Missouri State professor says dark chocolate can remedy migraines, other health problems

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Distinguished Missouri State University Biology Professor Dr. Paul Durham says dark chocolate can work as a natural remedy for various health issues.

Before receiving his doctorate degree, Durham lived in a household full of migraine sufferers, and specifically, his grandmother. When his grandmother had a migraine coming on, he says she would go to the store, buy a small Baker’s chocolate square, eat it and then lay down to sleep the migraine away.

“Most of the time, it worked,” Durham told The Heartlander.

Many physicians once believed chocolate could cause headaches, but Durham says they have since changed their minds in regards to certain chocolates.  Most milk chocolates are made with a lot of sugar and are not enriched with real cacao, which Durham says works as the remedy. 

On a flight to Barcelona, Spain, Durham met a woman who told him it was normal in her culture to consume dark chocolate for health remedies. He had also found natives in South America who consume cacao drinks for similar purposes.

“We said, ‘Maybe we should test cacao and see whether or not it could quiet the nervous system down,’” Durham said. “That’s where we started. I literally started it on cultures, it worked there. Then we took it into preclinical models, and it worked there. Then, of course, there is more data that has come out on the human side to support that for some [with migraines], consuming dark chocolate seems to be something that can actually be beneficial to them.”

Most people treat their migraines with over-the-counter products such as ibuprofen and aspirin, but Durham says those medicines only help after the migraines have begun. Cacao can keep migraines in check before they ever begin, he said. 

Durham spent 10 years studying the effects of cacao in his search for a cheap and natural solution for migraines, and recommends a flat, palm-sized bar of dark chocolate containing at least 70% of real cacao per day. 

“Not only does it help with inflammatory disease, but cardiovascular disease too,” he said. “The thing I like about a nutraceutical like this is it’s not just migraine specific. It’s going to help your nervous system, probably going to help your digestive system and probably your immune system. It’s going to help all of the different systems of your body.”

Durham’s studies revealed cacao is enriched with beta-sitosterol, a natural pain reliever that’s also found in aloe vera.

The professor and his team have been using the award-winning Askinosie Chocolate, a chocolate manufacturer headquartered out of Springfield, Missouri, for their studies. Askinosie uses cacao nibs and 100% cacao powder from South America. Nibs are dried and fermented bits of cacao bean. 

“Migrainers have to be more aware of what they are putting into their body and what kind of stressors they have and such,” Durham said. “If they really can’t control their environment because of divorce or whatever they are going through, one of the things that is nice about adding a supplement like cacao is it doesn’t have a lot of calories but it could have a really [high] medicinal benefit. I am trying to help people prevent the disease rather than trying to treat it after it has happened.”

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