The Magic of Medicinal Vanilla
Vanilla is one of the world’s most well-known and popular flavors, the star in a diverse array of products. It is an FDA and FEMA (Flavor and Extract Manufacturer Association) approved aromatic compound used in domestic cooking, baking, and commercial food and beverages. It’s also prevalent in fragrances, aromatherapy, and other personal care essentials. Also, did you know that the core component of the food product – vanillin – is used medicinally and in pharmaceuticals?
Where Does Vanilla Extract Come From?
The fragrant spice is extracted from the fruit of the Vanilla orchid, a vine initially found in Central and South America. The Totonac, and perhaps the Olmec before them – people living in Mesoamerica – are thought to be the first to domesticate vanilla. They used it in cuisine, as a fragrance, and as a good luck charm.
Later, the Aztecs adopted the spice, using it to offset the bitter taste of cacao. Later still, Hernán Cortés – the leader of a Spanish expedition that caused the fall of the Aztecs – introduced vanilla and chocolate to Europe. Both substances were enthusiastically welcomed and used in sweetmeats and ice cream.
Three species are now cultivated on the Indian Ocean islands of Reunion and Madagascar (as Madagascar or Bourbon vanilla), the West Indies, Tahiti in the South Pacific, and Uganda. Two-thirds of the global supply comes from Indonesia and Madagascar.
How Is It Produced?
Vanilla is hard to produce, requiring hand pollination to generate the fruit and seed pods, time, and patience. The seed capsule opens at one end as it ripens on the plant. As it dries, its phenolic compounds crystallize into “diamond dust” on the exterior while releasing its distinctive vanilla fragrance.
Harvesting the fruit is rigorous, with each ripening in its own time and necessitating daily maturation identification and harvesting. Curing vanilla is equally labor-intensive and can take several forms. Typically, the pods are “killed” to prevent further development, sweated, slow-dried, and conditioned. The vanilla is then graded and prepared for use as an entire pod, powder, sugar, or vanilla extract.
Vanilla is the second-most expensive spice available. Fortunately, you require only a tiny amount to flavor food and other products.
Historical Uses of Vanilla as a Medicinal Plant
Beyond its unique fragrance and flavor, vanilla has long attracted attention for medicinal and aphrodisiacal purposes. Traditional Mesoamerican uses included wound healing, relieving stomach ailments, and venomous insect stings and bites.
In Europe, vanilla was considered helpful as a nerve stimulant and to treat “female” conditions such as depression and hysteria, helping to keep women “calm.” Similarly, across the ocean in America, the extract was thought to stimulate the brain, improve muscle energy, and enhance sexual experience.
Physicians also used it to treat rheumatism and mild fevers. However, how is this highly versatile substance used medicinally today?
Vanillin As a Modern Pharmaceutical
Thanks to advances in pharmacology and chemistry, vanillin – the active component of vanilla – is now respected as a “scientifically efficacious commodity.” It has various pharmacological actions, ranging from antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antisickling, and anticarcinogen protection to cancer treatment. It also offers potential diuretic and anxiolytic uses and cardio and gastric protective action.
The fragrant and fascinating extract remains “sacred.” So, when sourcing vanillin, choose it in its purest and most concentrated forms – from Advanced Biotech – an approved and globally trusted extracts producer.
Source 100% Natural Vanillin From Advanced Biotech’s Pure Vanilla Extract
Rely on our extensive selection of pure, natural, and EU-certified vanilla extracts, concentrates, bases, pastes, absolutes, complexes, and oleoresins. Please contact us for more information.