Vanilla extract is widely used in both commercial and domestic baking, perfume manufacturing and aromatherapy, but many people don’t realize the array of health benefits that come from using vanilla oil, even though it is not technically an essential oil. Internally, pure vanilla oil fights inflammation, works as an antidepressant and contains high levels of antioxidants — preventing the growth of cancer cells.
It’s been proven to fight infections and diseases caused by oxidation and inflammation. Vanilla oil also promotes skin and hair health, relieves muscle pain and cramps, and balances hormones naturally. For thousands of years, it’s been used by men and women who struggle with loss of libido, anxiety and high blood pressure.
Vanilla oil is derived from Vanilla planifolia, a native species of the Orchidaceae family. The Spanish word for vanilla is vaina, which is simply translated as “little pod.” It was the Spanish explorers arriving on the Gulf Coast of Mexico in the early 16th century who gave vanilla its current name.
Vanilla Oil Nutrition Facts
Vanilla grows as a vine that climbs up an existing tree or structure. When left alone, the vine grows as high as the support will allow it. Although it is native to Mexico, it’s now widely grown throughout the tropics. Indonesia and Madagascar are the world’s largest producers.
The vanilla seed pods are roughly a third of an inch by six inches and a brownish red to black color when ripe. Inside of the pods is an oily liquid full of tiny seeds.
The vanilla flower (which is a beautiful, yellow orchid-looking flower) produces a fruit, but it only lasts for one day so growers have to inspect the flowers daily. The fruit is a seed capsule that when left on the plant ripens and opens. As it dries, the compounds crystallize, releasing its distinctive vanilla smell. Both vanilla pods and seeds are used for cooking.
Vanilla beans have been shown to contain over 200 compounds, which can vary in concentration depending on the region where the beans are harvested. Several compounds, including vanillin, p-hydroxybenzaldehyde, guaiacol and anise alcohol, have been found to be important for the aroma profile of vanilla.
8 Health Benefits of Vanilla Oil
1. Contains Antioxidant Properties
The antioxidant properties of vanilla oil protect the body from wear and tear by neutralizing free radicals. Antioxidants are substances that help prevent certain types of cell damage, especially those caused by oxidation. Oxidation is one of the biggest causes behind most of our health troubles and diseases. It leads to the formation of free radicals, which are very dangerous to the body’s tissues and have been connected to cancer and premature aging.
High-antioxidant foods and plants are evaluated by ORAC score (oxygen radical absorption capacity), which tests the power of a substance to absorb and eliminate free radicals. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry noted that pure vanilla extract, which was made with cured vanilla beans and 60 percent aqueous ethyl alcohol, has high levels of antioxidant activity. The study noted that the results “point towards the potential use of vanilla extract components as antioxidants for food preservation and in health supplements as nutraceuticals.” (2)
2. Boosts Libido
Vanilla oil stimulates the secretion of certain hormones like testosterone and estrogen, which helps people who suffer from erectile dysfunction, impotence and loss of libido. Erectile dysfunction, for example, comes in many degrees and can be caused by low levels of testosterone, medications, poor diet, fatigue, stress, depression or other illnesses.
The good news is that around 70 percent of these cases are restored with home remedies and natural treatment methods for impotence. Thankfully, vanilla oil has been shown to improve hormone levels, mood and outlook on life.
3. Relieves PMS Symptoms
Because vanilla oil activates estrogen levels, it also regularizes menstruation and relieves PMS symptoms. PMS symptoms are experienced by over 75 percent of menstruating women, and hormone balance is the primary factor that determines these symptoms. Common PMS symptoms include fatigue, bloating, skin issues, emotional changes, breast tenderness and cramps.
Vanilla oil serves as a natural remedy for PMS and cramps because it activates or balances hormone levels and manages stress, leaving your body and mind relaxed. Vanilla oil works as a sedative, so your body isn’t in a state of hypersensitivity while experiencing PMS symptoms; instead, it’s tranquil and the symptoms are minimized.
4. Prevents the Growth of Cancer Cells
Vanilla essential oil has anticarcinogenic properties — it helps inhibit the development of cancer before it becomes a problem, making it a potential natural cancer treatment. This powerful oil curbs the growth of cancerous cells, mostly because of it acts as an antioxidant that prevents the oxidation of cells. Antioxidants kill free radicals in the body and reverse oxidative stress-causing chronic disease.
According to the National Cancer Institute, at high concentrations, free radicals can be hazardous to the body and damage all major components of cells, including DNA, proteins and cell membranes. The damage to cells caused by free radicals, especially the damage to DNA, may play a role in the development of cancer and other health conditions. (3) Antioxidants are known as “free radical scavengers” that interact with, neutralize and fight free radical damage.
5. Fights Infections
Some components present in vanilla oil, such as eugenol and vanillin hydroxybenzaldehyde, are able to fight infections. A 2014 study published in Basel, Switzerland, examined the effectiveness of vanilla oil as an antibacterial agent when used on the surface of bacterial cells. The study found that vanilla oil strongly inhibited both the initial adherence of S. aureus cells and the development of the mature biofilm after 48 hours. S. aureus cells are bacteria frequently found in the human respiratory tract and on the skin. (4)
6. Works as an Antidepressant
Vanilla has been commonly used as a home remedy from the 17th century to fight anxiety and depression with nutrition. Vanilla oil has a calming effect on the brain, which helps with anger, insomnia, stress and anxiety.
A study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology found that vanillin, one of the main components of vanilla oil, demonstrated antidepressant activity in mice, which was comparable with fluoxetine, a medication that treats depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. The study concluded that because the vanillin was able to cause a significant reduction of immobility in the mice, as indicated in a forced swim test, the sedative properties make vanilla oil effective in naturally treating depression. (5)
7. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is associated with just about every health condition, and researchers are furiously investigating chronic inflammation’s effects on health and possible preventive medical applications. Luckily, vanilla oil is a sedative, so it reduces stress on the body such as inflammation, making it an anti-inflammatory food; this is helpful to the respiratory, digestive, nervous, circulatory and excretory systems.
Because vanilla is high in antioxidants, it reduces damage caused by inflammation. Vanillin, the component with the most antioxidant value, has the power to lower cholesterol naturally and reduce triglycerides levels and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune dysfunction where the white blood cells destroy the cartilage.
This may be related to food allergies, bacterial infections, stress or excess acid in the body. Vanilla oil’s anti-inflammatory, sedative and antibacterial properties make it a perfect natural arthritis treatment.
8. Lowers Blood Pressure
Vanilla oil’s sedative effects on the body allow it to naturally lower blood pressure by relaxing the body and mind. High blood pressure is when the pressure on the arteries and blood vessels becomes too high and the arterial wall becomes distorted, causing extra stress on the heart. High blood pressure levels can put you at risk for having a stroke, heart attack and diabetes.
A major cause of high blood pressure is stress; by relaxing the muscles and mind, vanilla oil is able to lower blood pressure levels. Vanilla oil also helps you to get more sleep, which is another easy way to lower blood pressure levels. Vanilla oil serves as a natural remedy for high blood pressurebecause it also acts as an antioxidant, so it reduces oxidative stress and dilates the arteries.