Vanilla pods or beans are the only known edible fruit from the thousands of varieties of orchids found around the world. The vanilla pod used for flavoring is extracted from the flat-leaved vanilla scientifically classified as V. Planifolia belonging to the family of Orchidaceae. The name when translated from Spanish means little pod.
Its flavor is top ranked among all the flavors in the world. It is widely used to flavor ice-creams, cakes, chewing gums, candies, cookies, creams, milkshakes, custard, caramel, puddings, coffee and many more. Cosmetic industry also uses it to add attractive aroma to their perfumes, lotions and other beauty products. It is said that Queen Elizabeth I was so fascinated by the flavor that she added vanilla to everything she consumed.
Native to Mexico, it was confined to the country due to its unique pollination process that depended on the local Melipona bee. When a 12 year old slave boy Edmond Albius discovered that vanilla could be hand-pollinated, the cultivation spread worldwide. Madagascar, Indonesia, Mexico and Tahiti are ranked high in production of vanilla. After harvesting, the vanilla pods have to go through a lengthy curing process, which includes drying up in sun, then in shade before they are stored in chests. The flavor of vanilla improves with time like wine.
We do not hear about the health benefits of vanilla often, just because the aroma and flavor of the fruit has pushed its other qualities into background. The original users of the pod, the Aztecs, had many medicinal uses for the herb. Vanilla is a source of vitamin B-complex that includes riboflavin, vitamin B-6, thiamin, and niacin which helps in proper regulation of metabolism in our body, synthesis of enzymes and relaxing of nervous system. The aromatic spice works wonders in aromatherapy used to treat patients suffering from claustrophobia.
It can help in fighting health conditions like:
- Weight gain
- Stress and anxiety
- Impotency in men
- Restless sleep
Anti Carcinogenic Properties
A polyphenol compound vanillin, present in vanilla is a powerful antioxidant which is also known to possess anti-carcinogenic property. The National Cancer Institute of America mentions vanilla extract among the anti carcinogenic products that have been proven to be effective. Pure vanilla extract, though, cannot entirely prevent cancer, it can delay or hinder the development of cancerous tumors to a great extent, especially in cancers of breast, colon and prostrate.
Relief from Headaches
Eugenol, an essential oil present in vanilla extract possesses antiseptic and analgesic properties which unclogs the blood vessels, relieving headaches.
Mix one tbsp of vanilla extract to 8 ounces of water. Drink the mix before going to bed for to find relief from headaches. Continuing the remedy for a few days will prevent frequent occurrence of headaches.
The Aztecs considered vanilla to have aphrodisiac properties, and used it as sex stimulant. A research conducted on impotent men in German showed that vanilla helped in restoration of their sexual functioning.
Dab a small piece of cotton in vanilla extract and place it on the aching spot to find relief from pain for an emergency. This is not a substitute for dental care; therefore a dentist must be consulted for finding solution to the root cause of the toothache.