The vanilla bean might be Mother Nature’s most alluring fruit. Shiny, dark and slender, she is full of a million tiny seeds all bursting with an aroma that people have been swooning over for hundreds of years.
Since the early 1500's the Aztec people cultivated vanilla in their homeland of Mexico. They knew that vanilla could melt hearts, warm souls and calm minds and so they used it as a perfume. Soon after, its sweet and warm aroma made its way into food and its health benefits were revealed.
Aside from a surprisingly long list of health benefits, vanilla is known to be a powerful aphrodisiac- especially for men. In the 1700s, doctors prescribed it for male potency and both Queen Elizabeth I and Madame du Barry kept it in their boudoirs.
Vanilla is a vine-like flowering plant that is actually a member of the orchid family. It’s the only type of orchid that produces a bean, and its flower only lasts for a single day. Growing a vanilla crop requires extensive time and skill, knowing when the best time is for pollination and harvest. In fact, most of the world’s crop is still hand-pollinated, and the beans are picked by artisan farmers who have been growing the crop for generations.
The vanilla flavor we have come to know and love comes from the pod or bean of the plant. It takes 5-7 pounds of green vanilla beans to produce just 1oz of vanilla, making it the most expensive spice in the world next to saffron. That also explains why there are so many vanilla imitations on the market. Artificial flavoring is mass produced for taste rather than for nutritional properties, and so only 100% vanilla extract contains the major health benefits we have come to love.
Aside from the power of attraction, healthful benefits of vanilla include:
- Heart Health - Vanilla helps lower cholesterol and prevents blood clots and inflammation of arteries.
- Weight Loss - Vanilla is a natural appetite suppressant and can help lessen food cravings
- Helps with Anxiety - The potent warm scent of vanilla is known to have a direct and calming effect on the nerves, lowering stress as an aromatherapy.
- Digestion Health - Drinking tea with vanilla (like Firepot Chai!) has long been a popular natural remedy that instantly soothes gut inflammation, and helps with other digestion problems like cramping and stomach-ache
- Great for Skin and Hair - Vanilla as an essential oil can help prevent split ends and hair loss. It can prevent breakouts from acne, brighten the complexion and heal scars.
While vanilla is a common ingredient found in most kitchens across the world, its comforting aroma is found in everything from perfumes to incense to lip balm to candles. Vanilla boosts your mood, calms your nerves, and revitalizes your mind, body, and energy...and there’s nothing vanilla about that.