Vanilla planifolia Jacks (Orchidaceae) Vanilla (Medicine)

Vanilla planifolia Jacks (Orchidaceae) Vanilla

Synonyms —

Myrobroma fragrans Salisb., Vanilla fragrans auct.

Medicinal Uses (Vanilla) —

This is one of the few spices in this topic that clearly has more culinary than medicinal interest. Still it was used as a galenical and a carrier for other less tasteful ingredients. Reported to be aphrodisiac, carminative, stimulant, and vulnerary. Venezuelans use the pods against fevers and spasms. Yucatanese use vanilla extract (pod steeped in alcohol) as aphrodisiac and stimulant. Argentineans use it as an antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, or emmenagogue. In Palau, vanilla is used for dysmenorrhea, fever, and hysteria. Vanilla is said to inhibit caries, probably because of the catechin.
Adesanya and Sofowora (1995) investigated several aromatic aldehydes known to form imine adducts with amino groups, thereby inhibiting the gelation of the hemoglobin. O-vanillin proved most active >2,3-dihydroxybenzaldehyde > salicylaldehyde >2,4-dihydroxybenzaldehyde > p-van-illin >m-anisaldehyde > p-hydroxybenzaldehyde > guaiacol. The activity of the o-vanillin is dose dependent (Adesanya and Sofowora, 1995). At least five of these compounds are found in vanilla. Regrettably, Adesanya and Sofowora (1995) did not report if a mix of these aldehydes was additive or synergistic. The very pleasant vanilla is my richest source of vanillin, the unpleasant asafetida my second richest source. Vanillic acid, also reportedly useful in sickle cell, is most abundant in Pircorrhiza but is generously represented in the spices, coriander at almost 1000 ppm (ZMB), onion at ca. 250, and horseradish at 45 ppm. Shaughnessy et al. (2001) elucidated the antimutagenic effects of vanillin, best represented in vanilla (ca. 3%, ZMB), and cinnamaldehyde, best represented in cinnamon (ca. 3%, ZMB). Vanillin is also choleretic (ABS, DAD, JFM).
Vanilla is not much better as an antiseptic than as a medicine. A study by Nielsen and Rios (2000) showed the volatiles of vanilla to be completely ineffective at inhibiting growth of various bread molds: Penicillium commune, P. roqueforti, Aspergillus flavus, and Endomyces fibuliger, using volatile EOs and oleoresins (OL) from spices and herbs. Mustard EO was most efficacious, with cinnamon, clove, and garlic highly active, oregano slightly active, and vanilla inactive (X11016611). But the vanillin seems to be synergistic with more repellant volatile oils, like turmeric, citronella, and citrus. Tawatsin et al. (2001) showed that volatile oil from turmeric repelled Aedes aegypti, Anopheles dirus, and Culex quinquefasciatus, especially with the addition of 5% vanillin, under cage conditions for up to eight hours. Various volatile oils can be formulated with vanillin as mosquito repellents to replace deet.
French enologists Teissedre and Waterhouse (2000) studied antioxidant activities of EOs of spices and culinary herbs. They note that EOs are important as antibacterials and antifungals, as flavorants and preservatives when added to foods, and as cosmetics, for their aromatic and antioxidant properties. In their survey of 23 EOs, star anise was most potent (IC83 = 2 |M); EO of vanilla was not so strong (IC40 = 2 |M, IC66 = 5 |M) (JAF4:3801).
The calcium oxalate crystals in the plant may cause dermatitis. Workers with vanilla may exhibit dermatitis, headache, and insomnia, all symptoms of vanillism. Several toxic compounds are present in minor quantity. GRAS § 182.10, 182.20, and 169.3.

Indications (Vanilla) —

Bacteria (1; FNF); Cancer (1; FNF); Caries (1; CRC; DAD); Cramp (1; FNF); Dysmenorrhea (f; CRC; DAD; FNF; HHB); Fever (f; CRC; DAD); Fungus (1; FNF); Hepatosis (1; FNF); Hysteria (f; CRC; DAD; HHB); Immunodepression (1; FNF); Infection (1; FNF); Inflammation (1; FNF); Nervousness (1; FNF); Pain (1; FNF); Polyp (f; JLH); Rhinosis (f; JLH); Sickle-Cell Anemia (1; FNF); Tumor (1; FNF); Virus (1; FNF); Water Retention (1; FNF).

