The name ‘vanilla’ is enough to make our taste buds active. Vanilla is associated with chocolates, cakes, ice creams and other baked products as their flavoring agent. Many of us are unaware of its therapeutic properties and its amazing health benefits.
Vanilla plant is a herbaceous climber producing vanilla pods. Mature and ripe pods are dark green in color ready to be picked. These pods contain vanilla seeds, which are used in many recipes, when dried. Blanched and sun dried pods are called vanilla beans which are used to prepare vanilla extract by soaking it in ethyl alcohol, the filtrate of this fermentation process is vanilla extract. Vanilla extract has a sweet, rich fragrance and flavor, which adds taste to many dishes. Artificial vanilla flavoring agents are also available in markets which are made from wood pulp by-products and have a similar scent as pure vanilla extract but have no health benefits.
Vanilla is available as dried vanilla beans, powder, vanilla bean paste, vanilla oil, vanilla syrup and vanilla sugar. Organic vanilla beans are most flavored and highly nutritious.
Vanilla is a combination of health and flavor. Many health promoting elements such as vitamins, minerals, essential oils and complex sugars are present in vanilla. It contains traces of niacin, thiamine and other B complex vitamins. Minerals like manganese, magnesium, calcium, zinc and potassium are present as trace elements in vanilla. Vanilla pods constitute many organic compounds like phenols, alcohols, esters, caproic acid and other aromatic compounds in addition to other essential elements.
Health Benefits of Vanilla
Vanilla, apart from being a flavoring agent is also a therapeutic herb. Vanilla essential oil is used as a medicinal product to cure many diseases and vanilla beans, powdered or extract, also used in treatment of many medical conditions. Vanilla acts as an antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antidepressant and aphrodisiac providing many health benefits. Major health benefits of vanilla are:
Relieve Stress and Anxiety
Vanilla contains vanillin that acts as an antidepressant lifting mood effectively. Vanilla has a powerful aroma, which makes it an ideal remedy for reducing stress and anxiety. Drinking vanilla flavored milk or water is effective in relieving stress
and cheering up your mood. It’s pleasant and soothing smell calms mind and reduces tension. Vanilla essential oil used for aromatherapy
is a good cure for stress and depression.
Few drops of vanilla extract in milk or water have soothing effect on stomach related nausea. The aroma of vanilla relieves nausea and other stomach related problems as well. It is a treatment for stomach upset and vomiting also. Vanilla flavored herbal tea made from boiling dried beans in water is effective in calming stomach and reducing discomfort. You can prepare a homemade vanilla extract for regular usage.
Vanilla is a storehouse of several compounds that possess antioxidant properties. Vanilla being a powerful antioxidant can cure most of the diseases that are caused due to internal cell damage by free radical oxidation. It thus boosts immunity, protects body from carcinogen attacks, repair cell damage and prevent various diseases. It protects against colon and prostate cancer by removing free radicals from the body.
Treat Menstrual Problems
Irregular menstrual cycle, pain, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and other menstrual problems can be treated by including vanilla in regular diet. Vanilla is high in magnesium content that regulates the production of hormones that enhance functioning of neurotransmitters and so reduce PMS
related issues of mood changes and depression. Vanilla’s calcium content relieves pain and irregularities in menstrual periods. Drink vanilla extract in water or as a tea to comfort you from menstrual problems.
Vanilla is anti inflammatory in nature. It can treat inflammation in liver, skin and all over the body. Vanillin is the compound that makes it reduce inflammation and cure wounds. It has been used for treating wounds since ancient times and found to have soothing effects on inflammation. But direct use of vanilla extract on wounds can lead to irritation and burning sensation. Drinking vanilla water or taking vanilla bean powder could help reduce inflammation.
Vanilla is a natural aphrodisiac improving sexual arousal and benefit person suffering from reduced sexual abilities. A regular treatment with vanilla essential oil or vanilla extract can actually improve testosterone levels in males increasing their libido and treating problems like impotency and erectile dysfunction
. Its pleasing aroma enhances arousal and promotes sexual behavior.
Vanillin is a compound of magical properties. It acts as a pain reliever as well as have anesthetic properties. These properties make it apt for naturally relieving pain. It helps soothe toothache, pain due to inflammation etc.
Boost Cognitive Actions and Mental Health
Vanilla helps improve mental health and enhance cognitive functions. Its antioxidant property and free radical removing activity enhance neural functions, reduce risk of nervous breakdown, prevent nervous damage and improve memory. Regular intake of vanilla may actually improve cognitive abilities and mental health.
Skin & Hair Benefits
Vanilla is helpful in making skin more beautiful and hair stronger. It protects skin from various infections and ageing. Vanilla keeps skin and hair healthy attributing to its rich vitamin and mineral profile. A scrub of vanilla bean powder applied on skin or a bath with vanilla essential oil helps revive skin and make it healthy. It is also good for improving hair texture and reduce hair fall.
Reduce Blood Pressure
Animal studies reveal that vanillin helps reduce cholesterol and regulate blood pressure. High quantities of vanillin are effective in lowering high blood pressure, its cholesterol lowering properties prevent atherosclerosis
and heart diseases.
Vanilla Berry PunchIngredients
- Vanilla bean powder, 1tsp
- Vanilla extract, 3-4 drops
- Fresh cranberries, ˝ cup
- Black berries, ˝ cup
- Strawberries, ˝ cup
- Banana, 1
- Chilled Milk, 1 cup
- Cream/ice cream, 1 cup
- Ice cubes (if required)
- Mix all the fruits together and add to a blender.
- Add milk, ice cream, vanilla bean powder and vanilla extract to it.
- Blend well and serve chilled.