Vanilla (Vanilla Planifolia)

 Vanilla planifolia is a species of vanilla orchid. It is native to Mexico, and is one of the primary sources for vanilla flavouring, due to its high vanillin content. Common names are Flat-leaved Vanilla, Tahitian Vanilla (for the Pacific stock formerly thought to be a distinct species), and West Indian Vanilla (also used for the Pompona Vanilla, V. pompona). Often, it is simply referred to as "the vanilla". It was first scientifically named in 1808.
Vanilla planifolia is found in Central America and the West Indies. It prefers hot, wet, tropical climates. It is harvested mostly in Mexico and Madagascar.
Like all members of the genus Vanilla, V. planifolia is a vine. It uses its fleshy roots to support itself as it grows.
Flowers are greenish-yellow, with a diameter of 5 cm (2 in). They last only a day, and must be pollinated manually, during the morning, if fruit is desired. The plants are self-fertile, and pollination simply requires a transfer of the pollen from the anther to the stigma. If pollination does not occur, the flower is dropped the next day. In the wild, there is less than 1% chance that the flowers will be pollinated, so in order to receive a steady flow of fruit, the flowers must be hand-pollinated when grown on farms.
Fruit is produced only on mature plants, which are generally over 3 m (10 ft) long. The fruits are 15-23 cm (6-9 in) long pods (often incorrectly called beans). They mature after about five months, at which point they are harvested and cured. Curing ferments and dries the pods while minimizing the loss of essential oils. Vanilla extract is obtained from this portion of the plant.
The major chemical components from the pods are vanillin, vanillic acid, 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde and 4-hydroxybenzoic acid.

Health Benefits of Vanilla.

Studies on vanillin suggest it contains strong antioxidant and antibacterial properties, and even cancer or tumor fighting abilities. Some other health benefits of vanilla include the following.

Increased libido: Since ancient times, vanilla has been regarded an aphrodisiac. However, ongoing aromatherapy studies suggest that vanilla may increase sexual desire by boosting testosterone levels in men. A 1970s study also claimed that majority of its participants believed that vanilla had cured their impotency. While there is no concrete evidence to prove this, experts believe that the aroma of vanilla does induce feelings of pleasure and satiation.
Skin disorders: Antibacterial properties of vanillin help cleanse skin problems such as pimples and acne. Moreover, antioxidant properties of vanilla help fight the damage caused by free radicals. It may even help slow signs of aging. The cosmetic industry uses vanilla both for its fragrance as well as anti-aging properties.
Burns: Traditionally, home remedies to heal burns, cuts, and wounds have used vanilla. However, it is perhaps unsafe to use concentrated vanilla extract or essential oil on recent burns. Topical treatments containing vanilla may prove beneficial; however, talk to your doctor before you try any home remedies or natural treatment for burns.
Coughing: Cough syrups often use vanilla flavoring to mask bitter tastes. Although there is little evidence to prove the effect of vanilla extract on coughing, the mild anesthetic properties may relieve symptoms such as pain from a sore throat or headache.
Toothache: Vanillin found in vanilla falls under the same category of vanilloids that include capsaicin from chilli peppers and eugenols from spices such as cinnamon. Both these active compounds have an effect on the central nervous system. Capsaicin acts as a pain reliever, while eugenols work effectively as topical anesthetics. These mirroring properties in vanilla may help you fight a toothache and infection.

Medicinal uses

As the nervous system boosting properties of vanilla come to the fore, producers are able to provide the medicinal benefits in a wide variety of ways.
Vanilla extract from the vanilla bean comes pre-packed and ready to use. This concentrated version has a longer shelf life than the fresh beans or dried pods. Sniffing a few drops of vanilla extract is known to provide stress relief. Infact, neurological studies reveal that vanilla extract may prove useful in treatment of depression and anxiety disorders.
Digestion problems maybe relieved by taking vanilla infused herbal tea. Drinking water boiled with vanilla beans is a traditional remedy for nausea, vomiting, and stomach upsets. The aroma of vanilla may help ease queasiness.
Vanilla may prove effective in soothing inflammation as well due to its antioxidant properties.
The supplement industry is also tapping into the medicinal properties of vanillin. While oral intake proves to be less effective since vanillin cannot stand the acidic properties of the stomach, pills or powders designed to withstand stomach acids are becoming popular.

Side effects

Extracting vanillin from vanilla is expensive and difficult. Therefore, lab prepared vanillin or diluted vanilla is mostly used in many products. Guidelines on standard requirements for different forms of vanilla is available here Individuals with sensitive skin may complain of burning or skin irritation if exposed to vanilla extract. Individuals may also experience swelling and inflammation due to intolerance.

