Vanilla is actually a tropical, climbing orchid grown in many places, including Mexico, Central and South America and Tahiti. The flavor is extracted from the pod of the plant, also known as the “beans.” It’s been flavoring foods and drinks for hundreds of years — since the time of Montezuma.
To make vanilla extract, vanilla beans are cured and dried then treated with alcohol to create the dark-colored liquid. Don’t confuse 100-percent vanilla extract with commercially synthesized vanillin, which doesn’t contain the beneficial properties of vanilla. The 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act defined and chemically enforced labeling and standards relating to what it means to be a standard vanilla extract, as opposed to an imitation.
Vanilla contains somewhere between 250 and 500 flavor and fragrance compounds, with vanillin being the most prominent and studied. Vanilla, as a natural spice, is expensive — second only to saffron — which is why so many artificial vanilla products made from petrochemicals exist. These artificial versions are about 20 times cheaper than the real stuff.
Vanilla gives a delicious aroma and taste to baked goods, sweets and beverages. The scent of pure vanilla is almost intoxicating! But, vanilla provides far more than just a aromatically decadent accent to your sweet treats. Pure vanilla extract has many uses around the home OUTSIDE of the kitchen…
Freshen up the Fridge
Bad odors in your refrigerator, even after scrubbing it out? Wipe down the inside of the fridge with vanilla extract. To prolong the vanilla scent, soak a cotton ball or a piece of sponge with vanilla extract and leave it in the refrigerator.
Neutralize the Smell of Fresh Paint
If you would rather not have the unpleasant smell of fresh paint in your house, mix 1 tablespoon vanilla extract into the paint can when you open it. The house will smell delicious!
Deodorize the Microwave
Is the odor of fish, or some other strong smell, lingering in your microwave? Pour a little vanilla extract in a bowl and microwave on High for one minute. Now, that’s better.
Sweeten the Smell of your Home
It’s an old Realtor’s trick. Put a drop or two of vanilla extract on a lightbulb, turn it on, and your house will be filled with the appealing scent of baked goods in the oven.
Everybody likes the smell of vanilla. Everybody but bugs, that is. Dilute 1 tablespoon vanilla extract with 1 cup water and wipe the mixture on your exposed skin to discourage mosquitoes, blackflies, and ticks.
Relieve Minor Burns
Yee-oow! You accidentally grabbed a hot pot or got splattered with grease in the kitchen. Grab the vanilla extract for quick pain relief. The evaporation of the alcohol in the vanilla extract cools the burn.
We use Grade A Vanilla Beans for La Vida Vanilla’s Vanilla Extract!
Click here to learn more about the MANY Health Benefits of Vanilla Extract!
10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a spice that is made from the inner bark of trees scientifically known as Cinnamomum. It has been used as an ingredient throughout history, dating back as far as Ancient Egypt. It used to be rare and valuable and was regarded as a gift fit for kings. These days, cinnamon is cheap, available in every supermarket and found as an ingredient in various foods.
There are two main types of cinnamon:
Ceylon cinnamon: Also known as “true” cinnamon.
Cassia cinnamon: The more common variety today that people refer to as “cinnamon.”
Cinnamon is made by cutting the stems of cinnamon trees. The inner bark is then extracted and the woody parts removed. When it dries, it forms strips that curl into rolls, called cinnamon sticks. These sticks can be ground to form cinnamon powder. The distinct smell and flavor of cinnamon are due to the oily part, which is very high in the compound cinnamaldehyde. Scientists believe that this compound is responsible for most of cinnamon’s powerful effects on health and metabolism.
Cinnamon is Loaded With Antioxidants
In a study that compared the antioxidant activity of 26 spices, cinnamon wound up as the clear winner, even outranking “superfoods” like garlic and oregano.
