Posted by: godshealingplants | January 13, 2020

VANILLA HEALTH BENEFITS

HISTORY

Vanilla is a worldwide popular ingredient that was historically used by the Aztecs to make a cocoa drink that only the kings were privileged to consume. When the Spanish came to Mexico in the 16th century, the Aztecs introduced Cortez to the drink. He brought vanilla and cacao back to Europe where it was enjoyed by only the rich and famous for many years.

Up until the middle of the 19th century, Mexico was the only producer of Vanilla. However, in 1819, French entrepreneurs tried their hand at cultivating the bean on their own islands. They failed until they came up with a method of hand pollinating the flowers, because only a bee found in certain regions of Mexico would pollinate the Vanilla flower. With the French discovery vanilla began to flourish on tropical islands like Mauritius, Madagascar, Reunion Island and the Comoros Islands.

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron because its production is so labor-intensive.

Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing vanilla to the United States in the late 1700s. While serving as Ambassador to France, he learned the use of vanilla beans, and when he returned to the United States, brought vanilla beans with him.

ABOUT

Vanilla comes from a flowering plant genus of about 110 species in the orchid family (Orchidaceae). The most widely known member is the flat-leaved vanilla (Vanilla planifolia), native to Mexico, from which commercial vanilla flavoring is derived. It is the only orchid widely used for industrial purposes in flavoring such products as foods, beverages and cosmetics, and is recognized as the most popular aroma and flavor. The key constituent is the phenolic aldehyde, vanillin.

In its natural habitat the plant grows as a clinging vine that attaches itself to a tree, reaching up to 300 feet. 

Blooming occurs only when the vine reaches about 3 years. Each flower opens up in the morning and closes late in the afternoon on the same day, never to reopen. If pollination has not occurred during that time, it dries up and drops.

The flowers are pollinated by stingless bees (e.g. Melipona) and certain hummingbirds, which visit the flowers primarily for nectar. They are greenish-yellow in color and about four inches in diameter.

In commercial growing farms, the orchids are hand pollinated and require trees or poles for the vanilla vine to climb and anchor its roots.

If pollination is successful, the pods develop, and are filled with thousands of minuscule black seeds. These pods can range in size from 5-22cm in length. The pods must be hand-picked at precisely the right time to ensure that the seed pods don’t pop open and that they are properly ripe. They are then subjected to a prolonged, multi-step curing process. The end result is the dried, but aromatic, black pods sold by spice supplier.

Vanilla is the world’s most labor-intensive agricultural crop, which is why it’s so expensive. It can take up to three years after the vines are planted before the first flowers appear. The pods that it forms resemble large green beans, must remain on the vine for nine months before being carefully hand picked. However, when the beans are harvested, they are still partially green and therefore have neither flavor nor fragrance. They develop these distinctive properties during the drying process.

After the beans are harvested, they are dried in the sun.  However, in many countries they are treated with hot water or heat and are then placed in the sun every day for weeks-to-months until they have shrunk to 20% of their original size. After this process is complete, the pods are sorted for size and quality. Then they are stored for another month or two to finish developing their full flavor and fragrance. By the time they are shipped, their aroma is quite remarkable!

NUTRITIONAL PROFILE

Vanilla beans have been shown to contain over 200 compounds, which can vary in concentration depending on the region where the pods are harvested. However, the amount added to recipes likely isn’t going to affect your daily nutrition significantly.

Vanillin: Is the primary chemical component in vanilla beans. They also contain traces of other constituents like euganol, caproic acid, phenoles, phenole ether, alcohols, aids, aliphatic and aromatic carbohydrates, lactones, esters and carbonyl compounds.

Vitamins: Vanilla extract comprises of small amounts of B-complex vitamins like niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, Vitamin B6 and thiamine. These vitamins aid in enzyme synthesis, nervous system function and regulation of body metabolism.

Minerals: Vanilla extract also contains traces of minerals like magnesium, calcium, manganese, potassium, iron and zinc.

HEALTH BENEFITS

There are many reasons why vanilla can improve your overall health and vitality. Whether you are looking for a new way to sweeten foods or your mood, this is an excellent option.

