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Powerful Health Benefits of Vanilla

Vanilla is well-known for its sweet and warm flavour but you will be surprised to know that it has some amazing health benefits too. Vanilla has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, antidepressant and aphrodisiac properties, which show therapeutic benefits in reversing several medical conditions.

Vanilla beans are dark green, ripened, pleasantly fragrant, edible fruit of a tropical orchid, Vanilla planifolia. It is one of the world’s costliest non-pungent spices, as its growth process is long and painstaking. Vanilla extract is produced from processing of mature vanilla beans (pods) containing vanilla seeds.

Powerful Health Benefits of Vanilla
Vanilla Bean Pods

In the past, fresh pods of vanilla were ground to create medicinal elixirs. Besides, having vital vitamins (especially B-vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6), and minerals (calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese iron, and zinc), vanilla pods have essential oils, complex sugars, unique organic compounds and antioxidants; which aid in natural healing. Also, its strong aroma is due to a polyphenol called vanillin, which shows central nervous system boosting properties.  This favorite ingredient is also rich in polyphenols.

Research confirms following mental and physical health benefits of vanilla:

  1. Antioxidant: Vanilla has powerful antioxidant properties, which help in scavenging free radical damage and reduce the risk of almost all chronic inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Research suggests that vanillin helps in reducing cholesterol levels, prevents inflammation in the arteries and inhibits formation of blood clots. Magnesium and potassium content of vanilla further assist in regulating blood pressure and sugar levels. These effects of vanilla are found beneficial in reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, hypertension, heart attacks and strokes.  This superfood ingredient can also help fight inflammation.
  2. Anti-carcinogenic: Vanillin also shows anti-mutagenic, anti-angiogenic and anti-metastatic properties by affecting several genes that cause DNA damage, apoptosis and cell proliferation. It is found that vanillin inhibits growth and invasiveness of cancer cells by helping in repair and replication of DNA and stimulating production of powerful antioxidant glutathione.
  3. Anti-inflammatory: Vanilla has sedative properties, which make it effective in soothing inflammation and allergies. Its high antioxidant content also helps speed up healing. These analgesic effects of vanilla are found beneficial in providing relief from fever and common inflammation (cough, cold, or respiratory infection) to chronic inflammatory conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, and gout).  6 tips for sinus relief.
  4. Antimicrobial: The antimicrobial properties of vanilla can protect the body against bacteria, mold and yeast. The antioxidant and antibacterial properties of vanillin reduce oxidative stress caused by free radicals, which help in improving your body’s immunity to fight infections and illnesses. For the same reasons, vanilla shows anti-ageing benefits and gives you acne and wrinkle free, younger looking skin. It is also found beneficial for restoring healthy strong hair.
  5. Anesthetic: Vanillin has mild anesthetic and analgesic properties, which help in relieving common pains such as sore throat, toothache and headache.
  6. Powerful Health Benefits of VanillaAids Digestion: Vanilla infused herbal tea has been traditionally used as a home remedy to aid digestive system and treat nausea, cramping, stomach upset, diarrhea and vomiting.
  7. Antidepressant: Several studies confirm that sweet smelling aroma of vanilla helps in relieving neurological stress and its antioxidant properties prevent nervous damage. Besides reducing anxiety, tension and depression; its mood lifting and calming effects on the brain are found helpful in improving cognitive functions and mental health.
  8. Alleviates Insomnia: The calming and soothing aroma of vanilla exerts sedative effects on the brain, which induce sleep and help people suffering from mild sleep disorders and insomnia.
  9. Aids weight loss: Vanilla has appetite suppressing properties which help in reducing hunger pangs and assist you in reaching your weight loss goal.
  10. Aphrodisiac: Its strong aroma stimulates release of “feel good” hormones (oxytocin and dopamine) and neurochemicals, which induce feelings of pleasure, happiness and love. Besides, increasing sexual desire and libido, vanilla is found especially beneficial in improving testosterone levels in males and treating erectile dysfunction.
  11. Assists in treatment of PMS: Vanilla stimulates estrogen secretion, which helps in regularizing menstruation and relieving common PMS related symptoms such as pain, cramps, bloating, fatigue, mood swings and depression.

These benefits make vanilla a nutraceutical or food supplement that you should include in your diet to prevent and treat various diseases.

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Natural Vanilla versus Vanilla Extract

Vanilla is a classic flavour in ice cream, candies or other dessert as its unique sweet and warm flavour often compliments any sweet treat. However, due to its high demand as flavouring agent in food, beverages and pharmaceuticals; nowadays most vanillin in the market is produced by chemical methods using fungi or bacteria. These “vanilla-like” flavourings may smell similar, but vanilla extract is not the same as artificial vanilla flavour. Vanilla extract is rich in taste and offers several health benefits that you won’t get from the artificial version.

You can try making vanilla extract by scraping vanilla pods and dissolving them into alcohol; let them sit in an airtight container in a dark place. After a couple of weeks remove the beans from dark coloured liquid and your own homemade natural vanilla extract is ready for use. In the same way, you can also make vanilla bean infused oil by chopping vanilla pods, scraping out seeds, and infusing them into a carrier oil. Keep them in an airtight container for a week or longer, while shaking periodically.

Raw Vanilla Bean Has More Health Benefits

Powerful Health Benefits of VanillaFurther, raw vanilla bean powder or whole vanilla bean has more health benefits than the extract, as it is rich in other powerful nutrients, where as extract contains only one component vanillin that gives flavour and fragrance of vanilla. Though, high quality pure vanilla bean or vanilla powder from authentic sources is expensive but there will be lesser chances of contamination with molds, pesticide and other chemical residue, which will help you, reap maximum health rewards.  If you have a sweet tooth you may like these natural sugar alternatives.

Try incorporating vanilla into your lifestyle to get its numerous health benefits. You can try delicious vanilla powder or extract in smoothies, shakes, plain yogurt, hot cocoa, coffee, cakes, muffins, waffles, pancakes, puddings, chocolates, cookies, energy bites, ice cream and other dessert-like drinks. For uplifting aromatherapy benefits; diffuse, inhale or use vanilla oil topically. Massage it into your muscles and joints to soothe inflammation and enjoy its rejuvenating effects on your body.

These benefits make vanilla a nutraceutical or food supplement that you should include in your diet to prevent and treat various diseases.

Dr. Patrick Quillin

Dr. Patrick Quillin, PhD,RD,CNS is an internationally recognized expert in the area of nutrition and health. He has 30 years experience as a clinical nutritionist, of which 10 years were spent as the Vice President for a leading cancer hospital system where he worked with thousands of cancer patients in a hospital setting. He is a Best Selling Author with 18 books which have sold over 2,000,000 copies and also a Keynote Speaker.