Vanilla for cancer:

• Antiaggregant: anisyl-alcohol; catechin; cinnamaldehyde; coumarin; eugenol; ferulic-acid; salicylates
• Antiandrogenic: coumarin
• Antiarachidonate: eugenol
• Anticancer: benzaldehyde; catechin; catechol; cinnamaldehyde; cinnamic-acid-ethyl-ester; coumarin; eugenol; ferulic-acid; limonene; p-cresol; phenol; piperonal; salicylic-acid; syringaldehyde; umbelliferone; vanillic-acid; vanillin
• Anticarcinogenic: ferulic-acid
• Antiestrogenic: ferulic-acid
• Antihepatotoxic: catechin; ferulic-acid; protocatechuic-acid
• Antiinflammatory: catechin; cinnamaldehyde; coumarin; eugenol; ferulic-acid; n-hentri-acontane; protocatechuic-acid; salicylates; salicylic-acid; syringaldehyde; umbelliferone; vanillic-acid; zingerone
• Antileukemic: catechin; cinnamaldehyde
• Antilipoperoxidant: catechin
• Antimelanomic: coumarin
• Antimetastatic: coumarin
• Antimutagenic: anisaldehyde; cinnamaldehyde; cinnamyl-alcohol; coumarin; eugenol; fer-ulic-acid; limonene; n-nonacosane; p-cresol; protocatechuic-acid; umbelliferone; vanillin
• Antineoplastic: ferulic-acid
• Antinitrosaminic: ferulic-acid
• Antioxidant: catechin; catechol; eugenol; ferulic-acid; phenol; protocatechuic-acid; salicylic-acid; syringaldehyde; vanillic-acid; vanillin; zingerone
• Antiperoxidant: protocatechuic-acid
• Antiprostaglandin: catechin; eugenol; umbelliferone
• Antithromboxane: eugenol
• Antitumor: benzaldehyde; coumarin; eugenol; ferulic-acid; limonene; salicylic-acid; van-illic-acid; vanillin
• Antiviral: catechin; catechol; cinnamaldehyde; ferulic-acid; limonene; phenol; protocat-echuic-acid; vanillin
• COX-2-Inhibitor: eugenol; salicylic-acid
• Chemopreventive: coumarin; limonene
• Cyclooxygenase-Inhibitor: catechin; cinnamaldehyde; salicylic-acid; zingerone
• Cytotoxic: cinnamaldehyde; eugenol
• Hepatoprotective: catechin; eugenol; ferulic-acid
• Immunostimulant: benzaldehyde; catechin; coumarin; ferulic-acid; protocatechuic-acid
• Lipoxygenase-Inhibitor: catechin; cinnamaldehyde; umbelliferone
• Lymphocytogenic: coumarin
• Lymphokinetic: coumarin
• Ornithine-Decarboxylase-Inhibitor: ferulic-acid; limonene
• Prostaglandigenic: ferulic-acid; protocatechuic-acid
• Sunscreen: ferulic-acid; umbelliferone
Vanilla for cramp:
• Analgesic: coumarin; eugenol; ferulic-acid; phenol; salicylic-acid
• Anesthetic: benzaldehyde; benzoic-acid; benzyl-alcohol; cinnamaldehyde; eugenol; gua-iacol; phenol
• Anticonvulsant: eugenol
• Antiinflammatory: catechin; cinnamaldehyde; coumarin; eugenol; ferulic-acid; n-hentri-acontane; protocatechuic-acid; salicylates; salicylic-acid; syringaldehyde; umbelliferone; vanillic-acid; zingerone
• Antispasmodic: benzaldehyde; cinnamaldehyde; eugenol; ferulic-acid; limonene; proto-catechuic-acid; umbelliferone; vanillyl-alcohol
• COX-2-Inhibitor: eugenol; salicylic-acid
• Carminative: eugenol
• Cyclooxygenase-Inhibitor: catechin; cinnamaldehyde; salicylic-acid; zingerone
• Lipoxygenase-Inhibitor: catechin; cinnamaldehyde; umbelliferone
• Sedative: benzaldehyde; benzyl-alcohol; cinnamaldehyde; coumarin; eugenol; limonene
• Tranquilizer: cinnamaldehyde

Vanilla for infection:

