Vanilla essential oil can be used on your hair, skin, and scent—and has a variety of other uses. Read more about the health benefits of vanilla oil and how you can use it.
Vanilla essential oil comes from orchids of the genus vanilla plants that are found primarily in Mexico and other neighboring countries. It is also indigenous to India, South America, and South Africa. In the 16th century, Portuguese sailors introduced vanilla to African and Asian countries. The essential oil comes from the beans of vanilla plants fermented via a solvent extraction method.
In addition to being used as a flavoring for various foods and aromatherapy, vanilla essential oil has many health benefits.
Vanilla has calming properties. Vanilla extract generates feelings of warmth and happiness. The smell of vanilla is calming, helping to relieve feelings of stress, anger, and depression. Also, consuming vanilla may have similar effects as antidepressants, used as a treatment for anxiety. Common signs of anxiety include insomnia, depression, social isolation, headaches, breathing problems, heart palpitations, panic attacks, and muscle tension.
Sleep quality improved. Vanilla can increase relaxation, decrease tension, and calm the mind. These benefits can help a person fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer. Long-term sleep deprivation effects can include difficulty concentrating, impaired memory, weakened immune system, decreased sex drive, increased risk for diabetes, weight gain, increased heart disease risk, and reduces coordination and balance. Adding one drop of vanilla extract to a drink can increase relaxation, helping a person fall asleep.
Rich in antioxidants. Vanilla oils are high in antioxidants, including vanillic acid and vanillin. Antioxidants are compounds that play a role in keeping the heart healthy and strengthening the immune system. Antioxidants also limit oxidation, which is a process that can produce free radicals. Free radicals are dangerous because they can damage a cell’s DNA, which could lead to cell mutations. These mutations have potential links to various health issues, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and atherosclerosis. You can obtain the antioxidant benefits of vanilla by consuming them or applying to the skin externally via creams, lotions, soaps, or shampoos.
Improved skin health. Vanilla oil contains the B vitamins niacin, thiamin, and pantothenic acid, which are often used to keep hair and skin healthy. B vitamins can decrease age spots, prevent wrinkles, fine lines, clear acne, and limit free radical skin damage. Vanilla oil is found in various skincare products, such as lip balms, body butter, creams, and body lotions.
Antibacterial qualities. Vanilla oil is an antibacterial that may help decrease the risk of infections from bacteria. (Staph infections, cholera, strep throat, and food poisoning are examples of bacteria). These properties can be important for those with compromised immune systems. Vanilla can also be used as a deodorizer and sanitizer and applied to various surfaces to kill germs. Another option is to add vanilla oil to homemade soap recipes.
Anti-inflammatory. Vanilla oil mixed with a carrier oil has been applied to the skin for centuries to decrease inflammation in the body. Inflammation is used by the body to protect it from harmful bacteria, toxins, and other foreign invaders naturally. However, too much inflammation can be harmful: instead of attacking foreign invaders, it attacks the body itself. Arthritis, gout, and Crohn’s disease are examples of inflammatory diseases.
Digestive issues. When used as aromatherapy, the scent of vanilla oil may help reduce feelings of nausea. Consuming herbal tea infused with vanilla has been used to treat upset stomachs, cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, and other digestive issues.
You can find vanilla extract in foods, as aromatherapy, and a variety of household uses:
Cooking. You can use vanilla extract in a variety of baking and dessert recipes. Cakes, pies, frosting, sauce, cider, cookies, and pudding are just a few ways vanilla extract is in recipes. It is also used as a flavoring in syrups and medications.
Insect repellant. Mosquitoes, ticks, blackflies, and other bugs don’t like the smell of vanilla. Mix one tablespoon of vanilla and one cup of water and apply to exposed skin to keep them at bay.
Minor burns. Vanilla extract can help treat minor burns, such as those from touching a hot pan on the stove. Applying the vanilla extract to a cotton ball and gently dabbing onto the affected area can cool the burn and decrease pain.
Perfume. To make perfume, add a carrier oil (almond or jojoba oil) and 10-20 drops of vanilla extract to a spray bottle. Also, vanilla makes a great perfume. You can spray it on your hair, as well as furniture and bedding.
While vanilla extract has many benefits and is considered safe by the FDA, it is important to note the potential side effects as well. Here are the most common:
Choose the proper carrier oil. Not all carrier oils are compatible. Top carrier oils for vanilla extract are coconut, olive, jojoba, and almond oils. Mixing the right combinations of essential oil and mixing oil is critical. Standard mixtures include the following:
- 1% dilution: five drops of essential oil to one ounce of carrier oil.
- 2% dilution: ten drops of essential oil to one ounce of carrier oil.
- 5% dilution: 40 drops of essential oils to one ounce of carrier oil.
- 10% dilution: 80 drops of essential oil to one ounce of carrier oil.
Allergic reactions. Try a small amount of vanilla on an area of skin to ensure there are no allergic reactions. Other potential side effects include headaches and insomnia, but these are rare.
Avoid cheap imitations. Vanilla is one of the most expensive extracts on the market. Lower-priced brands may not be pure, containing artificially created vanilla or synthetics. Some imported brands of vanilla extract may also contain coumarin, a chemical banned by the FDA in the 1950s.
Pregnant and breastfeeding. Taking vanilla extract in normal food amounts is considered safe. However, pregnant women should consult a Doctor.
Homemade vanilla bean oil can be made with an 8-ounce jar, six vanilla beans, and one cup of vodka:
- Use a knife or scissors to cut the vanilla beans in half
- Pour in the alcohol
- Place lid on the jar
- Place jar in a cool dark place
- Shake once or twice per week
- Let sit for two months
Note: The longer the mixture sits, the stronger the flavor and scent will be.
Vanilla oil can be purchased in many grocery stores, while you can find more high-grade varieties on-line. Vanilla oil has many uses and is in various dishes such as baked goods and desserts, applied to the skin or used in aromatherapy. Its health benefits have been known for centuries, being used as an anti-inflammatory, ease anxiety, decrease digestive issues, improve sleep quality, and others. Vanilla oil is easy to make and can be beneficial for a number of reasons, but it’s important for people to take their own body and health into consideration when deciding to give it a try.