Benefits of Vanilla extract for the Skin:

Anti-ageing properties:

The high concentration of anti-oxidants present in vanilla helps to prevent as well as oppose the action of free radicals, which cause great damage to the skin. This way it reduces the occurrence of wrinkles, fine lines on the skin, especially around the eyes and the mouth, and age spots. Vanilla also has pleasant smell, which is made use of in cosmetic industry. Many of the popular perfumes contain vanilla. The anti-ageing property of vanilla also makes it an important ingredient in many of the cosmetics.

For smoothening burns:

One of the traditional uses of vanilla is its use in treating burns, wounds and cuts. You must not use concentrated extracts of vanilla or the essential oil directly on fresh burns. Better you consult a doctor before you carry on with home remedies for burns.

For healthy skin:

Vanilla is rich in Vitamin B complex, which includes niacin, Vitamin B6, thiamin and pantothenic acid. All these are greatly beneficial to have a healthy skin. You can also prevent the damages caused to the skin by pollutants and toxins in the environment by using vanilla. This is because of the anti-oxidant properties of vanilla. A scrub made from vanilla seeds can nourish your skin from within. For this you have to take seeds from 5 beans of vanilla and add to it 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 drops of the vanilla essential oil and fresh lemon juice. Massage this on your face for a few minutes, wash with warm water and then sprinkle some cold water on the face.

Treatment of acne:

Vanilla is used for the treatment of acne because of its antibacterial properties. It cleanses your skin and makes it oil free and dirt free, thus reducing the pimples and acnes on your face.

Benefits of vanilla extract for the Hair:

For silky hair:

To make your hair smooth, silky and shiny, you have to make a hair pack with vanilla. Melt 4 ounce of shea butter and add 5 drops of vanilla essential oil to it, along with 2 tablespoons each of jojoba, almond and castor oils. Let the mixture get cool and then blend them till it becomes smooth. Apply it to the hair, wait for 10 to 15 minutes and then wash off with a shampoo that is mild. This can provide you a silky and manageable hair.

For hair growth:

Comb your hair well and rinse your hair in warm water. Now, heat quarter of a cup of any carrier oil like coconut oil, virgin olive, jojoba or almond oil for 30 seconds. Also add 10 drops each of vanilla and lavender essential oils and mix them properly. Apply it to your hair taking care to put the oil from the root of the hair to the tip of the hair, throughout its whole length. Also massage the scalp for a few minutes. Now cover your head with a warm towel for 15 minutes. Wash off with a mild shampoo. This will enhance the hair growth and also provide your hair a pleasant fragrance.

Various properties of Vanilla:

Anti-oxidant properties:

Vanilla essence contains about 200 compounds with anti-oxidant properties. They reduce the free radicals in your body and minimize the damages caused by them. Aphrodisiac properties:

The rich fragrance of vanilla is said to cure impotency and increase the levels of testosterone in men.

Beneficial for children:

Children love the taste of vanilla. Fever and infection in children are treated by letting them drink a glass of water with one teaspoon of sugar and vanilla extract.

Dental health:

Vanilla acts positively on central nervous system and relieves pain. It is also applied externally to as it has anesthetic properties and relieves pain. So it can be used to treat tooth ache and also to fight infection.

For treating digestive disorders:

Herbal tea containing vanilla is used to treat digestive disorders. One of the traditional remedies for stomach upsets and vomiting is to drink water boiled with vanilla beans. The rich aroma of vanilla relives you from all problems.

For treating menstrual problems:

Vanilla extract is used to regulate menstruation in women. By including vanilla in your regular diet, you can solve this problem to a great extent.

For healing of wounds:

Vanilla has been used from ancient time to heal wounds. But you must not use the vanilla extract directly on wounds and burns.

For treating anxiety and depression:

Studies have proved that vanilla extracts act positively on people suffering from depression and anxiety. This is mainly because of the scent of vanilla. People drinking milk or water containing vanilla extract are said to be relieved from anxiety. Studies have also shown that vanilla aromatherapy play a great role in treating claustrophobia.

Losing weight:

Along with proper exercise and following strict diet, if you take vanilla extracts also on a regular basis, you can lose weight easily and at a faster pace.

Relieving nausea:

If you have any stomach problem and a feeling of nausea, all you have to do is to take a glass of water and add a few drops of vanilla extract to it. Drink it slowly ad you will get relief from nausea immediately. The fragrance of vanilla helps on relieving you from nausea.

Treating cough:

Most of the cough syrups contain vanilla, which greatly helps in hiding the bitter taste of the cough syrup and make it palatable. Vanilla also has some anaesthetic properties, which relieves you from the pain due to sore throat or headache.

With so many properties, vanilla is beneficial for your health, skin and hair. So include vanilla in your daily diet and have a healthy life.


Disclaimer: The information presented herein  is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

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