• Analgesic: coumarin; eugenol; ferulic-acid; phenol; salicylic-acid
• Anesthetic: benzaldehyde; benzoic-acid; benzyl-alcohol; cinnamaldehyde; eugenol; gua-iacol; phenol
• Antibacterial: acetic-acid; acetophenone; benzaldehyde; benzoic-acid; catechin; cinna-maldehyde; eugenol; ferulic-acid; guaiacol; limonene; o-coumaric-acid; phenol; proto-catechuic-acid; salicylic-acid; umbelliferone; vanillic-acid
• Antiedemic: catechin; coumarin; eugenol; syringaldehyde
• Antiinflammatory: catechin; cinnamaldehyde; coumarin; eugenol; ferulic-acid; n-hentri-acontane; protocatechuic-acid; salicylates; salicylic-acid; syringaldehyde; umbelliferone; vanillic-acid; zingerone
• Antilymphedemic: coumarin
• Antiseptic: anisic-acid; benzaldehyde; benzoic-acid; benzyl-alcohol; catechol; cresol; ethyl-vanillate; eugenol; formic-acid; furfural; guaiacol; limonene; oxalic-acid; p-cresol; phenol; salicylic-acid; umbelliferone
• Antiviral: catechin; catechol; cinnamaldehyde; ferulic-acid; limonene; phenol; protocat-echuic-acid; vanillin
• Astringent: catechin; formic-acid
• Bacteristat: coumarin; malic-acid; n-hexacosane
• COX-2-Inhibitor: eugenol; salicylic-acid
• Circulostimulant: cinnamaldehyde
• Cyclooxygenase-Inhibitor: catechin; cinnamaldehyde; salicylic-acid; zingerone
• Fungicide: acetic-acid; acetophenone; anisaldehyde; benzoic-acid; catechin; cinnamal-dehyde; coumarin; ethyl-vanillate; eugenol; ferulic-acid; furfural; o-coumaric-acid; octanoic-acid; phenol; protocatechuic-acid; salicylic-acid; umbelliferone; vanillin
• Fungistat: formic-acid; limonene
• Immunostimulant: benzaldehyde; catechin; coumarin; ferulic-acid; protocatechuic-acid
• Lipoxygenase-Inhibitor: catechin; cinnamaldehyde; umbelliferone

Other Uses (Vanilla) —

When the conquistadors entered Mexico, under Cortez, in the 16th century, they learned of the black pod “tlilxochitl,” Aztec word for the vanilla pod. Legend has it that Montezuma gave Cortez honey-sweetened chocolate, flavored with vanilla, in golden goblets. Subjects of Montezuma offered him vanilla beans as tribute. Full-grown, unripe pods of this orchid, when properly dried or cured, contain vanillin used in flavoring all kinds of confectionery, usually in the form of vanilla essence, extract, or tincture. True vanilla beans possess a pure, delicate spicy flavor and a peculiar bouquet not duplicated exactly by the synthetic product. Vanilla extract is used to flavor beverages, cakes, chocolates, confections, custards, ice creams, liqueurs, puddings, soft drinks, syrups, and yogurts. It is also used in perfumes, sachet powders, and soap. Highest maximum use level is nearly 10,000 ppm for vanilla in baked goods. Vanilla is the main flavoring of Galliano, an Italian liqueur, containing several (up to 40) other botanicals. Galliano is an ingredient of the Harvey Walbanger cocktail (FAC). Vanilla sugar, made by storing vanilla beans in granulated or confectioner’s sugar for ca. a week, is used as an aromatic, flavorful decoration for baked goods, fruit, and other desserts (FAC). Vanilla is the most popular flavor in the U.S., accounting for ca. 73 of all ice cream sales. Ice cream is the largest user of natural vanilla, making up half the vanilla market. Vanilla is said to alleviate the sweet tooth of obese people fearing dental caries; the vanilla extract cutting back on the sugar requirement for fresh fruit salads in reducing diets. The catechin is said to curb caries. Most vanilla flavorings used in baking, confectionary, and many frozen desserts, contain some vanillin, ethyl vanillin, vanitrope, or a combination of these. Vanillin accounts for >90% of the U.S. market for vanilla flavorings. Most vanillin of commerce is prepared synthetically from lignin. It has served as a poison bait for fruit flies, grasshoppers, and melon beetles. A vanilla-scented cotton ball can serve as a perfuming sachet in a dresser drawer (RIN). “The scent of vanilla is a delicious perfume. Pour a few drops of vanilla extract on a small piece of absorbent cotton and tuck it in your bra” (Do not put the vanilla extract on your skin; it may be irritating)(DAD, RIN).
For more information on activities, dosages, and contraindications, see the CRC Handtopic of Medicinal Herbs, ed. 2,  et al. 2002.

