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Benefits of Vanilla Extracts


Mayan and Aztec civilizations have known about the properties of vanilla for ages. They would grind fresh pods to create medicinal elixirs and use it as royal drinks. Today, this expensive spice is gaining more attention as studies suggest that the anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties of vanilla and vanilla extract may act as inhibitors to cancer cells.

 

Nutrient content


Extract from vanilla beans involves a long process of fermentation and filtering. However, both the pod and extract contain essential B-vitamins such as niacin, panthothenic acid, thiamin, and riboflavin and small amounts of minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc. Polyphenols found in the vanilla plant include vanillin, the chemical compound, which produces the strong aroma.
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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  http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=169.175
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.

References:

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=VAPO2
http://unitproj.library.ucla.edu/biomed/spice/index.cfm?displayID=27

Submitted on January 16, 2014
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