Antidepressant – Vanilla has been commonly used as a home remedy from the 17th century to fight anxiety and depression. Vanilla oil has a calming effect on the brain, which helps with anger, insomnia, stress and anxiety. Sipping water or milk containing vanilla extract helps reduce anxiety in some people.

Dental Health – Vanillin in vanilla is similar to capsaicin in chilli peppers and euganols in spices such as cinnamon. This compound has a positive effect on the central nervous system. Capsaicin is an effective pain reliever while euganols act as topical anaesthetics. Vanilla possesses both these properties which help fight toothache and infection.

Digestive Disorders – Vanilla infused herbal tea can relieve digestive problems. Water boiled with vanilla beans is a traditional remedy for digestive disorders. Its rich aroma is effective in easing queasiness and preventing vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, and stomach upset.  

Fights Infections – Some components present in vanilla oil, such as eugenol and vanillin hydroxybenzaldehyde, are able to fight infections. A 2014 study published in Basel, Switzerland, examined the effectiveness of vanilla oil as an antibacterial agent when used on the surface of bacterial cells. The study found that vanilla oil strongly inhibited both the initial adherence of S. aureus cells and the development of the mature biofilm after 48 hours. S. aureus cells are bacteria frequently found in the human respiratory tract and on the skin.

Immune System – Vanilla bean is rich in antioxidants and can help preserve your immune system. Antioxidants help protect your cells from breaking down and stimulate cellular re-growth. Not only that, but vanilla also acts as a natural antibiotic. This works to promote faster recovery when you are sick. 

Lowers Blood Pressure – Vanilla oil’s sedative effects on the body allow it to naturally lower blood pressure by relaxing the body and mind. High blood pressure is when the pressure on the arteries and blood vessels becomes too high and the arterial wall becomes distorted, causing extra stress on the heart. 

High blood pressure levels can put you at risk for having a stroke, heart attack and diabetes. A major cause of high blood pressure is stress; by relaxing the muscles and mind, vanilla oil is able to lower blood pressure levels. Vanilla oil also helps you to get more sleep, which is another easy way to lower blood pressure levels. Vanilla oil serves as a natural remedy for high blood pressure because it also acts as an antioxidant, so it reduces oxidative stress and dilates the arteries.

Lowers Cholesterol and Triglycerides – Vanillin, the component with the most antioxidant value, has the power to lower cholesterol naturally and reduce triglycerides levels. This leads to better heart health and reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Prevents the Growth of Cancer Cells – Vanilla essential oil has anti-carcinogenic properties. It helps inhibit the development of cancer before it becomes a problem, making it a potential natural cancer treatment. This powerful oil curbs the growth of cancerous cells, mostly because of it acts as an antioxidant that prevents the oxidation of cells. Antioxidants kill free radicals in the body and reverse oxidative stress-causing chronic disease.

Reduces Inflammation – Because vanilla is high in antioxidants, it reduces damage caused by inflammation. Inflammation is associated with just about every health condition, and researchers are zealously investigating chronic inflammation’s effects on health and possible preventive medical applications. Luckily, vanilla oil is a sedative, so it reduces stress on the body such as inflammation, making it an anti-inflammatory food; this is helpful to the respiratory, digestive, nervous, circulatory and excretory systems.

Relieves PMS Symptoms – Vanilla oil serves as a natural remedy for PMS and cramps because it activates or balances hormone levels and manages stress, leaving your body and mind relaxed. Vanilla oil works as a sedative, so your body isn’t in a state of hypersensitivity while experiencing PMS symptoms; instead, it’s tranquil and the symptoms are minimized.

Rheumatoid Arthritis –  Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune dysfunction where the white blood cells destroy the cartilage. This may be related to food allergies, bacterial infections, stress or excess acid in the body. Vanilla oil’s anti-inflammatory, sedative and antibacterial properties make it a perfect natural arthritis treatment.

ADDITIONAL BENEFITS

The benefits of vanilla extract extend to your skin as well. It is used as an ingredient in several skincare products like body lotions, lip balms, body butters and creams to impart fragrance. 

Acne Treatment – The antibacterial properties of vanilla make it beneficial for the treatment of acne. Vanillin, through its antibacterial effects, helps cleanse your skin, reducing the occurrence of pimples and acne.

