Vanilla planifolia is the scientific name of the vanilla plant and it was largely found in South America, the Caribbean and the Central parts of America. Vanilla belongs to the orchid family of plants and is the only orchid out of twenty five thousand other species of orchid that is cultivated as a source of food.
Brief history of Vanilla
Let’s get into the brief, albeit interesting, history of vanilla. In the 1400s Vanilla was cultivated by the indigenous people of Mexico called the Totonacs before they were defeated by the Aztec empire. Archeologists have deduced that the Totonacs used vanilla to flavor everything from their drinks to their tobacco. Later, the Aztecs were conquered by the invading Spanish, who took back with them a lot of riches, including vanilla. Vanilla did not hit it off in Europe immediately. It was only after a queen liked its flavor that its popularity rose. It was used as a spice in France and from there it came to America and soon became the de facto ice cream flavor for years. Later on, it found its way into cosmetics and perfumery. Globalization took Vanilla on a world trip and the industrial and green revolutions made its harvest easier. Currently Indonesia is the largest producer of the beans.
Vanilla essential oil
Nowadays the essential oil form of vanilla is quite popular. It is extracted from the fermented vanilla beans through the process of solvent extraction. Vanilla essential oil has a sweet aroma, similar to the plant. It serves several purposes and has an amazing effect and benefits when used in aromatherapy. It is composed of some of the potent compounds including capric acid, isobutyric acid, acetic acid, vanillin and furfural. Some of its properties with health benefits include anti-carcinogenic, sedative, antioxidant and febrifuge or antipyretic. Let’s look at some of the vanilla essential oil benefits.
Benefits of vanilla essential oil
Because of the compounds that it is composed of, vanilla essential oil can be used as a supplementary remedy for several diseases and disorders.
It eliminates free radicals – Vanilla essential oil removes the excess presence of free radicals in the body. Free radicals can cause many chronic illnesses including cardiovascular diseases, cataract and cancer. Generally free radicals are produced during metabolism, but external factors such as habits and environment can increase the presence of free radicals in the body, which can oxidize the cellular structure and can even change the DNA. It can lead to other problems including nervous system dysfunction, vision and hearing problems, and mental disorders. Vanilla essential oil has an antioxidant property that nullifies the excess free radicals thus protecting the body from chronic diseases. Vanilla also has anticarcinogenic properties. Free radicals are one of the reasons for cancer development. Hence, vanilla essential oil is good to slow the spread of cancer.
An aphrodisiac – The aroma of vanilla is intoxicating and has an arousing effect. It is a good organic treatment for people having mild sexual disorders. However, it is only known by hearsay; more evidence is needed to corroborate the claim.
Infection and fever preventer – Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory characteristics are needed to stop infections and lower the symptoms of fever. Vanilla essential oil has both these properties because of its compounds vanillin and eugenol. It can be ingested to eliminate bacteria and recover from fever. It has the compound Hydroxybenzaldehyde, which has been used since ancient times to treat migraine and headaches. Hydroxybenzaldehyde has been researched and used in modern medicines to treat headaches and fever.
Mood uplifting – Vanilla oil acts as an antidepressant and uplifts the mood. The compounds in the oil also have sedative properties that ensure a pleasant sleep to rejuvenate the senses. When used in aromatherapy, vanilla oil’s aroma relaxes the brain and calms the nerves, thereby lowering negative emotions.
Regulates body functions – Vanilla oil is anti-inflammatory and hence lowers swelling, temperature and discomfort in body parts. It regularizes the functioning of the systems including respiratory, digestive and nervous.
These are some of the many benefits of vanilla essential oil. Now, let’s look at how to use vanilla essential oil and some vanilla oil recipes.
- To get relief from cramps and muscle weaknesses, massage the oil mixed with jojoba oil on the affected area till the oil is absorbed.
- Here’s how to use essential oil for good sleep. Add five drops of vanilla oil into hot water and inhale the steam half an hour before sleep. This method can also be used for relaxation and balancing emotions.
- Add a small drop of vanilla oil on a cotton ball and apply it on the area near acne to eliminate the bacteria.
Vanilla oil can be used with other essential oils as well. Two of the best blends that give out amazing aromas are vanilla and sandalwood oil blends, and vanilla and lavender oil blends. Besides lavender and sandalwood, Vanilla oil also blends well with lemon, orange chamomile and neroli oils.