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Benefits of Vanilla

Vanilla Beans

Last week, I wrote about the Vanilla Plant. But vanilla is much more than just a sweet and fragrant flavor. Pure vanilla extract possesses several medicinal properties and can be beneficial for your health in various ways.

  1. Treats Anxiety and Depression

    Certain neurological studies have shown that vanilla extract can have a huge effect on those suffering from depression and anxiety disorders. Vanilla scent is specifically helpful for this purpose. For example, sipping water or milk containing vanilla has helped cure people with these disorders.

  2. Assists Weight Loss

    Certain studies have shown that vanilla extract can help people lose weight. Though exercise and diet play a primary role in weight loss, these efforts can be supplemented with the intake of vanilla extract for greater and perhaps faster benefits.

  3. Relieves Nausea

    One of the best benefits of vanilla extract is that it can help calm the stomach in case of a feeling of nausea. All you need to do is add a few drops of vanilla extract to a glass of water and sip.

  4. Treats Cough

    Cough syrups often contain vanilla extract as a flavoring to mask the awful taste. Though further research is needed in this regard, the properties of vanilla extract can relieve symptoms such as pain from a sore throat or from a cough.

  5. Improves Dental Health

    Vanillin in vanilla is similar to capsaicin in chili peppers. This compound has a positive effect on the central nervous system. Vanilla can help fight toothache and infection.

  6. Treats Digestive Disorders

    Vanilla infused herbal tea can relieve digestive problems. A traditional remedy for vomiting and stomach upsets is to boil water with vanilla beans. Its rich aroma is effective in easing bloating.

You might find this surprising, but the benefits of vanilla extend to your skin. It is used as an ingredient in several skincare products like body lotions, lip balms, body butters, and creams to impart fragrance, but it has other skin benefits as well.

  1. Treatment of Acne

    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.

  2. Anti-aging Benefits

    Vanilla is rich in antioxidants which prevent and reverse skin damage caused by free radicals. It helps to slow down signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots. It is widely used in the cosmetic industry for its fragrance and anti-aging benefits.

  3. Soothes Burns

    Vanilla is used as a traditional remedy to heal burns, wounds, and cuts. Concentrated vanilla extracts or essential oil should not be applied directly on recent burns. However, topical treatments containing vanilla extracts might be helpful.

  4. Promotes Healthy Skin

    Vanilla is a good source of vitamin B, which plays an important role in the maintenance of healthy skin. The antioxidant properties of vanilla protect your skin from damage caused by the environment.

For a facial masque, all you need to do is slice open five vanilla beans to scrape out its seeds. Add these seeds together with 3 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 drops vanilla essential oil to freshly squeezed lemon juice. Mix the ingredients and apply it on your face. Massage for a few minutes and then rinse off with warm water. Then rinse.

The Vanilla Plant

Vanilla Plant Illustration

The vanilla flavor is well known all over the world, but only some of us are aware of its source and origin. There is much more about this flavor that has been a part of many different desserts for centuries.

Vanilla ice cream, and other desserts that we love eating, attribute their flavor to the presence of an extract derived from vanilla beans. These beans are sun-dried pods obtained from orchids of the genus Vanilla. It’s fragrance and amazingly soft and sweet flavor make it a popular ingredient in sweet drinks and confectioneries. Obtaining these beans is a labor-intensive process.

The vanilla plant is an herbaceous climbing vine that requires a supporting tree or pole for optimal growth. It has trumpet-shaped flowers which are naturally pollinated by bees and hummingbirds. Vanilla pods turn yellow as they grow to be about 5 to 8 inches long and are ready to bloom. These are harvested, placed in boiling water, sweated, and sun-dried for a few weeks until they turn dark brown and wrinkled. The white crystalline essence known as vanillin is extracted from these quality beans. This essence is referred to as the vanilla flavor.

The most common form of vanilla is vanilla extract which is prepared by soaking chopped vanilla beans in ethyl alcohol and water for about 48 hours. The mixture is stored for several months and then filtered. Several varieties of vanilla are available in the market; Madagascar vanilla is the most widely used accounting for 75% of vanilla production. Tahiti and Mexico supply the majority of the rest.

Vanilla pods contain several tiny black seeds which are used to flavor many desserts and chocolates. Vanillin is the essence of vanilla bean, but artificial vanillin is also produced on a large scale from wood pulp by-products. The vanilla flavoring is often a blend of pure and imitation vanilla. The appearance of tiny black specks in a vanilla flavored dish is an indication that real vanilla beans were used.

The nutritional value of vanilla makes it beneficial for your skin, hair, and health. Vanilla extract is known as the storehouse of essential oils, vitamins, and minerals as well as sugars.

Next week, I’ll post about the health and skin benefits of vanilla.