Folklore around the world maintains that a cook’s intentions affect the quality of prepared foods and beverage. The act of blessing water, wine, and bread plays a central role in many religious rituals, and even in secular contexts the practice of offering good tidings with food or drink is universal. Are such beliefs mere superstitions, or as we approach Mother’s Day, do we find that mom’s chicken soup tastes better because it contains a spice missing from canned soup – the secret ingredient called love?
To study this question, we conducted a series of experiments investigating the effects of “blessing” food and water. These studies all used the gold standard design in clinical research: the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled protocol. This type of design is used to offset bias from the expectations of the investigators or the participants.
In one experiment, “Effects of Intentionally Enhanced Chocolate on Mood,” participants were asked to eat dark chocolate pastilles. Some were intentionally blessed by Buddhist monks and a Mongolian shaman. Some were from the same source but was not blessed. The results showed that participants eating the blessed chocolate reported significantly better mood as compared to those eating the control chocolate.
In a second study, “Metaphysics of the Tea Ceremony: A Randomized Trial Investigating the Roles of Intention and Belief on Mood While Drinking Tea,” participants were invited to drink tea blessed by Buddhist monks, or to drink the same tea that had not been blessed. The results showed that the group that drank blessed tea reported significantly improved mood. We also found an interesting interaction between people’s beliefs and the power of an intentional blessing. People who drank the blessed tea (they did not know which tea they were given) and believed that their tea was blessed had a much greater improvement in mood. People who drank the same blessed tea but did not believe it was blessed did not have as strong of an effect.
In another study, “A Randomized, Controlled Trial of the Effects of Intentionally Treated Water on Growth of Arabidopsis Thaliana Seeds with Cryptochrome Mutations,” water was blessed by Buddhist monks to see if seeds hydrated by that water would show enhanced growth compared to non-blessed water from the same source. The plants germinated by blessed water resulted in significantly healthier plants, as measured by the length of the seedling’s stem and amounts of chlorophyll and anthocyanin in the plant. A recent follow-up experiment, “Effects of Intentionally Treated Water and Seeds on the Growth of Arabidopsis Thaliana,” again showed that blessed water resulted in enhanced plant growth.
The bottom line is that beneficial intentions do seem to influence both subjective responses to and objective measurements of food and beverages. Check it out yourself. The next time you prepare a meal or beverage for someone, add the secret spice of loving intention, and watch the results.