Rich, Delicate, Creamy, Floral, Spicy, Sweet, Sticky
Vanilla is one of the most popular, yet expensive flavoring agents available worldwide.
Growing vanilla is truly labor intensive.
Each orchid must be hand pollinated by farmers who carefully transfer the pollen from the anther to the stigma of the female flowers, which may take up to 18 months to first appear.
The vanilla flower has a very short life span (~12 hours) and growers have to inspect the fields often for open flowers to pollinate.
Vanilla beans then take weeks to mature, and months to ripen and cure until they are ready (1).
Benefits: Antioxidant, Antibacterial, Antifungal and Anticancer
Antioxidant: Vanilla has been recognized for its antioxidant potential as well as its free radical scavenging activity (2-3).
Vanilla has been reported to protect the skin against free radical damage (4).
Antibacterial: Vanillin, the major flavor compound in vanilla has shown antibacterial action against Escherichia coli and Listeria innocua (5).
Vanilla extract has been shown to inhibit bacterial quorum sensing and may prevent bacterial pathogenesis (6).
Quorum sensing is a form of communication that allows bacteria to talk to each other and coordinate their behavior- i.e. to figure out where food sources are, decide where to live, defense strategies and when to attack- i.e. infect!
Antifungal: Vanillin has antifungal activity against the diseases causing yeasts Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans (7).
Anticancer: Vanillin has been shown to induced apoptosis (kill cancer cells), inhibit angiogenesis (blood flow to tumors) and suppress cancer cell migration and invasiveness in cell culture experiments (8-10).
1) Vanilla planifolia – An Adventure in Pollination. The McAllen International Orchid Society Journal. 2009 May 10(5), pp. 2-6.
2) A comprehensive review on vanilla flavor: extraction, isolation and quantification of vanillin and others constituents. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2008 Jun;59(4):299-326.
3) Studies on the antioxidant activities of natural vanilla extract and its constituent compounds through in vitro models. J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Sep 19;55(19):7738-43.
4) Use of a composition containing a vanilla extract to protect the skin against superoxide radicals or to limit the appearance of sunburn cells. French patent FR 2837384.
5) Mode of antimicrobial action of vanillin against Escherichia coli, Lactobacillus plantarum and Listeria innocua. J Appl Microbiol. 2004; 97:104-113.
6) Inhibition of bacterial quorum sensing by vanilla extract. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2006 Jun;42(6):637-41.
7) In vitro antifungal activity of eugenol and vanillin against Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans.Can J Microbiol 1982; 28:1235-1241.
8) Apoptosis and cell cycle arrest of human colorectal cancer cell line HT-29 induced by vanillin. Cancer Epidemiol. 2009 Aug;33(2):155-60.
9) Vanillin suppresses metastatic potential of human cancer cells through PI3K inhibition and decreases angiogenesis in vivo. J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Apr 22;57(8):3055-63.
10) Vanillin suppresses in vitro invasion and in vivo metastasis of mouse breast cancer cells. Eur J Pharm Sci. 2005 May;25(1):57-65.
Dr. Natasha Ryz, PhD, MSc, BSc, is cofounder of Ryz Rémi Organic Skin Care in Vancouver, Canada. Natasha has a PhD in Experimental Medicine from the University of British Columbia and is a Vanier scholar. She has a strong background in nutrition and holds a Master’s degree and a 4-year Bachelor’s degree in Human Nutritional Sciences.
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