Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia or Vanilla fragrans ) is a large green-stemmed perennial herbaceous vine belonging to the Orchidaceae Family. In its wild state it can reach a length of 25 meters or more. It is native to tropical America (especially Mexico) and is also cultivated in the tropics (Madagascar, Comoros Islands, French Polynesia, Tahiti, Indonesia, Reunion, Seychells, Mexico, Tanzania, Uganda, etc).
A resinoid, or oleoresin, is obtained from the ‘cured’ beans by solvent extraction. An absolute it obtained through further solvent extraction from the oleoresin. A CO2 extraction is also available. It’s major chemical components, around 86%, are the phenols (vanillin, 4-hydorxybenzyl methyl ether).
Vanilla extracts are used in pharmaceutical preparations such as syrups, primarily as a flavoring agent. It is used extensively by the fragrance industry as a perfume ingredient. Vanilla absolute is an ingredient I have enjoyed experimenting with in the Introduction to Natural Perfumer Workshop.
With its sweet, typical, aroma it blends well with most essential oils and has emotionally soothing and calming properties.
Psychologically, vanilla is considered to be helpful in times of anger and frustration. On the physiological level inhalation, or simply sniffing this oil, may be helpful in curbing sweet cravings.
Contraindications: Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic.
Albert Y. Leung & Steven Foster, Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, John Wiley & Sons, 1996 Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 201 Course 1999 revised 2000…2013