Vanilla is the most preferred flavor by many. Be it perfumes, ice creams, or beauty products, this stands as a favorite flavor for many of us. But are you aware of vanilla benefits? It can positively impact your hair, skin, and overall health. Learn more about vanilla and its benefits here.
In This Article
What Is Vanilla?
The mere mention of vanilla cake, vanilla custard or vanilla ice cream makes us drool! This vanilla flavor is relished all over the world. Only some of us are aware of its source and origin. Let us know more about this flavor that has been a part of sumptuous desserts for centuries.
The vanilla ice cream and other desserts that we love eating attribute their flavor to the presence of vanilla extract which is derived from vanilla beans. These beans are sun-dried pods obtained from the orchids of the genus Vanilla. Its amazingly soft and sweet flavor and fragrance make it a popular ingredient in sweet drinks and confectioneries. These beans are obtained through a labor-intensive process.
Vanilla Essence And Extract
The vanilla plant is an herbaceous climbing vine that requires a supporting tree or pole for optimal growth. It bears trumpet-shaped flowers which are naturally pollinated by bees and hummingbirds and even hand pollinated. Unripe vanilla pods turn yellow when they grow 5 to 8 inches long and are ready to harvest. These are then blanched in boiling water, sweated and sun dried for a few weeks until they turn dark brown and wrinkled. Then the white crystalline essence known as vanillin is extracted from some superior quality beans. This essence is referred to as the vanilla flavor.
The most common form of vanilla is vanilla extract which is prepared by percolating 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 of which Madagascar vanilla is the most widely used. This rich sweet variety accounts for 75% of the vanilla production while the remaining comprises of vanilla from Tahiti and Mexico.
Vanilla pods contain several tiny black seeds which are used to flavor many sweet dishes 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 of pure vanilla.
Skin Benefits Of Vanilla Essence Extract
You might find this surprising. The benefits of vanilla extract or essence 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.
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 (1).
2. Anti-Aging Benefits
Vanilla is rich in antioxidants which prevent and reverse skin damage caused by free radicals (2). 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. Applying raw vanilla beans infused with organic oil imparts a great chocolaty fragrance besides making your skin smooth and soft.
3. Soothes Burns
Vanilla has been used as a traditional remedy to heal burns, wounds and cuts. But concentrated vanilla extracts or essential oils should not be applied directly to recent burns. Topical treatments containing vanilla extracts might be helpful. It is advisable to consult your doctor before using any such home remedies for burns. However, more research is warranted in this regard.
4. Promotes Healthy Skin
Vanilla is a good source of B-vitamins like niacin, thiamin, Vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid which play an important role in the maintenance of healthy skin. The antioxidant properties of vanilla protect your skin from damage caused by environmental pollutants and toxins (2). You can prepare a scrub to revive your skin from within. All you need to do is slice open 5 vanilla beans to scrape out its seeds. Add these seeds along 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, splash some cold water on your face.
Hair Benefits Of Vanilla
The list of benefits of vanilla is incomplete if we do not talk about its role in hair care. It is a good source of many nutrients which help in the maintenance of hair health.
5. Vanilla For Silky Hair
Vanilla when mixed with other ingredients can make your hair silky, shiny and smooth. You can prepare a hair pack for this purpose. Melt about 4 oz. shea butter in a boiler. After it has fully melted, add 5 drops of vanilla essential oil and 2 tablespoons each of almond, jojoba and castor oils. After cooling, blend this mixture until it achieves a softer consistency. You can apply this mixture on your hair for 10 to 15 minutes and wash off with a mild shampoo. This will make your hair soft and manageable without making it sticky. This mixture can be stored at room temperature or refrigerated for future use.
6. Promotes Hair Growth
Both carrier and essential oils help in promoting hair growth (6). These oils can be combined with vanilla essential oil for a hot oil treatment. To begin with, detangle your hair with a wide-toothed comb and rinse it thoroughly with warm water. After this, warm ¼ cup of any carrier oil such as virgin olive, jojoba, almond or coconut oil on high heat for about 30 seconds. Add 10 drops each of lavender and vanilla essential oils to it and mix thoroughly. Applying this on your hair from the roots to the ends, massage your scalp in circular motions for 2 to 3 minutes. Ensure to apply it along the full length of your hair strands, concentrating more on the dry ends. Fasten your hair with a hair clip and wrap a warm towel around your head. Leave for 15 minutes. Then again wrap a warm towel for another 15 minutes. Wash off with a mild shampoo.
The quantity of oil that you use depends upon your hair texture. This will make your hair softer, fuller and shinier besides imparting an amazing scent.
Health Benefits Of Vanilla
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.
