What is Vanilla Essential Oil?
Vanilla essential oil is a substance derived from vanilla planifolia, a species from the orchid family.
Its common name is pod or vanilla and its scientific name is vanilla planifolia. Its beautiful white flowers with yellow touches (from which the brown pod is born) are hermaphroditic, that is, they can not self-pollinate, so they require the help of the Mellipona bee, which is native to Mexico.
The word vanilla has Spanish origin and means “little pod”.
The plant is indigenous to Central America and Mexico, although it has also been widely cultivated in the subtropical regions of Asia, northern Europe and Canada. At present, Madagascar is the main vanilla producer worldwide.
Growing vanilla requires constant care and patience. Vanilla plant completes its process to flower in a span of 7 years. Flowering has an average time of 6 weeks and its flowers, only a day long. Because of this, in order to successfully produce the vanilla pods, it must be pollinated the same day, before the flowers wilt.
This is the only plant belonging to the orchids family that is grown for multiple purposes. Unlike the other almost 35 thousand species, which are cultivated for their beauty and grace to decorate gardens.
Origin of Vanilla Essential Oil
Vanilla has its origin in Mexico. During the Aztec culture, vanilla was added to foods to enhance its flavor. They also added vanilla in a drink called “cacahuatl”, which included cocoa beans, corn, honey and chili. This was a special brew, designed to delight gods and kings.
There are stories that vanilla was known to the Spaniards on the coast of Veracruz, Mexico. Then, observing that the plant had a dark brown spike protruding from its flower, (very similar to that of the green beans) they decided to call it “pod”.
Vanilla Essential Oil History
It is known that in Veracruz, Mexico, in a town called Totonaca, were the first vanilla crops.
The habitants of the town used to associate them with chocolate, since this brown pod, with unparalleled flavor and aroma, was added in chocolate or atole preparations.
Totonacs called it Xahanat (black flower) and the Aztecs knew it as Tlixotlil. For the Totonacs, it represented what corn was for the Aztecs. Additionally, it was a symbol for their culture and religion.
From those days it was used as a flavoring, medicine and as a tribute. And of course they also used it to aromatize chocolate.
These drinks or atoles, were prepared especially for the warriors. However, as time passed, they could no longer grow vanilla due to weather conditions.
Itzcóatl, (1427-1440) the Aztec emperor, received tribute payments from the Totonac settlers, which were mainly based on the famous “black flower”.
The Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés, knew the taste of this drink and got an excellent impression of it. Because of this, he called it “the chocolate of Europe”, at the beginning of the year 1520.
Thus, for three centuries, Mexico became the main vanilla grower. Meanwhile, the Spaniards made it known in many other places, thanks to the tasty drink of toasted corn and chocolate.
Characteristics of Vanilla Essential Oil
Vanilla essential oil is brown and viscous in consistency, so it is recommended to put it in a water bath (bain marie) before use.
It is a powerful stimulant of the nervous system, aphrodisiac, sedative and aromatic, among many other virtues that we will detail in this article.
Its chemical components are formed by: 32% sugar, vanillin hydroxybenzaldehyde, fat in 21%, Furfural vanillin, proteins, caproic acid, acetic acid, humidity in 30%, Fiber in 26%, isobutyric acid, carbohydrates between 50% and 62% and eugenol.
It has been determined that vanillin and piperonal are the protagonists that give it its pleasant aroma and exquisite flavor. Vanilla essential oil can contain up to 150 tiny aromatic substances, but equally significant. Some of them are: creosol, pentanal, nonanal, dodecanal, among others.
Among the active principles of vanilla are: Glycosides, which are non-sugar molecules that are converted into glucose naturally, also called Aglycone or Genin.
In addition, it contains limonene, eugenol, anisic alcohol, zingerone, coumarin, salicylic acids, nonaoic acid and vanillyl alcohol, which are responsible for its sweet taste.
Properties of Vanilla Essential Oil
In the past, African healers used vanilla for stomach problems. European doctors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries also used it as an antidote for stomach problems as well as an aphrodisiac.
It has been shown that vanilla essential oil has soothing effects, is antispasmodic, balsamic, emmenagogue, antioxidant and antidepressant, in addition to having incredible aphrodisiac properties.