Cinnamon Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Studies show that this spice and its antioxidants have potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Cinnamon May Cut the Risk of Heart Disease
It reduces levels of total cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while “good” HDL cholesterol remains stable. More recently, a big review study concluded that a cinnamon dose of just 120 mg per day can have these effects. In this study, cinnamon also increased “good” HDL cholesterol levels. In animal studies, cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood pressure.
Cinnamon Can Improve Sensitivity to the Hormone Insulin
Cinnamon can dramatically reduce insulin resistance, helping this important hormone do its job.
Cinnamon Lowers Blood Sugar Levels and Has a Powerful Anti-Diabetic Effect
First, cinnamon has been shown to decrease the amount of glucose that enters your bloodstream after a meal. It does this by interfering with numerous digestive enzymes, which slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in your digestive tract.
Second, a compound in cinnamon can act on cells by mimicking insulin. This greatly improves glucose uptake by your cells, though it acts much slower than insulin itself. Numerous human studies have confirmed the anti-diabetic effects of cinnamon, showing that it can lower fasting blood sugar levels by 10–29%. The effective dose is typically 1–6 grams or around 0.5–2 teaspoons of cinnamon per day.
Cinnamon May Have Beneficial Effects on Neurodegenerative Diseases
Two compounds found in cinnamon appear to inhibit the buildup of a protein called tau in the brain, which is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. In a study in mice with Parkinson’s disease, cinnamon helped protect neurons, normalized neurotransmitter levels and improved motor function.
Cinnamon May Protect Against Cancer
A study in mice with colon cancer revealed that cinnamon is a potent activator of detoxifying enzymes in the colon, protecting against further cancer growth. These findings were also supported by test-tube experiments, which showed that cinnamon activates protective antioxidant responses in human colon cells.
Cinnamon Helps Fight Bacterial and Fungal Infections
Cinnamon oil has been shown to effectively treat respiratory tract infections caused by fungi. It can also inhibit the growth of certain bacteria, including Listeria and Salmonella.
Not all cinnamon is created equal!
The Cassia variety contains significant amounts of a compound called coumarin, which is believed to be harmful in large doses.
We use Ceylon Cinnamon for La Vida Vanilla’s Cinnamon Vanilla Extract!
Impressive Benefits Of Lavender
by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) – Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)
In addition to its pleasant scent, lavender has a variety of important health benefits, which include its ability to relieve stress, improve mood, promote restful sleep, lower skin irritation, prevent infections, reduce inflammation, eliminate dandruff, and soothe stomach bloating.
What is Lavender?
Nearly forty plants within the mint family are technically classified as lavender, with the common form being Lavandula angustifolia. This genus is found in Europe, Africa, the Mediterranean, and parts of Asia. The reason that it is so widely used is its massive range of applications, from food and fragrance to cosmetics and herbal medicines; this plant is full of essential oils that can have powerful effects on the human body and has the most unique and beloved scents in the world. It also has one of the most unique and beloved scents in the world.
One of the challenges with lavender is its ability to grow and spread quickly, which is why it is considered a weed in certain parts of the world. As a culinary element, it is used in salad dressings, honey, sauces, beverages, various teas, and as a flavoring spice for a number of cultural dishes. Lavender essential oil is highly sought after and widely available.
Health Benefits of Lavender
The scent and flavor of lavender are wonderful, but the bonus comes from its wide range of health benefits:
Reduces Anxiety & Stress
According to research in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, there are a number of methods of using lavender to soothe anxiety and stress. The natural organic compounds in its leaves and flowers can be ground between the fingers and then rubbed onto the temples. This topical application can soothe the body and mind by relieving anxious thoughts and balancing the mood. Apart from this topical application, you can also brew lavender tea and achieve much the same effect. The antioxidant components in it can impact the endocrine system to lower the levels of stress hormones in the body.
Treats Sleep Issues
If you regularly struggle with insomnia, apnea or restless sleep patterns, it can negatively impact your life, as suggested by a research published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. By brewing a few lavender flowers in hot water, you can steep a wonderful tea that has been used to induce sleep and relaxation for thousands of years. This is closely linked to the flower’s impact on the nervous system, and can also help clear your mind of negative thoughts. It is commonly used in meditation techniques and its essential oils are used in aromatherapy.
