Vanilla – The orchid with a Commercial Fruit
The name “vanilla” is derived from the Spanish word “vainilla”, which means “little black pod”. Many orchid species are grown for their flowers, but vanilla is the only orchid that produces a commercial fruit.
Vanilla plant is a herbaceous climbing vine which needs a supporting tree or pole for their existence. It has its origin in the rainforest of Mexico and Central America. However, today vanilla beans are cultivated in many areas of the world and the main producing countries are Madagascar, Indonesia, China, Comoros and in a lesser extent Tonga, Turkey and Guadeloupe.
It bears trumpet-shaped flowers which are naturally pollinated by bees and hummingbirds. However, hand pollination is mainly used to ensure that the plant produces beans. After pollination the vanilla pod or a bean takes 6 – 10 months to reach maturity. The matured vanilla pod will have a length of 12-24cm. It has an amazingly soft as well as sweet flavour and fragrance which makes it a popular ingredient in sweet drinks and confectioneries. Vanilla is commonly used as a flavouring agent, however it is also known for its medicinal value.
There exist three main cultivars of vanilla namely Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla pompona and Vanilla tahitiensis. Out of these Vanilla planifolia is the most sought-after bean worldwide.
Prevent Skin Disorders
Antibacterial properties of vanilla help to clean your skin, reduce the occurrence of pimples and acne. Moreover, antioxidant properties of vanilla help to fight the damages caused by by environmental pollutants and toxins. Vanillic acid and vanillin are some of the antioxidants present in vanilla. These antioxidants may protect our skin from damage and harmful components like radicals and toxins. Vanilla is also a good source of B-vitamins like niacin, thiamin, Vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid. Vanilla can play a key role in maintaining a healthy skin.
It exhibits Anti-ageing Benefits
Vanilla is rich in antioxidants, it may prevent and reverse skin damage caused by free radicals. This antioxidant property also helps to slow down the signs of ageing like fine lines, wrinkles and age spots. Vanilla extract is widely used in cosmetic industry for its fragrance and anti-ageing benefits. Applying raw vanilla beans infused with organic oil can make your skin smooth and soft.
Vanilla extract is made by dissolving vanilla beans in alcohol to create the dark coloured liquid with the powerful scent of natural vanilla. All vanilla extracts are high in alcohol, but the alcohol evaporates when exposed to high heat, such as during baking.
It aids in the treatment of Anxiety and Depression
Studies have revealed that vanilla extract may have a positive effect on those suffering from depression and anxiety disorders. The scent of vanilla is specifically helpful for this purpose. This condiment spice is also beneficial for your nervous system.
Plays a positive role in Dental Health
The presence of vanillin in vanilla is similar to the presence of capsaicin in chilli and eganols in spices such as cinnamon. It has a positive effect on the central nervous system. Capsaicin is an effective pain reliever while euganols act as topical anaesthetics. Both these properties are exhibited by vanilla, which help to fight toothache and infection.
Provides relief against Coughing
Cough syrups often make use of vanilla for flavouring and to mask bitter tastes. Vanilla has a mild anaesthetic property, which may help to relieve symptoms such as pain from a sore throat or headache.
Might Lower Cholesterol
Vanilla contains a compound called vanillin, which may have cholesterol-lowering benefits.