Mayan and Aztec civilizations have known about the properties of vanilla for ages. They would grind fresh pods to create medicinal elixirs and use it as royal drinks. Today, this expensive spice is gaining more attention as studies suggest that the anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties of vanilla and vanilla extract may act as inhibitors to cancer cells.
Extract from vanilla beans involves a long process of fermentation and filtering. However, both the pod and extract contain essential B-vitamins such as niacin, panthothenic acid, thiamin, and riboflavin and small amounts of minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc. Polyphenols found in the vanilla plant include vanillin, the chemical compound, which produces the strong aroma.
Health benefits of Vanilla
Studies on vanillin suggest it contains strong antioxidant and antibacterial properties, and even cancer or tumor fighting abilities. Some other health benefits of vanilla include the following.
- Increased libido: Since ancient times, vanilla has been regarded an aphrodisiac. However, ongoing aromatherapy studies suggest that vanilla may increase sexual desire by boosting testosterone levels in men. A 1970s study also claimed that majority of its participants believed that vanilla had cured their impotency. While there is no concrete evidence to prove this, experts believe that the aroma of vanilla does induce feelings of pleasure and satiation.
- Skin disorders: Antibacterial properties of vanillin help cleanse skin problems such as pimples and acne. Moreover, antioxidant properties of vanilla help fight the damage caused by free radicals. It may even help slow signs of aging. The cosmetic industry uses vanilla both for its fragrance as well as anti-aging properties.
- Burns: Traditionally, home remedies to heal burns, cuts, and wounds have used vanilla. However, it is perhaps unsafe to use concentrated vanilla extract or essential oil on recent burns. Topical treatments containing vanilla may prove beneficial; however, talk to your doctor before you try any home remedies or natural treatment for burns.
- Coughing: Cough syrups often use vanilla flavoring to mask bitter tastes. Although there is little evidence to prove the effect of vanilla extract on coughing, the mild anesthetic properties may relieve symptoms such as pain from a sore throat or headache.
- Toothache: Vanillin found in vanilla falls under the same category of vanilloids that include capsaicin from chilli peppers and eugenols from spices such as cinnamon. Both these active compounds have an effect on the central nervous system. Capsaicin acts as a pain reliever, while eugenols work effectively as topical anesthetics. These mirroring properties in vanilla may help you fight a toothache and infection.
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