10 Vanilla Oil Benefits That Prove It Is Exotic And Yet Healthy
You know that vanilla is exceptionally delicious but did you know that it is the second most expensive foods in the world after saffron? Yes, that’s true. Besides its rich taste, you will be fascinated to know that there are abundant of vanilla oil benefits.
From uplifting your mood, treating your depression to helping you in weight loss, vanilla can do wonders.
So, let’s understand this essential oil in detail.
What is Vanilla Oil?
Vanilla essential oil is extracted from the beans (or pods) of the Vanilla planifolia vine. These pods are dried and fermented thoroughly for months. (1)
Vanilla comes in different varieties and is usually from India, South America, and Africa. However, the best is said to be from Madagascar.
When you buy a quality essential oil, note that there isn’t true Vanilla “essential oil” because technically, an EO should be steam distilled or cold pressed to be “100% pure.”
Vanilla EO can be obtained in different ways. Usually, it is extracted via either CO2 method or solvent-based method. The CO2 extraction is a new process where the fermented/cured vanilla beans are obtained under a high-pressure of carbon dioxide. A few have claimed that this extraction process produces a fragrance similar to raw vanilla, as there isn’t alcohol in it.
Vanilla oil is well known in both commercial & domestic baking, perfume manufacturing, and aromatherapy. Thanks to its unique flavor and amazing medicinal properties.
Scientific Name of Vanilla Oil
The botanical name of vanilla is Vanilla planifolia.
History of Vanilla Oil
The vanilla plant is native to Central America and belongs to the Orchidaceae family. It is popular for its attractive aroma produced by its fruit.
Vanilla is also known as bourbon vanilla, flat-leaved vanilla, Mexican vanilla, Tahitian vanilla, and Vanillon.
Since vanilla is always in high demand and is expensive too, synthetic vanilla is often used instead of natural vanilla. While artificial vanilla contains only one chemical component of vanilla which is vanillin, natural vanilla extract is a mixture of several hundred different compounds.
Vanillin is fine, needle-like, off-white crystal, which has the taste and odor much similar to vanilla.
The Spanish call it vaina, which means “little pod.” Back in the 16th century, a few Spanish explorers arrived on the Gulf Coast of Mexico and gave vanilla its current name.
Vanilla grows as a vine and climbs up an existing tree or structure. When left alone, it grows as high as the support allows. Indonesia and Madagascar are the world’s largest producers of vanilla.
Vanilla is the second-most expensive spice in the world, as it’s labor intensive. As vanilla beans have a delicate structure, they extract the oil via carbon dioxide injection or alcohol method.
Color, Consistency, and Smell of Vanilla Oil
- The color of vanilla oil is dark brown.
- The consistency of vanilla oil is thick.
- The smell of vanilla oil is Sweet, heavy, and warm.
Properties of Vanilla Essential Oil
- Aromatic – Has a pleasant, strong, and sweet smell
- Anti-mutagenic - Prevents mutations (the changes in the sequence of genes)
- Anti-invasive - Prevents the growth of cancer
- Anti-metastatic - Prevents the spread of cancer to other parts of the body
- Antiangiogenetic - Prevents the formation of new blood vessels
- Analgesic - Relieves pain
- Anticancer – Effective against tumor or cancer cells
- Anti-colitis - Prevents inflammation in the large intestine
- Anti-inflammatory - Reduces inflammation (redness, high temperature, pain, and swelling)
- Anti-sickling - Prevents the sickling, change in shape of red blood cells
- Aphrodisiac - Stimulates sex desires
- Carminative - Eliminates gas
- Antipyretic - Reduces fever
- Antispasmodic - Relieves spasms
- Anti-dysmenorrhea - Helpful in dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation)
- Antihysteric - Prevents hysteria (mental disease)
- Antihypolipidemic - Prevents excess cholesterol and high lipids in the blood
- Anti-libido - Boosts libido
- Antidepressant - Prevents depression
Besides these, here are a few others:
- Balances hormones
- Prevents diseases
- Promotes skin health
- Boosts hair health
- Relieves muscle pain and cramps
- Fights anxiety
- Fights high blood pressure
- Relieves PMS (Pre Menstrual Syndrome) symptoms
Chemical Compounds in Vanilla Oil
The components of vanilla include:
- Vanillic acid
- 4-hydroxybenzyl alcohol
- 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzyl alcohol
- Vanillin hydroxybenzaldehyde
- Anise alcohol
- Isovaleric acid
- Acetic acid
- Caproic acid
Health Benefits Of Vanilla Oil
Though vanilla oil benefits are numerous, these are noteworthy and proved by science recently.
