Vanilla extract is made by dissolving vanilla beans in alcohol to create the dark colored liquid with the powerful scent of natural vanilla. Vanillin, the chemical compound named for vanilla, found in the extract, has several health benefits.

1. Antioxidant

Most frequently studied as a component of other substances, vanillin is known for its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants battle free radical damage and repair its effects, which means they make important changes at a cellular level. This implicates antioxidants in everything from mucosal healing to cancer battling to skin rejuvenation.

Researchers in a 2007 study published in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” found that vanilla extract contains 26 to 90 percent of the antioxidants of unprocessed vanilla, depending on the type of antioxidant and the concentration of the extract. They concluded that vanilla showed great potential as a health supplement and as a food preservative.

Application: Refresh skin by including vanilla oil in lotion and other topical treatments. For extra antioxidant power, pair with scavenging superstar clove essential oil.

2. Antibacterial

In a rare test of actual vanilla oil, researchers evaluated the efficacy of vanilla oil for inhibiting certain bacteria. For the bacteria in question, a strain of Staph, vanilla was able to inhibit its development.

Essential oils with antibacterial benefits are extremely useful.

3. Antidepressant

Essential oils are often used for their uplifting, antidepressant abilities thanks to their simple applications and quick results. Vanillin has been studied for its in vitro ability to relieve depression. Tracking markers of depression in mice, researchers were able to determine antidepressant activity with the vanillin compound.

4. Anticancer

Vanillin and substances that contain it (like vanilla) are among the oils and compounds considered for anticancer ability. More reserach is needed but we can in the meantime, enjoy using a substance that cancer doesn't like!

5. Anti-inflammatory

Also in line with the effects of antioxidants, vanillin is likely to be anti-inflammatory. This effect tends to happen with antioxidant substances thanks to that cellular level repair that takes place. Vanillin is a natural antioxidant and gives vanilla beans their distinctive aroma. An animal study published in a 2011 issue of the “European Journal of Pharmacology” found that as a result of the vanillin content, vanilla extract had powerful liver-protective abilities, as well as anti-inflammatory abilities. Researchers found that treating with vanillin led to lower overall inflammation in animals. However, it's not yet known whether it has the same benefits for people.

Might Lower Cholesterol

The vanillin found in vanilla extract may have cholesterol-lowering benefits, according to a study published in 2013 in the "Indian Journal of Experimental Biology." The animal study found that taking high doses of vanillin led to a significant reduction in total blood cholesterol levels in rats who were fed a high-fat diet. While promising, the study, conducted over 45 days, used much higher quantities of vanillin than is usually found in a serving of vanilla extract. More research is needed to determine its effects.

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

Make a vanilla extract by scraping vanilla pods into rum or bourbon, allowing them to sit in an airtight container and dark place for a couple of weeks before use. When the alcohol is fragrant, you can remove the beans and use as vanilla extract.

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