Benefits of Vanilla Essential Oil
Prevents premature aging
Thanks to its antioxidant properties, vanilla essential oil combats the damage caused by internal and external free radicals. It acts as a powerful blocker that protects the skin and on the other hand, eliminates the cells responsible for producing various types of cancer.
In addition, it revitalizes the tissues of the skin and those at cellular level, delaying premature aging and helping to optimize the appearance and good health.
Vanilla essential oil, while providing softness and natural regeneration to the skin, can alleviate conditions such as irritation and dryness.
Vanilla essential oil is considered a sexual stimulant for men and women. In men, it acts on premature ejaculation, sexual impotence and lack of libido. In women, it stimulates the libido.
Vanilla essential oil is a natural antibacterial that helps eliminate acne conditions that many people of different ages suffer from.
The application of products based on vanilla oil, is a great help to deep clean the accumulated bait and dead cells deposited on the skin.
Cures minor burns
Thanks to the fact that vanilla essential oil repairs the tissues, it is ideal to treat skin burns or irritations produced by the sun.
Relieves pre-menstrual symptoms
By stimulating the production of estrogen in women, vanilla essential oil helps to alleviate premenstrual discomfort. It also helps to control disorders in women with irregular period.
It has been determined that the swelling of the belly, acne, mood swings and sensitivity, which accompany the menstrual period, can decrease considerably thanks to vanilla essential oil.
This is also due to the sedative effects, which allow the body to relax and lower the levels of tension and stress caused by day-to-day problems.
Prevents the growth of cancer cells
Vanilla essential oil contains properties that fight various types of cancer. This, thanks to its natural components destroy the cells that produce it, preventing its development and spread in the body.
On the other hand, its antioxidant actions act directly on the cancer cells, preventing rapid oxidation and stimulating their oxygenation.
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The oil can also function as a reducer of fever, due to its content of eugenol and vanillin, the same compounds that decrease inflammation and strengthen the immune system.
Vanilla essential oil is ideal to treat fevers caused by infections lodged within the body, especially in the respiratory system, which is usually affected more often.
The great effectiveness of vanillin hydroxybenzaldehyde and eugenol has been proven by combating infectious conditions caused by fungi or bacteria. These components present in vanilla oil, have the ability to heal skin and respiratory infections successfully.
Vanilla essential oil works as a natural antidepressant. Some research has shown that the use of vanilla oil improves the mood of people. This acts stimulating positivism and leaving aside apathy, fatigue and lack of stimulation, among others.
The sedative effect produced by vanilla oil, in turn, improves several health conditions that lead to our organism becoming ill. Among them we have that favors the digestive system, the respiratory system, reactivates blood circulation, levels the nervous system, deflates areas of the body affected by bacteria, controls anxiety, stimulates the proper functioning of the excretory apparatus, etc.
Relaxing and tranquilizing
Vanilla essential oil produces a tranquilizing effect through its soft and rich fragrance. In aromatherapy it is used to relax and reassure the body’s systems and organs. It is recommended to apply before sleep, to stimulate a peaceful and calm sleep, lower blood pressure and relieve stress.
The consumption of vanilla oil, acts by eliminating the inflammation of any organ in our body, as well as, inflammations caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Reduces blood pressure
Contributes to lower levels of “bad cholesterol”. Its consumption favors the health of blood vessels, allowing an excellent performance of the circulation.
In turn, it prevents the risk of coronary heart disease such as heart attacks, mainly caused by clogged arteries, lack of oxygen, stroke, diabetes, etc.
Uses of Vanilla Essential Oil
Because of its pleasant fragrance and its numerous properties, both, to promote the beauty of the body, as well as for the prevention of skin diseases, vanilla essential oil is incorporated in the production of handmade soaps, shampoos, creams, lotions, perfumes, facial masks, etc.
The essence of vanilla is an obligatory ingredient in multiple recipes since ancient times. Its aroma and flavor is present in ice cream, milk, sweets and desserts among other products.
It is used in the manufacture of drugs for treatment of Parkinson’s, hypertension and heart diseases.
Many of high quality fragrances contain vanilla as one of its main ingredients.
Vanilla essential oil has been found especially useful in improving emotional health and general well-being, when used in aromatherapy.
In addition to perfuming and purifying the environment, it stimulates states of harmony, awakening the senses and projecting a feeling of well-being and sedative tranquility.
