Vanilla is Anything But
Vanilla beans are the sun-dried pods of orchids of the genus Vanilla plant. Vanilla, one of the most expensive spices (after saffron), is grown within 20 degrees of the equator. The long, thin pods are filled with a pulpy substance embedded with a multitude of tiny black seeds. Vanilla has a soft, sweet flavor; it also has some surprising health and beauty benefits.
The antibacterial properties of vanilla make it beneficial in treating acne, and it is excellent for cleansing the skin. Vanilla is also rich in antioxidants, which help prevent and reverse skin damage caused by free radicals. These waste products, which result from normal as well as harmful metabolic processes, can cause various diseases, including cancer. Vanilla possesses both antioxidant and cancer-fighting properties.
Vanilla can help protect the skin from damage caused by environmental pollutants and toxins, and help slow down signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles and age spots. (Maybe this is why it is so widely used in the cosmetic industry.) Raw vanilla beans infused with organic oil make skin smooth and soft, and vanilla has been used as a traditional remedy to heal burns, wounds and cuts.
To revive skin, slice open a few vanilla beans and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Mix into a paste and gently scrub skin for a few minutes. Rinse off with warm water first and then splash some cold water on to close pores. Skin will feel revitalized, refreshed and very smooth.
An excellent hair mask can be made by mixing about 5 drops of vanilla essential oil with 4 oz. melted shea butter and 2 tablespoons of almond and jojoba oil. Apply this mixture to hair for 10 to 15 minutes and then wash off with a mild shampoo. Hair will be soft and silky but not sticky. Store this mixture at room temperature or refrigerate for future use.
Vanilla’s sweet, fragrant flavor also has some medicinal properties and can be beneficial to health. The vanilla scent can be helpful for those suffering from depression and anxiety, and it has been known to help alleviate the symptoms of claustrophobia. When used with a healthy diet and exercise program it can play a role in helping people lose weight. A few drops of vanilla extract in a glass of water can help calm a nauseated stomach and relieve digestive problems.
Vanilla, used as an aphrodisiac since ancient times, can increase sexual desire in men by boosting testosterone levels. It can be effective in helping alleviate impotency and inducing feelings of pleasure and satiation. It is also beneficial in regulating menstruation in women who have irregular periods.
Vanilla contains B-complex vitamins such as niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and thiamin. These vitamins aid in enzyme synthesis, nervous-system function and regulation of metabolism. Vanilla also contains minerals such as magnesium, calcium, manganese, potassium, iron and zinc, which support good overall health.
Beware of synthetically produced artificial vanilla essence, which can be harmful to health, and always invest in the real thing. Pure organic vanilla is more expensive, but the nutrition benefits definitely outweigh the price.
A delicious and nutritious treat is the Vanilla Coconut Smoothie. Prepare this quick and easy recipe and enjoy the flavor and the health benefits of real vanilla.
Vanilla Coconut Smoothie
2 cups young coconut flesh 1 cup coconut water 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine the coconut flesh, coconut water and vanilla extract in a high-speed blender, blend into a rich creamy treat and indulge.
Brenda Cobb is the author of The Living Foods Lifestyle and founder of The Living Foods Institute, an educational center and therapy spa in Atlanta offering healthy-lifestyle courses on nutrition, cleansing, healing, anti-aging, detoxification, relaxation and cleansing therapies. For more information, call 404-524-4488 or visit LivingFoodsInstitute.com. See ad on inside front cover.