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The Most Beloved Scent In The World

vanilla-flowerAfter fresh air, it’s vanilla. You may recall your grandma making cakes out of the box or  from scratch, and the additional ingredients always included this spice and flavoring.

I’m focusing on vanilla because not only does the scent bring back fond memories of childhood, it also brings up feelings of security for me and can do so for you.

Vanilla planifolia is a species of vanilla orchid that is native to Mexico and is one of the primary sources for vanilla flavoring, due to its high vanillin content. It is found in my favorite de-stressing essential oil blend* that I also use in the Aroma Freedom Technique. Of course this is another orchid I won’t even attempt to grow at home LOL.

Herbwisdom (dot)com says:

According to scientific studies conducted over the past two decades, vanilla has cancer-killing potential, helps cure depression, and acts as an aphrodisiac for those in need of love. (emphasis added)


According to WebMD.com:

  • Vanilla is a plant. The bean (fruit) is commonly used to make flavoring, but it is also used to make medicine.
  • People take vanilla to treat intestinal gas and fever. They also use it to increase sexual desire (as an aphrodisiac).
  • In foods and beverages, vanilla is a well-known flavoring, but it is also added to foods to reduce the amount of sugar needed for sweetening. Some people add vanilla to food to help stop tooth decay.
  • In manufacturing, vanilla is used as a flavoring in syrups used in making medications. It is also used as a fragrance in perfumes.
  • Vanilla extract can be pricey. So lab-produced vanillin is often used as a substitute for vanilla. Sometimes vanilla extracts are diluted with less expensive extracts. Vanilla extracts from Mexico have been diluted with tonga bean extracts, but these contain a chemical called coumarin. Since 1954, the FDA has prohibited the use of coumarin in food. (emphasis added)


From this overview we realize it’s important to avoid foreign-made extract that may contain more than just vanilla beans.

This article describes how the McCormick brand of “pure” vanilla extract contains corn syrup.

Choose an organic brand of vanilla extract from a company you trust and stick with it.

This site describes how to make your own vanilla extract (includes vodka).

This 2015 article describes the full genome of a Chinese vanilla species has been mapped, possibly allowing for replication of the vanillin (the active ingredient)  in the laboratory for more inexpensive commercial uses. Note that the pods are shorter and orchid looks different from above (maybe the photo catches an early growth phase):

pic of vanilla orchid

Vanilla shenzhenica from China

Now, about those feelings of security. When I travelled to Africa and the Caribbean years ago, I collected vanilla stalks to use as percussion instruments. I can’t say I still have them, but they lasted for years and I loved the sound of the beans shaking in the stalks. (I’m a closet percussionist.) Plus, the stalks smelled of vanilla for a long while.

Drums make me feel very secure, what can I say. I think of Madagascar, Kenya, Morocco and Jamaica. I think of music and rhythm and rum cake and Irish Moss drink, which I realized also contains vanilla. I remember trying to chew the stalks because in some Caribbean islands you can pull them right off the tree and get the flavoring for food.

chart of top vanilla producers 2015

2015 Top Vanilla Exporters

Fun Facts:

  • Madagascar is a global vanilla producer; #1 in 2015
  • Located in Oceania, Tonga, #7,  is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, directly south of Samoa and between Australia and South America, but closer to the former. I haven’t discovered whether tonga beans sometimes used to dilute vanilla extract are an inferior species from the island nation. Quite possibly.
  • French Polynesia, #9,  is known for being the last place occupied by humans on the planet. 500 years after Polynesians landed there, the French came. The islands are still a “country of France” that includes Tahiti and the Windward and Leeward Islands.
  • Bourbon vanilla is an ingredient in one of the best known perfume scents, Chanel #5.

–Rev. Niamo Nancy Muid

*the stress-busting blend I recommend gives you the feeling stress is just melting away. Ingredients include copaiba, lime, cedarwood, ocotea, and lavender uncut and pure essential oils, as well as fractionated (virgin) coconut oil. Research and compare and/or get it here.