Chocolate has been an important commodity in the Americas for centuries, but it hasn’t always been dessert.

From currency to rituals, cacao—the bean used to produce chocolate—played an important role in Pre-Columbian society. When Europeans later discovered the plant, they quickly began incorporating it into medicine. In fact, the Latin name for the plant means “food of the gods.” By the 1600s, physicians claimed, “all that was necessary for breakfast was chocolate, because it yielded good nourishment for the body.” Records even show chocolate was used to treat cholera, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, smallpox, typhus, and yellow fever.

Today we know scientifically that chocolate is packed with antioxidants as well as other nutrients like magnesium, iron and fiber. Dark chocolate—that is, chocolate that is 70-85% cacao—has been proven to lower the chances of heart disease, rejuvenate skin and improve mental health. The uses don’t stop there either!

Here are just a few more ways you can incorporate chocolate into your daily routine without ever touching a Hershey’s bar.

Ward off Cavities

You know what they say: a pinch of cocoa powder a day keeps the dentist away! For a choco-hack that’s almost as good as just eating it, add a pinch of cocoa powder to your toothpaste. Studies have shown the powder to be even more effective than fluoride at fighting tooth decay.

Feed Your Flowers

Add a little cocoa to your flower pot, and watch them bloom! Better yet, make it a mocha with some used coffee grounds. Cocoa and coffee bean mulch can be used as a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, and as a bonus it also deters slugs and snails without kicking out the critters you and your plants want! Need more convincing? Cocoa mulch will also protect against extreme temperatures, help your garden retain water, and diminish weeds.

A word of caution, however: this organic gardening trick is best used indoors or in private yards, as dogs who may be attracted by the scent can be poisoned by the bean’s caffeine and theobromine.

Have Fun with the Kids

Who didn’t love slime when they were young? Asia Citro over at Fun at Home with Kids has a great recipe for Chocolate Stretchy Slime that’s the perfect combination of ew! and awesome!

Skip a Shower

Let’s be honest: it happens to all of us—you wake up late, get a last minute date, simply end up with not enough time. Skip the expensive dry shampoos, and make your own using just a little bit of cocoa powder, cornstarch and essential oil. Mix them all together, put them in a salt shaker, and give yourself a couple good sprinkles before heading out the door. The powder will leave you looking oil-free, and smelling great.

Cover Up Roots

Don’t worry “brunettes,” you’re secret’s safe with us. Us a little cocoa powder to cover-up roots until you get back to the salon. Or, shampoo your way to a full head of darker hair. Either way, GlobalPost has a recipe for you!

Speaking of Hair

Give yourself a luxurious hair mask by mixing:

  • 2T of jojoba oil,
  • 2T of coconut oil,
  • 2T of avocado oil,
  • and a handful of melted chocolate.

Finish it up with a couple drops of lemon and lavender oil, and lather up! Cover your hair then with a plastic bag, and enjoy a good hour of “you time.” When that hour’s up, just step in the shower, rinse off with shampoo and wala! Luscious, great-smelling hair is yours! Check out two more recipes over at Black Girl Long Hair.

Fight Wrinkles

Make a regenerating face mask with the use of chocolate. Just combine:

  • 1T of melted chocolate
  • 1t of almond oil
  • 1t of rose hip oil
  • 1 drop of rose essential oil

Leave it on for 20 minutes. Then rinse with lukewarm water. The chocolate will tone and hydrate while the oils help your skin create new skin cells.

Work That Healthy Glow

Costa Rica is not the place to skimp out on sunscreen. Instead, get your tan on the healthy way by adding a cocoa powder to your favorite moisturizer. It smells great, and it won’t leave you orange!

Balms Away!

Make a yummy homemade lip balms for you and your friends by melting:

  • 9g of refined and deodorized shea butter,
  • 1t of grated chocolate,
  • and 4 drops of your favorite essential oil.

Use the mixture to fill-up emptied balm jars and chap-sticks, or purchase new jars for the perfect gift!

Scrub Off Dry Skin

Hello Natural has a great recipe for a Chocolate Mint Sugar Scrub that “pretty much smells like a cookie.” To get soft, rejuvenated skin, add together:

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ⅓ cup almond oil
  • 2T cocoa powder
  • 10 drops of peppermint essential oil

Store the mixture in a glass jar, and scrub up any time you’re in the shower. P.S. Just like the lip balm, this scrub makes a great gift!

Treat Yourself

Don’t feel like getting crafty, but still want to experience the benefits of chocolate for your skin? TCRN put together a list of delectable choco-spa treatments available around Costa Rica. Of course, we couldn’t include them all, so comment below if you know a spa worth mentioning!

Young or old, male or female, there’s a chocolate solution just for you! After all, in the words of British comedian Jo Brand:

[quote_center]“Anything is good if it’s made of chocolate.” [/quote_center]