir.
- Pour the cannabis chocolate mixture into the chocolate molds (ice cube trays/small baking trays are good substitutes) and leave in a cool place to harden. If it’s too warm in your kitchen, you can also put the chocolate in the fridge to cool quicker.
- Once set, gently remove from molds and consume to your tolerance level. It’s best to start slowly – just a small square may be more than enough. Remember cannabis edibles can take a long time to take effect, around 45 minutes to an hour.
Now sit back, eat a couple squares, and wait for the effects to brighten your day.