Vanilla, and its main constituent vanillin, are among the most popular aromatic and food flavoring agents and are extensively used by the food, beverage, perfumery (such as candles and body oils) and pharmaceutical industries. Vanilla has been added to yogurt, nutritional supplements, meal replacement shakes and protein bars, drinking water, custard, energy drinks, soymilk, ice cream, lip salve, nonfat dry milk and sterile frozen dairy desserts for immunocompromised patients. Vanilla has also been used as part of a weaning diet, and medicinally to treat various conditions by cultures throughout the world.
Asian medicine: In Palau, vanilla has been used to treat dysmenorrhea, fever and hysteria and to prevent dental caries.
Ayurveda: Vanilla extracts have reportedly been used to help alleviate toothache. Secondary sources suggest dipping a cotton ball in the extract and applying it to the affected tooth.
Central and Southern American medicine: In Venezuela, vanilla pods have been used as an antispasmodic and to treat fevers. In the Yucatan, vanilla extract has reportedly been used for its potential stimulant and aphrodisiac effects. In Argentina, it has been used for its potential antispasmodic, aphrodisiac and emmenagogue properties.
European medicine: Vanilla is commonly used as a flavoring agent and aromatic. It has been suggested that vanilla may help treat dyspepsia and ulcers and may have aphrodisiac and sedative effects.
Modern (Western) herbal medicine: Vanilla is added to various foods and beverages as a flavoring. It is also used in various body care products and aromatherapy for its purported relaxant effects. According to secondary sources, rubbing vanilla extract on the skin may prevent black gnats from biting and getting in the eyes.
Veterinary medicine: In animals, aromatherapy with essential oil of vanilla has been used for its sedative effects.
For more information about vanilla, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements database.