- A well-known antidepressant
- Fortified with antioxidants
- Has an anti-sickling effect
- A natural mosquito-repellent
- Helps in pain management
- Kills the microbes
- An incredible flavoring agent
- Fights against colitis
- Reduces excess cholesterol in the blood
- Effective against tumor cells
1. A well-known antidepressant
Since the 17th century, vanilla is well known for treating depression. Vanillin, a major component of vanilla has antidepressant action, confirms a paper published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology.
The researchers studied the antidepressant effects of vanillin in mice that had depression. There were 5 groups with 6 mice in each group and out of which, 2 groups were test groups that received 10mg/kg and 100 mg/kg of vanillin.
The other groups were control groups, who received imipramine, distilled water, and fluoxetine.
* Imipramine and fluoxetine are anti-depressants.
The researchers administered the drugs to mice 1 hour before the test to assess the acute/quick effect of medications. To evaluate the chronic/long term effect of drugs, the researchers administered medicines for 10 days.
The mice underwent tests like TST/ Tail Suspension Test & FST/ Forced Swim Test.
Vanillin reduced the immobility of mice in both the experiments at both doses. Thanks to its properties such as adrenergic agonistic and opioid agonistic, both of which have anti-depressive effects. Also, those who have depression also have high oxidative stress. The antioxidant effects of vanillin also help to lessen depression. (3)
2. Fortified with antioxidants
The high antioxidant potential is one of the best health benefits of vanilla essential oil. Antioxidants are substances that prevent oxidation by neutralizing free radicals.
Due to ageing, stress, chemicals, radiation, and pollution, your body generates free radicals that can cause oxidation in return and thus, the way to deadly diseases. Antioxidants prevent such dire consequences by neutralizing free radicals.
A paper published in 2007 talks about the antioxidant potential of vanilla. They extracted the vanilla extract from cured (or fermented) vanilla beans with 60% aqueous ethyl alcohol.
The researchers measured the antioxidant potential of vanilla extracts. At a concentration of 200 ppm, the vanilla extract showed an antioxidant potency of 26% and 43% via beta-carotene-linoleate and DPPH assays respectively.
The study suggests vanilla oil can be a food preservative as well as an antioxidant in dietary supplements. Thanks to vanillin.
Another study published in 2011 talks about ORAC assay, oxidative hemolysis inhibition assay (OxHLIA,) DPPH radical, galvinoxyl radical, and ABTS (+)-scavenging assays conducted for assessing the antioxidant potential.
They proved that vanillin had better antioxidant potential than Trolox/vitamin E and ascorbic acid/vitamin C, which are popular antioxidants. The research also concluded that vanillin activity is better when it is taken orally. (4, 5)
3. Has an anti-sickling effect
Yes, that’s true. Vanilla oil has anti-sickling effects. Sickling is the distortion of shape where the red blood cells turn to a sickle shape.
It usually happens in sickle cell anemia where the red blood cells turn crescent (their general shape being disc and flexible).
The hemoglobin or the red pigment present in the red blood cells become stiff in sickle cell anemia. Thus, the shape of RBC (Red Blood Cells) change. RBCs also get stiff. They neither move freely like other healthy blood cells nor do they survive for a long time.
While normal, healthy RBCs live for up to 120 days, sickle-shaped RBCs live for about 10 days. Thus, your body fails to replace the lost RBCs at the desired rate, and you turn anemic (a condition where you have less RBC count than what you need).
Thus, you will experience symptoms such as weakness due to the lower number of RBCs as RBCs supply oxygen to your body tissues.
The good news is that vanilla extracts can prevent sickling. The researchers administered 1 gram of vanillin to mice on a daily basis. It not only decreased the percentage of sickle cells but also increased the survival of mice in hypoxic (low-oxygen) conditions. (6, 7, 8)
4. A natural mosquito-repellent
Vanilla extracts are toxic to mosquitoes. They help in repelling them naturally. A paper published in the Journal of Agriculture & Food Chemistry talks about the effects of Alcoholic extracts of leaves and stems of Vanilla.
The researchers fractionated the extracts with ethyl acetate and aqueous butanol. The compound 4-butoxymethylphenol had the highest toxicity against mosquito larvae. (9)
5. Helps in pain management
Vanilla is a well-admired analgesic. The compound vanillin in it acts on the receptors such as α2 adrenergic receptors or opioid receptors that respond to pain.