It favors the relaxation of the body and mind, while inducing a deep and comfortable sleep. It can be added to an environmental diffusor to achieve peace when reading a book or simply looking for a refreshing break.
When used in massages, vanilla essential oil generates relaxing benefits. Thanks to its pleasant aroma, it produces a sedative sensation, stimulating sleep. This oil can blend well with sesame oil for example, for which, it should be heated a little before its application.
Regarding its therapeutic and medicinal use, vanilla essential oil can help:
- Fight against some types of cancer
- Normalize menstrual period
- Relieve nausea
- Relieve stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia
- To heal wounds
- Improve sexual desire
- Reduce fever
- Alleviate heartburn and bad digestion.
- Relieve periodontal pain
- Strengthen the immune system
How to apply Vanilla Essential Oil
Vanilla essential oil is generally used in topical applications to relieve burns, promote skin health and stimulate hair growth.
It is also applied by means of massage to reduce muscle, arthritis or joint pain.
By inhaling its essence with the help of an environmental diffuser, we can also enjoy its positive effects.
Is Vanilla Essential Oil safe?
Vanilla essential oil has no known toxicity. However, this may not be true for all types of vanilla oil that are sold in the market today.
Caution should be exercised with vanillin products produced in laboratory, and sold as pure vanilla oil by manufacturers. Additionally, Some vanilla oils can be mixed with tonga beans that contain coumarin, a harmful chemical banned in foods.
Vanilla Essential Oil and pregnancy
The consumption or application of vanilla essential oil is not indicated for pregnant women or breastfeeding, since it contains ketone, a substance that can cause unwanted effects to both, the mother and the baby.
Side effects and warnings of Vanilla Essential Oil
In general, vanilla essential oil is not toxic. However, there may be people with sensitive skin which can cause some kind of symptoms such as skin irritation, redness, itching or inflammation.
Therefore, it is always better, before using a product for the first time, apply a drop on the skin and wait for a few minutes. In this way it will be known if its use is safe and will help prevent major problems. Additionally, you should always consult a doctor when abnormal symptoms appear.
Do not ingest the oil without first consulting a doctor.
Prolonged exposure to vanilla aroma may have a detrimental effect on the nervous system.
If headache or nausea is experienced, discontinue use immediately.
Where to buy Vanilla Essential Oil
Finding pure vanilla essential oil on the market can be very complicated and confusing. Vanilla essential oils are generally classified according to the place of origin of the vanilla plant. These are:
- Vanilla bourbon from Madagascar
- Mexican vanilla from Mexico
- Tahitian vanilla from French Polynesia
- Indian vanilla from the west of Caribbean, Central America and South America
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They can also be identified by the type of extraction method used: vanilla CO2, absolute vanilla and vanilla oleoresin.
Unfortunately, vanilla essential oil extraction techniques that exist today are not considered optimal by the regulatory entities to include it in the essential oil category.
Anyway, among the versions that are marketed, we can highlight vanilla absolute essential oil, which contains more properties and benefits for our health, since it does not lose them during the process.
If what you are looking for is an ingredient to make soaps or aromatic candles, for example, vanilla essential oil is not suitable for you, since its aromatic particles evaporate quickly when they are subjected to these extraction processes.
Here are some recommendations that have the benefits that interest us, and that you can find online:
First, I highly recommend Vanilla Oleoresin Essential Oil by Starwest Botanicals, one of my favorites so far:
Vanilla Oleoresin Essential Oil has a rich, warm, and sweet fragrance that is unmistakably vanilla. It is a thick essential oil and tends to sink when added to the bath and in blends. When using in a bath, mix it with a carrier such as bath salts. In oil blends, be sure to shake before use. Often used as an added fragrance in perfumes and aromatherapy blends, and can also be used as a food flavoring.
Scent Characteristics: Rich, warm, sweet vanilla aroma. Shop here.
The following are also good quality essential oils that you can find on Amazon:
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Tips for a better performance and duration of your oils:
- Store them in a dark glass bottle, never plastic, not even when blended with a carrier oil.
- Keep them in cool, dark places, away from sources of heat and light.
- Maintain the container that holds it tightly closed, since they are very volatile and also, their properties would be lost or modified.