Cultivation (Vanilla) —

Bown (2001) suggests moist, rich, well-drained soils in humid zones, with day temperatures 26-30°C (79-86°F), and minimum temperatures 16°C (61 °F). Though propagated by seed, vanilla is more usually propagated by long cuttings, usually with 12-24 internodes, since these can bear fruit in 1-2 years if planted at onset of rainy season. Short cuttings do not fruit for 3 or 4 years. Place supports ca. 2.7 m apart, with one vine per prop; some 1600 vines/ha are possible. Plants may be spaced l.2 m apart in rows 2.5 m apart, giving 4000 vines/ha. Many types of support trees are used, these providing about 50% shade. However, spacing of support plants and vanilla vines varies greatly in different areas. Trellises are also used in some areas. Weeds like Guatemala grass, or a fast-growing legume, may be used for mulch. Do not use animal manure. Potash and lime are necessary. Vines must be pruned to keep the fruits within reach of hand-pickers. Diseased plants must be removed. The tip of vine should be clipped about 9 months before flowering season. Flowering plants need daily attention. Flowers must be pollinated and the remaining buds removed from the inflorescence. After fruiting, old stems should be cut away. In Mexico, a small crop is gathered 3 years after planting, and crops increase until the ninth or tenth year, when decline begins. Plants have been known to bear for 30—40 years (DAD). Vanilla beans are hand cut or broken off as they ripen to a yellow color and develop a hard black tip. Picked beans are placed on racks for 24 hr before they are wrapped in mats or wool blankets for sweating and fermentation. Beans are repeatedly sweated between the blankets in the sun, or in ovens during the day, and packed in wool covered boxes at night for about two months, during which time the pods lose 70-80% of their original weight and take on the characteristic odor and color of the commercial vanilla. After beans are fermented, they are dried for 8-l2 days. Yields average about 115 g cured bean per plant, more than 450 g of green bean. One hectare of vines (about 1500) yields 110 kg of cured pods in Mexico, 150 kg in Hawaii, and 100 kg in Seychelles. It takes 3.3 kilos of green vanilla fruit to yield l kilo of dried prepared pods (DAD).

Chemistry (Vanilla) —

Sun et al. (2001) state that more than 180 volatile compounds have been identified from cured vanilla beans, more than one-third aromatic. Noting the relative bug-resistance of the vanilla leaves in the greenhouse, they studied alcoholic extracts of leaves and stems. The ethyl acetate fraction was more toxic to mosquito larvae, with 4-ethoxymeth-ylphenol, 4-butoxymethylphenol, vanillin, 4-hydroxy-2-methoxycinnamaldehyde, and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid. 4-ethoxymethylphenol was the predominant compound, but 4-butoxymethylphenol showed greater toxicity to mosquito larvae. Four of the five killed the mosquito larvae within 24 hr. Green vanilla beans contain two glycosides, glucovanillin (avenein) and glucovanillic alcohol. Vanillin is principal flavoring constituent, about l.5-2% for Mexican and 2.6% for Bourbon. Purseglove et al. (1981) dedicate more than four pages of tabulations to the chemistry of vanilla. Here are a few of the more notable chemicals found in vanilla. For a complete listing of the phytochemicals and their activities, see the CRC phytochemical compendium,  and , 1993 (DAD) and the USDA database.
Catechin — Allelochemic IC86 = 1 mM; Anesthetic; Antiaggregant IC68 = 200 |ig/ml; Antial-coholic 2000 mg/man/day; Antiarthritic; Antiatherosclerotic; Antibacterial MIC = >1000 |ig/ml; Anticancer; Anticariogenic; Antiedemic; Antiendotoxic; Antifeedant; Antiflu; Antihepatosis 1 g/3x/day/man; Antihepatotoxic; Antiherpetic; Antihistaminic 1000 mg 5x/day/man; Antiinflammatory IC50 = 80 |iM (cf indomethacin IC50 = 1 \\M); Antileukemic IC50 = >10 |ig/ml; Antilipoperoxidant; Antiosteotic 500 mg/3x/day; Antioxidant IC50 = 0.19 |iM, 2.4 x Vit. E, 2/3 quercetin; Antiperiodontal; Antiplaque; Antiprostaglandin IC50 = 80 | M (cf indomethacin IC50 = 1 | M); Antiradicular IC50 = 8 | M; Antisclerodermic; Antistress; Antiulcer 1 g/5x/day/man/orl; Antiviral; Astringent; Carcinogenic; COMP-Inhibitor; COX-1-Inhibitor IC50 = 80 |iM (cf indomethacin IC50 = 1 | M); Fungicide ED50 = 2.9-4.6 | g/ml; Hemostat; Hepatoprotective; Hypocholesterolemic; Hypolipedemic; Immunostimulant; Lipoxygenase-Inhibitor IC96 = 5 mM; Neuroprotective 1-10 | M; Propecic; Xanthine-Oxidase-Inhibitor.
Vanillic-Acid — Antibacterial 1.5-15 mg/ml; Anticancer; Antifatigue; Antiinflammatory; Antioxidant IC21 = 30 ppm; Antiradicular (7 xquercetin); Antisickling; Antitumor; Ascaricide; Choleretic; Immunosuppressive; Laxative; Ubiquict; Vermifuge.
Vanillin — ADI = 10 mg/kg; Allelochemic IC50 = 4.26 mM; Anticancer; Antimutagenic; Antiox-idant (= ascorbic acid); Antipolio; Antiradicular (7 x quercetin); Antiviral; Choleretic; Fungicide; Immunosuppressive; Insectifuge; Irritant; LD50 = 1580 orl rat.

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