Best known as an ingredient in baking recipes and as one of the most popular ice cream flavors, vanilla, it turns out offers many health benefits. Vanilla essential oil is one of the best ways to get the health benefits.
Vanilla can derogatorily mean “boring.”
But when it comes to natural health, there’s nothing vanilla about vanillin.
‘Vanillin’ is the main beneficial chemical component that’s extracted from V. planifolia seed pods.
Fun fact about V. planifolia. The plant is actually an orchid. It’s native to Central America.
And it’s this reason why synthetic vanilla is often used in packaged foods. It’s also fairly common in beverages and cosmetics.
Drug companies use extracts of it in their pharmaceuticals. And as you’ll soon see, vanillin offers several impressive health benefits.
Vanilla Essential Oil
If you’re into natural health, you likely have some experience using essential oils.
Should the oil from V. planifolia be a staple in your natural medicine cabinet?
It’s kind of a trick question.
You see, technically, there’s really no such thing as vanilla essential oil (VEO).
A true EO is bottled via distillation. And this process involves either water or steam.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves on this topic. We’ll revisit it later.
First, though, let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of vanilla.
Specifically, we’ll briefly examine what research studies have been done on vanillin.
Remember, vanillin is the most beneficial compound in the oil.
Your body has about 25,000 genes. These genes determine your hair and eye color, and other inherited traits. However, your genetic code–DNA–can undergo damage due to many factors…
One factor is environmental pollution. And here’s one reason why you may want to use vanilla essential oil from time to time….
In the journal, Mutation Research, vanillin does something interesting. It triggers a certain kind of DNA damage.
That doesn’t sound good. But this action actually triggers the repair of your DNA.
Consequently, this reduces spontaneous mutations in your genetic material. Which means that vanillin might prevent certain diseases.
A study in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology involves mice with depression. (Who knew, right? Mice can be depressed?)
The mice were forced to swim and subject to a tail suspension test.
Without doubt, that sounds terrible for the mice. And it is. No wonder they become depressed.
If you were suspended by your legs (tail, in the case of a mouse) with tape, in such a position that you couldn’t escape or hold on to nearby surfaces, you would be depressed, too.
The typical tail suspension test lasts six minutes.
Why the seemingly cruel test in the research field? This article claims it’s “a valuable tool in drug discovery for high-throughput screening of prospective antidepressant compounds.”
And one of those compounds is vanillin.
At a dosage of 100 mg/kg of bodyweight, it demonstrates antidepressant activity in mice.
This amount, conclude the researchers, is comparable with fluoxetine. Fluoxetine is a class of SSRI antidepressant medication.
Does that mean if you’re down in the dumps, a vanilla ice cream will cheer you up? Maybe.
But this study certainly does not imply that if you’re being treated for clinical depression, vanilla essential oil will cure it….
Nonetheless, the study on vanillin offers promise for future treatments for depression.
Protects the Liver
Let’s leave the Indian subcontinent for a moment and head to Europe. That continent’s Journal of Pharmacology says the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of vanillin offer protection against liver injury and fibrosis.
Fibrosis is a thickening or scarring of bodily tissue. Usually, it occurs because of surgery or injuries.
The research here shows that vanillin protects the liver in a few different ways.
First, it prevents oxidation of fat cells in the liver. Oxidation in fat cells leads to free radicals taking electrons from the fat cells. This results in cell damage.
So that’s one way vanilla essential oil may boost your health.
It also prevents the loss of your body’s antioxidant enzymes catalase and superoxide dismutase (SOD).
Moreover, it boosts levels of glutathione in the liver. Glutathione is your body’s master natural antioxidant.
And finally, to protect your liver, vanillin reduces the expression levels of cytokines. Cytokines can cause debilitating inflammation in your body.
Anti cancer potential
If only vanilla ice cream could cure cancer.
However, this research suggests that vanillin has potential as an agent in cancer treatment drugs. Vanillin helps fight the proliferation of ROS.
ROS stands for reactive oxygen species. In a healthy person, the immune system is constantly battling ROS, making sure they don’t get out of control.
But in someone with chronic disease, cellular oxidation is not able to be kept in check.
Can vanilla essential oil prevent ROS from winning out in your body? Well, for one, VEO isn’t really meant to be used internally. And furthermore, there’s not any research proving that VEO offers these important benefits.
