Vanilla Essential Oil- Benefits, Uses and Origin
Vanilla essential oil has Vanilla, a vine-like evergreen plant, belongs to the Orchid family. There are about 110 species of vanilla. The primary source of vanilla is the Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla or Vanilla planifolia. It is native to Central America and the West Indies and is highly favored because of its sweet warm scent and distinct flavor.
These vines can grow up to 35 meters long. It grows naturally on trees or is grown on poles in plantations. Its brownish red or black pods are where the oil is extracted from. These pods contain an oily liquid where the seeds are found. Vanilla flowers have a tube-like shape and only bloom once when they are fully grown. They are naturally pollinated by a specific insect called the melipona bee found in Mexico and if these flowers are not pollinated, they fall the next day. In plantations, vanillas are hand pollinated by hired laborers to ensure a steady produce. Madagascar and Indonesia are the leading suppliers of vanilla oil in the world.
There are three major species of vanilla grown: the Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla tahitensis, and the Vanilla pompona. The first species is favored for its higher vanillin content.
The main compound of vanilla is vanillin, and it is responsible for its distinct flavor and smell. It The higher the vanillin content, the more health benefits it has. Other compounds present in the oil are eugenol, piperonal, and caproic acid. Vanillin and piperonal give the vanilla its delicious taste and many of its health benefits.
The vanilla flavor or scent that we know results from months of drying, curing, and extracting of the seed pods. Nowadays there is what we call synthetic vanilla. Synthetic vanilla have lower vanillin content and so it is not as effective as the vanilla essential oil. It may give out a similar scent but the health benefits are not the same.
Traditional Uses of Vanilla Essential Oil
It was said that it was at the Totonacs people during the era of ancient Aztec were the first to cultivate vanilla in mountains of Mexico. They called it the black flower. They were the first one to develop a taste for vanilla and grew it to be a source of food. Vanilla was also used to add flavor to food and sweeten their drinks.
The Spanish explorers were the first ones who brought vanilla to Europe, Africa, and Asia in the 16th century. The Spanish called it vanillia which means “little pod.” Vanilla became a popular flavoring for desserts and ingredient in perfumes in Europe.
Vanilla was used as a cure for fevers and as an aphrodisiac in the olden days.
Benefits of using Vanilla Essential Oil
Inhibits growth of cancer cells
Vanilla’s anti-carcinogenic property helps combat free radicals in the body that causes oxidative stress. Oxidative stress leads to development of cancer. Vanilla has the potential to be a natural compound for treating the disease as it inhibits the growth of cancer cells caused by the free radicals.
Vanilla oil’s antibacterial property is effective in fighting bacteria that are commonly found in the skin and in the respiratory tract. Its eugenol and vanillin content enables it to fight infections.
Vanilla used as a home remedy for depression and anxiety dates back to the 17th century it. It helps calm the mind, ease anxiety and stress, and help manage emotions such as anger.
Vanilla is a sedative which helps people who suffer from insomnia. Vanilla oil gives off a calming and relaxing effect on the brain and nerves. Adding lavender or chamomile essential oil to vanilla can give a deeper and more relaxing effect.
Lowers blood pressure
High blood pressure can put stress on the heart and lead to stroke, diabetes, or heart attack. By relaxing both body and mind, vanilla oil can help lower blood pressure.
Acts as an aphrodisiac
The aroma of vanilla is said to have a positive effect on men’s sexual drive. Vanilla oil is helpful to those who suffer from loss of libido and impotence. It can stimulate the secretion of hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, which can boost sexual behavior and desire.
Good for this skin and hair
Vanilla oil contains certain compounds and nutrients, such as vitamin B, which is good for the skin. It promotes healthy skin and prevents signs of skin aging such as wrinkles, age spots, and fine lines.
Relief for menstrual pain
Common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome include mood swings, bloating, tenderness of the breast, cramps, and even fatigue. Since vanilla oil can stimulate the production of estrogen, menstruation becomes fairly regular and with it comes a relief from the different symptoms of PMS.
Using vanilla oil in a diffuser or simply putting a few drops of it on a handkerchief and inhaling it can help relieve uncomfortable symptoms of colds and allergies.
When the body suffers from infections or injuries, inflammation usually occurs. Vanilla is known to be anti inflammatory. This property of vanilla oil helps assist the different systems of the body. It also works against inflammations caused by allergies, fever, and convulsions. It is also used to treat pain and inflammation caused by arthritis.
Safety Tips and Precautions
Although vanilla extract is safe for ingesting, vanilla oil is not. Vanilla extract and vanilla oil are not the same.
Vanilla oil is safe for aromatic and topical use but note that essential oils should first be diluted in carrier oil before being applied directly to the skin. It is best to do a patch skin test to see if any irritation might occur.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women and children are not advised to use vanilla essential oil.
Since vanilla essential oil is expensive, finding something with a significantly lower price means that it is synthetically made and might not contain all the compounds found in vanilla essential oil.