You experience pain when your brain senses it, and your brain senses it when the receptors accept the signal. By altering the action of pain receptors or by blocking them, vanilla extracts prevent pain. (10)
6. Kills the microbes
The compounds eugenol & vanillin hydroxybenzaldehyde in vanilla oil fights S.aureus. The same was confirmed by a study published in 2014.
S.aureus (Streptococcus aureus) is a bacterium that causes dental and respiratory infections. However, vanilla essential oil prevents the action of S.aureus.
It prevents the binding as well as the dangerous biofilm production by Streptococcus aureus. Also, by flavoring the food with vanilla, you can add less sugar, preventing dental cavities. Also, several studies have confirmed vanilla and vanillin have antifungal and antibacterial action. (11)
7. An incredible flavoring agent
Vanillin is pleasant and aromatic. No wonder foods & beverages throughout the world use vanillin as a flavoring agent.
During a study, the researchers incorporated biscuit dough with 0.4% vanilla extract and synthetic vanillin 0.2%.
They also studied its antioxidant properties and concluded that adding natural vanilla extract 0.4% to glucose biscuits not only enhances the taste but also boosts the antioxidant potential.
Also, vanillin is added to bulk food preparation. By percolating ground vanilla bean with an alcohol/water mixture, vanilla extracts are prepared. As synthetic vanillin is cheaper, most of the times they use it instead of natural vanilla extract. (12)
8. Fights against colitis
Colitis is the inflammation of the bowel, which is accompanied by swelling, redness, bleeding, and pain. This is mainly because the colon is inflamed. You might have bleeding stools, cramps in your abdomen, and pain while passing stools.
9. Reduces excess cholesterol in the blood
Excess cholesterol thickens your blood vessels. Therefore, the space for the flow of blood is narrowed. This is exactly when your heart has to pump the blood with more pressure, which in turn, causes diseases like high blood pressure and heart attacks. (15)
A heart attack is a condition where the blood vessels that support your heart are clogged due to excess cholesterol deposited in the blood vessels. Thus, your heart muscles receive less blood, and there is a blockage.
The compound vanillin in vanilla essential oil helps in reducing excess cholesterol in your blood. It also helps you to improve your overall health by improving your heart health.
10. Effective against tumor cells
Vanilla oil has anticancer properties. Your body has basic building units called cells, and each of them has designated functions.
They live for a certain period & die, and new cells take their place. But sometimes, cells behave abnormal and do not die but only keep multiplying, forming a mass, which is called a tumor.
They can be harmful and spread from one part of the body to the other. This condition is known as cancer, and it can be deadly.
Vanilla oil prevents abnormal cell formation, inhibits the growth as well as the spread of existing cancers. Thanks to vanillin, which also prevents the growth of new blood vessels, thus, is useful in cancer. (16, 17)
What Blends With Vanilla Oil?
Vanilla essential oil blends the best with:
How To Use Vanilla Oil?
- Inhale vanilla oil before you go to bed to improve your sleep.
- If you wish to bath before bed, add 5 - 10 drops of vanilla oil to your bath water.
- Add 20 drops of vanilla oil and 20 drops of almond oil to half a bottle of water to use it as a perfume. Let it settle for about 20 minutes, and you can also spray this perfume on your furniture or clothes. If you prefer an oily perfume, add 4 drops of vanilla oil to a tablespoon of carrier oil and apply it on to your arms or the base of your neck.
- For beautiful skin, add a couple of drops of vanilla oil to your face wash or lotion.
- To beautify your hair, add 15 drops of vanilla oil to 10 drops of almond oil and a cup of distilled water. Mix well and apply on to your hair while spraying lightly and combing throughout. You need not damp your hair and also do remember to spray away from your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- For reaping the medicinal benefits, add 5 drops of oil to your coffee/ tea. You may also add vanilla oil to your homemade ice creams.
Try a patch test for safe side. Dilute vanilla oil with a carrier oil and mix thoroughly. Use the tip of a cotton bud to apply a very little portion of diluted oil to your forearm. Wait for ten minutes. If you do not see any irritation, redness, or swelling, the oil is safe on you.
Side Effects Of Vanilla Oil
A few might experience these symptoms after using vanilla oil:
To avoid the side effects, talk to your doctor before you start using any essential oil. Also, try a patch test. If you want to use the oil internally begin with small doses and increase gradually.