Nature’s Healing Powers – Herbal Remedy – Part II – Vanilla
The Incredible Powers of the Vanilla Bean
Pleasantly fragrant rich vanilla beans are the pods or fruits obtained from a tropical climbing orchid. Mayans used them to flavor chocolate drink centuries before the Spanish first set their foot in Mexico in 1520. This highly prized bean is native tothe tropical rain forest of Central America and only recently spread to other tropical-regions by Spanish explorers.
Botanically, the plant is a perennial herbaceous climbing vine belonging to the family of Orchidaceae, in the genus: vanilla. Scientific name:Vanilla planifolia. Medieval healers used vanilla bean pods to treat medical ailments, according to a 2008 review in “Economic Botany.” Modern researchers have yet to document such use, but vanilla beans do have medicinal properties.
- Vanilla extract composed of simple and complex sugars, essential oils, vitamins and minerals.
- The chief chemical component in the beans is vanillin. They also include numerous traces of other constituents such as eugenol, caproic acid, phenoles, phenol ether, alcohols, carbonyl compounds, acids, ester, lactones, aliphatic and aromatic carbohydrates and vitispiranes.
- Ancient Mayans believed that vanilla drink was supposed to have aphrodisiac qualities. No modern research study, however, establishes its role in the treatment of sexual dysfunctions.
- Its extract contains small amounts of B-complex groups of vitamins such as niacin, pantothenic acid, thiamin, riboflavin and vitamin B-6. These vitamins help in enzyme synthesis, nervous system function and regulating body metabolism.
- This spice also contains small traces of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron and zinc. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are used by the body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome-oxidases enzymes.
The scent of vanilla has a calming effect that can complement traditional treatments for anxiety. An investigation published in 2005 in “Chemical Senses” looked at the effect of the vanilla scent. Participants inhaled vanilla bean samples and reported increased feelings of relaxation and happiness.
The addition of vanilla to food products can increase their safety without making them taste bad. A study described in the 2005 edition of the “Journal of Food Protection” tested the effect of vanillin — which triggers the release of vanillic acid — on common bacteria. The researchers exposed bacteria from the Listeria family to vanilla extracts. They found that vanillin inhibited the growth of all strains. Vanillin appeared to be most effective in foods with low pH values.
Vanilla could prove useful in the fight against cancer. The mechanism remains unknown, although the anti-oxidant properties in vanilla appear to be a factor. Anti-oxidants block free radicals — substances known to cause cancer and aging. A 2005 article in the “European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences” tested the ability of vanilla bean extracts to fight cancer in an animal model of breast cancer. Mice received vanillin or water for an extended period of time. Relative to the placebo, vanillin reduced the number of cancer cells without causing toxicity.
In a study published in 2007 in “E-SPEN,” the European e-Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, researchers used vanillin to measure compliance with prescribed medications. Participants received a drink containing vanillin or a placebo. Researchers found that the vanillin showed up in participants’ urine. Adding vanillin to medications can help health-care professionals make sure that patients are getting what they need.
Aromatherapists can use many essential oils to help people relax and reduce stress, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center in its review of aromatherapy and essential oil treatments. A report in a 2005 issue of “Chemical Senses,” found that people exposed to vanilla essential oil’s fragrance felt a boost in their mood and felt more relaxed, but there is not enough current research to confirm vanilla essential oil’s effect as a mood relaxant.
Essential oil researcher Jeanne Rose describes vanilla oil’s benefits in her book “375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.”
Rose notes that vanilla has a long history of use as an aphrodisiac agent–something that increases sexual arousal and interest.
Here is a romantic concoction with vanilla:
- 3 drops of sandalwood essential oil – Sedative and aphrodisiac
- 2 drops of vanilla essential oil – aphrodisiac
- 3 drops of cedar wood essential oil – relaxing and aphrodisiac
- 15 drops of bergamot essential oil – mood enhancer and reviving
- 1/2 pint (about 300mls) of either ethyl alcohol or vodka
- Pour the alcohol/vodka into a spray bottle or a small jar with a tight fitting lid.
- Add all of the essential oils and then give it a good shake.
- Allow to sit for a week before using.
- For best results spray on pulse spots (or use in a diffuser).
Aromatherapy is the practice of using aromatic essential oils from plants to achieve physical and psychological benefits. You can enjoy the aromas of essential oils by warming them in fragrance diffusers, or add them to gels or lotions and apply them to the skin. Do not apply undiluted essential oils to the skin as this can cause irritation.