Hair Care – Vanilla is often included in hygiene and beauty products because of its many effects on the hair and skin. If you suffer from frequent split ends or hair loss, applying its essential oil in a carrier oil of some kind can measurably strengthen the hair and induce blood flow to the scalp, encouraging growth and more aesthetically pleasing hair. 

WHERE TO BUY

Vanilla beans are notoriously expensive. The price reflects their rarity and the labor involved in growing them. “Premium” vanilla beans are thicker than “Grade B” beans, which is the most common sold in stores. You will generally find a single bean folded up in a spice jar or in long glass vials in the spice aisle of grocery stores and supermarkets.

They are available in bulk quantities, ranging from five to a few dozen beans, from online retailers and this generally reduces the price per bean considerably. However, buy only what you will use within six months to avoid waste. Vanilla bean paste is available online and at specialty food and kitchen supply stores. It is expensive as well.

Whole vanilla beans should be flexible, moist, plump, glossy, and very fragrant. Avoid any that are dry, brittle, or dull; these are signs that they have been improperly stored or are too old.

Vanilla beans are costly, retailing in some specialty shops for as much as $2 to $3 each. The price of pure vanilla extract is also high, but this can vary due to the quality of the beans used to make it. The best vanilla beans are the products of orchids that grow only in tropical climates.

Beware of “pure” vanilla extract that seems unusually cheap. If the price seems to be too good to be true, it’s probably an adulterated extract or the beans were of poor quality.

HOW TO STORE

To maintain the freshness of vanilla beans, store them in an airtight container, removing as much air as possible. Keep it in a cool, dry, and dark place. Refrigerating vanilla beans may cause mold growth and speed up drying.

Open the container for about 15 minutes every few weeks to air out the beans. It’s best to use beans within six months as they will dry out over time, even under the best conditions. They can be stored for eight to 12 months, and sometimes up to two years in optimal conditions.

Commercial vanilla bean paste can have a shelf life of up to three years; homemade versions are typically good for one year. It should also be stored in an airtight container, typically a glass jar, at room temperature.

HOW TO ENJOY

Both vanilla pods and seeds are used for cooking.

Vanilla raspberry cake

Vanilla Flan Cake


Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting

Vanilla Ice Cream 

Vanilla cheesecake with pecan toping 

 

Vanilla Chia Seeds smoothie 

 

Bunt cake with vanilla and coconut frosting

Vanilla pudding with strawberries

WARNING

Vanilla is safe to ingest, but there are potential side effects. If you mix vanilla beans with a carrier oil in order to make an infusion, make sure you use a carrier oil that’s safe for consumption like coconut oil. Some side effects of using vanilla oil internally or topically are irritation, inflammation or swelling. It’s a good idea to start with small doses and work your way up from there. If you use vanilla oil on your skin, apply it to a small area first.

SOURCES

  • Rose, J. The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations. North Atlantic Books. 1992. 1-373. 
  • National Geographic: The History of Vanilla
  • S. Food and Drug Administration: Some “Vanilla_Extract” Produced in Mexico is No Bargain 
  • Shyamala BN, et al. Studies on the Antioxidant Activities of Natural_Vanilla Extract and Its Constituent Compounds through in vitro J Agric. Food Chem. 2007 Aug;55(19):7738-7743. PMID: 17715988
  • Guzman CC, and Zara RR. Handbook of Herbs and Spices. Woodhead Publishing Limited. 2012 Jan;2(1):547-589. Online ISBN: 978-0-85709-567-1
  • Cava-Roda RM, et al. Antimicrobial Activity of Vanillin and Mixtures with Cinnamon and Clove Essential Oils in Controlling Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli O157:H7 in milk. Food and Bioprocess Tech. 2012 Aug;5(6):2120-2131. DOI: 1007/s11947-010-0484-4
  • Jung HJ, et al. Assessment of the anti-angiogenic, anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive properties of ethyl vanillin. Archives of Pharm. Res. 2010 Feb;33(2):303-316. DOI: 1007/s12272-010-0217-2
  • Social Issues Research Centre: The Smell Report “Vanilla” 

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