7. Treatment For Anxiety And Depression
Certain neurological studies have proved that vanilla extract can have a positive effect on those suffering from depression and anxiety disorders. In rat studies, the vanillin in vanilla was found to demonstrate antidepressant activity. Sipping water or milk containing vanilla extract helps reduce anxiety in some people (3).
This aromatic spice is beneficial for your nervous system. Research conducted by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York indicated that exposure to vanilla aromatherapy has proven to be effective in alleviating the symptoms of claustrophobia.
8. May Aid 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 benefits. However, further research is needed to substantiate this claim.
9. Relieves Nausea
One of the best benefits of vanilla extract is that it may 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 it slowly. The amazing vanilla scent will help to relieve the feeling of nausea. However, more research is warranted in this regard.
10. Treatment For Cough
Cough syrups often use vanilla extract as a flavoring to mask their bitter taste. Though further research is needed in this regard, the mild anesthetic properties of vanilla extract can relieve symptoms such as pain from a sore throat or headache.
11. 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 anesthetics. Vanilla is said to possess both these properties and may help fight toothache and infection. However, more research is warranted in this regard.
12. Treatment For Digestive Disorders
Vanilla infused herbal tea can relieve digestive problems. Water boiled with vanilla beans is a traditional remedy for vomiting and an upset stomach. Its rich aroma could be effective in easing queasiness.
13. Aphrodisiac Properties
Vanilla has been used as an aphrodisiac since ancient times. Some believe vanilla can increase sexual desire by boosting testosterone levels in men. Usage of vanilla may also help treat impotency. However, limited research is available in this regard.
14. Treatment Of Menstrual Problems
Vanilla extract is beneficial in the regulation of menstruation. It can be used by women with irregular periods to regulate their cycles. Though several medications are available for the treatment of these problems, slight problems can be cured by making vanilla extract a part of your diet.
15. Aids Wound Healing
The usage of vanilla extract for healing wounds dates back to ancient times. Its anti-inflammatory properties can soothe and calm inflamed areas on the skin. It is considered a great home remedy for wound healing. Note that the direct use of vanilla extract on open wounds and burns should be avoided.
16. Antioxidant Properties
The distinct flavor and health benefits of vanilla essence can be attributed to the presence of about 200 compounds which possess antioxidant properties. The high level of antioxidants reduces free radicals in your body. These free radicals are the waste products resulting from normal as well as harmful metabolic processes. They can cause various diseases including cancer. Vanilla possesses both antioxidant and cancer-fighting properties (4).
17. Beneficial For Children
As per anecdotal evidence, vanilla extract added to a glass of warm water with a teaspoon of sugar may help reduce fever and fight infections in children.
The nutritional value of vanilla is what makes it beneficial for your skin, hair and health in so many ways. Vanilla extract is the storehouse of essential oils, vitamins and minerals as well as simple and complex sugars. The in-depth nutritional profile of this aromatic spice can be understood from the table and explanation given below.
|See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:Vanilla extract (Vanilla planifolia), Nutritional value per 100 g.|
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
|Principle||Nutrient value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.06 g||<1%|
|Dietary Fiber||0.0 g||0%|
|Pantothenic caid||0.035 mg||0.5%|
|Vitamin A||0 IU||0%|
|Vitamin C||0 mg||0%|
- Vanillin: 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.
You may continue to use vanilla extracts for flavoring your desserts. However, topical application may cause dermatitis on certain skin types. Essential oils applied to acne-prone skin may cause acne flare-ups. Also, lemon juice with vanilla, when applied to skin, may cause burns. Hence, vanilla must be used on hair and skin preferably after consulting a dermatologist. Vanilla may be a good treatment option for anxiety disorders nonetheless. It also has potent anti-inflammatory properties and may aid weight loss too.
Vanilla is not only a favorite flavor for many in desserts, cake, and ice cream, but the vanilla pods help boost your skin, hair, and overall health as well. Vanilla beans help soothe acne and burns while providing anti-aging skin benefits. When infused with shea butter and castor, almond or jojoba oil, vanilla beans help make your hair soft, smooth, and silky. Along with vanilla’s benefits for your skin and hair, it helps calm anxiety and signs of depression as well. It is also effective in relieving cough, nausea, and digestive disorders. However, it should be included as a remedy only after professional consultation as it may cause skin allergies and irritations for a few people.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is vanilla unhealthy?
Vanilla is considered safe when taken by mouth. However, some people are allergic to it. In addition, ingestion of vanilla extract is treated similarly to alcohol intoxication.
Does vanilla extract help you sleep?
Yes. The scent of vanilla exhibits relaxing properties and is used to treat sleep disorders (5).
Does vanilla affect hormones?
The aroma of vanilla bean extract exhibits anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties (6). It may allow your brain to produce feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin.
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