The good news is that the best vanilla essential oil will retain therapeutic vanillin. Thus, perhaps it can offer some of these health benefits….
Let’s take a look at a couple more, shall we?
Research in the Archives of Pharmacal Research says that vanillin blocks the detection of a painful or injurious stimulus by sensory neurons.
In short, vanilla can prevent the sensation of pain?
That makes total sense.
After all, think about when a kid falls at a playground and cries. Mom gives her kid a vanilla ice cream.
What happens next? The crying stops.
No more pain!
Of course, the research proving the sensory pain blocking effects of vanillin are more complex than that. But perhaps there is something scientific about giving a child some ice cream for pain?
All these benefits from vanilla essential oil?
Not exactly. You see, as stated above, there’s really no such thing as VEO.
So let’s dive a little further into this topic now….
In order to extract vanillin and other compounds from the vanilla bean, you need chemicals.
However, some people who use essential oils are willing to let the technicality slide.
To get the best vanilla oil, find one that’s extracted using CO2 (carbon dioxide) gas.
That’s because CO2 extracts retain the therapeutic benefits without any trace of chemicals.
So why not just use steam or water to get vanilla essential oil?
The problem is vanillin and the other therapeutic compounds can’t be extracted by water.
Moreover, steam, and heat in general, will actually kill the beneficial effects of vanillin.
But don’t rush out to your local supermarket to buy pure vanilla extract for the health benefits.
Benefits of vanilla essential oil for hair
In addition to all these health benefits as well as being an awesome flavoring, vanilla may enhance your beauty.
According to this blogger at StyleCraze, vanilla can make your hair lustrous and smoother. However, you need other ingredients to add to it.
The blogger recommends a hair pack for this purpose.
Hair packs are simply a hodge-podge of food stuffs from your fridge that can serve as a salon treatment surrogate.
The blogger first recommends melting a few ounces of shea butter. Next, add 5 drops of vanilla essential oil. (OK, technically, 5 drops of vanilla CO2 extracted oil.)
Add to this DIY hair pack a couple tablespoons each of the following carrier oils: almond, jojoba and castor oils.
These carrier oils help dilute the vanilla oil.
Allow the mixture to cool. Then, blend this mixture until it becomes soft enough to rub into your hair.
Leave the mixture in for up to 15 minutes.
Use a mild shampoo to wash out the mixture, says the blogger. “This will make your hair soft and manageable without making it sticky.”
You can refrigerate this homemade hair pack with VEO for future use.
Vanilla essential oil blends well with
Either online or in a natural health store, you’ll find vanilla bean oil mixed with a carrier oil. Another common form of the oil is absolute extract.
Absolute extracts are more common in perfumes and cosmetics.
Again, if you want the best vanilla essential oil for home use, get one that’s a C02 extract. The CO2 extract preserves most of the therapeutic effects of vanillin.
The oil will blend well with a carrier oil, like those mentioned above in using it for hair.
From a research point of view, vanilla works well with ylang ylang and patchouli to kill certain kinds of bacteria.
This study suggests these three essential oils contain strong antimicrobial activity. Especially in resistance to Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumoniae
“… Vanilla, patchouli and ylang-ylang essential oils could be of a great interest for the biomedical field…,” the study concludes.
How to make vanilla essential oil
Vanilla oil is not intended for internal use like extract in a baking recipe. That being said, though, it is worth noting that for your taste buds, vanilla beans from Madagascar and Mexico are thought to be the best in the world.
If you want to make VEO at home instead of just buying a bottle of oil infusion, here’s what you do….
First, you have to buy some beans. (Ideally, they will be organic to make sure they don’t contain pesticides.)
Finely chop the pods into pieces. In order to this, you have to cut the hard ends off the vanilla beans.
For best results, slice right down the middle, lengthwise. Next, scrape the beans from the inside with a small spoon. Then, cut up the remaining outer pod.
To let the aroma of the vanilla shine, use a carrier oil that’s not very fragrant. Jojoba oil is best for this recipe.
The Pompeii Organics method involves preparing the oil in a crock pot.
In order to do this add the beans and the carrier oil to the crock pot.
Place on the “keep warm” setting for 3 hours for three days in a row.
Make sure to strain your homemade vanilla essential oil with a strainer or cheesecloth.
Finally, filter the oil into a clean glass jar.
Sound too complex?
Just buy it online on Amazon.