Almost anyone here who read this article must have tasted vanilla ice cream, haven’t you? It is not only the most common flavor but also most popular flavor of ice cream. Vanilla finds much use in the food industry for its flavor. Whole vanilla pods (dried fruits) or vanilla beans or vanilla powder or vanilla extract are common forms available in market. Flavoring is achieved by adding vanilla beans to liquid preparation or vanilla extract.
By the way, what is vanilla? Ever tried to understand? Vanilla comes from orchids of genus vanilla. Orchids are widespread family of flowering plants which have aerial roots which absorb moisture from atmosphere. Best of vanilla comes from Mexico, where it has been cultivated for centuries. Vanilla is considered to be the world’s most labor-intensive agricultural crop; it takes 3 years for first flower to appear, vanilla flower lasts for only a day and has to be artificially harvested. Vanilla beans are treated immediately after they are harvested to ensure fragrance and aroma is preserved. Good quality vanilla is extremely aromatic and expensive; most vanilla foods we buy, have low quality vanilla or artificial vanilla-like flavorings.
Nutritional facts of Vanilla
Amongst various compounds present in Vanilla, most important chemical with medicinal properties is vanillin (4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde). It offers distinct flavor and aroma to vanilla. Piperonol is another compound present in vanilla.
Health benefits of Vanilla
Vanilla does not just add flavor to your favorite recipe, but comes packed with goodness too. Some of vanilla health benefits are discussed below:
Antioxidant properties of Vanilla
Vanilla is known to be a great anti-oxidant that helps to avert numerous health complications. Oxidizers or free-radicals burn the living cells that weaken the immunity system, making the body vulnerable to numerous diseases. The anti-oxidant property of vanilla contravenes these free radicals and defends the body from infections, wears and tears and cancer. Vanillin, a polyphenol is attributed with strong antioxidant activity in vanilla.
Vanilla benefits sexual health – Aphrodisiac
Vanilla is believed to be a great aphrodisiac. Vanilla oil is used to treat impotence, erectile dysfunction, frigidity, loss of libido and other sexual disorders. Vanilla oil is known to be a great stimulant that helps in secretion of sex hormones like testosterone, estrogen etc and promotes arousal. Vanilla intake gives a boost to the dormant sex life of an individual.
Vanilla and treatment of cancer
Studies have revealed that vanilla’s anti-oxidant properties helps to battle against certain types of cancers. Since free radicals tend to damage tissues that triggers cancers like prostrate, colon etc., the anti-oxidant properties in vanilla checks growth of cancerous cells, thereby helping cure cancer.
Vanilla prevents infections
Vanilla is extremely useful in fighting infections due to presence of components like Eugenol and Vanillin Hydroxybenzaldehyde in it. Research has documented antimicrobial properties of Vanillin. It helps in prevention of dental caries.
Anti Allergic properties of Vanilla
Because of it sedative properties, it is known to work against inflammation. Vanilla is used to soothe hyperactivity, and other health disorders like the respiratory problem, circulatory and digestive disorders, nervous problems and more. Because of its tranquilizing effects, it is used to treat fever, convulsions, anxiety, stress, hypersensitivity of allergy etc.
Anti-inflammatory properties of Vanilla
Vanilla is used for respiratory disorders for respiratory pain and congestion, deep coughs, stomach ailments etc
Vanilla relieves depression
Vanilla is an anti-depressant as well. The sweet-smelling vanilla can work wonders to soothe your jittered nerves. Vanillin Hydroxybenzaldehyde, a component of vanilla essential oil, is an effective anti-depressant and mood up-lifter. So, next time you feel low, just go and grab vanilla ice cream and see your mood lit up!
Vanilla extract protects skin from Ultraviolet radiation
A recent study suggested that vanillin present in vanilla bean protects skin epidermal cells from damage by ultraviolet radiation.
Aromatherapy Benefits of Vanilla
Aromatherapy benefits of vanilla include its ability to clear nasal congestion, stimulating brain activity, increasing blood circulation, act as aphrodisiac and relieving fever. Keep your house warm and fragrant using vanilla aromatherapy.
Vanilla for insomnia
Vanilla induces sleep. So, if you suffer from insomnia, hogging on vanilla ice cream may put you to sleep. It relaxes the nervous system and lowers blood pressure too. All you need to do is just dab some vanilla oil in your pillows and get snoring! The soothing effect of vanilla has a great effect in soothing anxiety, anger and restlessness of a person.
Vanilla benefits for women
Vanilla also helps to regularize menstruations by triggering certain hormones like estrogen. In some Central America vanilla is used to relive morning sickness in pregnant women. It provides relief of premenstrual and menstrual discomfort.
Vanilla increases mental activity
Vanilla fragrance and compounds are believed to enhance mental activity. As an anti-inflammatory agent they reduce inflammation in brain due to stress and stimulated mental performance.
Vanilla treats stomach ache
Vanilla has been traditionally used for calming stomach aches and cramps. It is believed that it aids digestion. Not much scientific evidence is available in this regards. However if vanilla ice cream can work on stomach ache, who would not take? J
Analgesic properties of Vanilla
Essential oil of Vanilla has been traditionally used in treatment of fever, reliving tooth ache and ulcers.
Side effects of Vanilla
Most of Vanilla products have artificial vanillin derivatives and not vanilla extracts. Some people are allergic to vanilla essence.