Everyone is looking for a reliable way to relax the body and mind, and lavender takes care of both. If you add these flowers to your bathwater and take a nice long soak, the anti-inflammatory components can help in reducing the inflammation, according to research published in Phytochemicals in the University of Trieste, Italy. The antioxidant properties of lavender are also quite potent and it is one of the most trusted applications of its flowers.
An easy, mobile way to always care for your skin is to fill a spray bottle with lavender flowers. When your skin is feeling dry or irritated, simply spray some of the infused water on the area, and enjoy quick relief. This can also work for chronic conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and acne.
Although many people turn to lavender for relaxation and aromatherapeutic applications, its effect on treating infection is impressive, to say the least. Many people apply crushed leaves on wounds and injuries for speedier healing, as well as to prevent the development of infections on them.
If you suffer from hair loss or any other condition that affects the quality of your locks, seek out lavender-based shampoos. Be aware that some of the organic cosmetic products can be quite expensive, while others which claim to be derived from it may still contain harsh chemicals. You can steep lavender flowers like a tea and then apply the mixture to your hair. This will function as an effective shampoo and significantly boost the health of your follicle beds and hair.
Protects Heart Health
The relaxing qualities of lavender, which come from its organic compounds and antioxidants, also help the heart by reducing blood pressure and easing the tension on blood vessels. This can prevent atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular problems, lowering the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Prevents Digestive Issues
The polyphenols found in lavender have a wide range of effects on the body. It can prevent the development of harmful bacteria and the accumulation of gas in the gut, as per herbal medicine expert and practitioner Paul Michael, Herbal and Endobiogenic Medicine, GAPS Practitioner. This will ease stomach discomfort, reduce bloating, and eliminate cramping. Chewing on its leaves or drinking its tea can be effective too.
Word of Caution: Although, not commonly considered an allergenic substance, if you are susceptible to allergens in the mint family, you could experience negative side effects from using lavender as well. These are usually mild in nature and include constipation, headache, and increased appetite, while the topical application can cause irritation and redness.
We use Organic Turkish Lavender for La Vida Vanilla’s Lavender Vanilla Extract!
What Are the Health Benefits of Vanilla Extract?
By Andrea Boldt Updated August 26, 2019
Reviewed by Janet Renee, MS, RD
Vanilla may be your favorite flavor when it comes to ice cream or pudding, but the extract offers so much more than a delicious taste. The health benefits of vanilla are vast with minimal calorie impact! Just make sure you have the real stuff, like La Vida Vanilla Home Made Vanilla Extract, rather than cheaper, and often inferior, imitation extract!
Vanilla extract contains a compound known as vanillin that has antioxidant, antidepressant and anti-tumor effects.
Antibacterial Benefits of Vanilla
The health benefits of vanilla include antibacterial properties, meaning it may help prevent infection. The journal Molecules published research in November 2014 showing that when vanilla essential oil was applied to medical devices, it inhibited the growth of specific bacterial cells.
An study published in the Journal of Food Protection in 2011 showed that vanillin, ethyl vanillin and vanillic acid have antibacterial activity that combats the Cronobacter species. This bacteria causes severe and sometimes fatal infections in infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. The bacteria can taint some food during food processing or preparation.
Antioxidants in Vanilla
Oxidants and Antioxidants in Medical Science published research in 2013 showing that vanillin is a powerful scavenger of free radicals. Free radicals can form naturally in the body, but can appear in excess when you’re exposed to certain components in foods and the environment. Too many free radicals cause damage to cells and are thought to play a role in the development of cancer as well as other health problems notes the National Cancer Institute.
Due to the antioxidant and antitumor qualities of vanillin, it has a potential application in the therapeutic treatment of cancer patients. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity published research in December 2016 proposing that products containing vanillin (which includes vanilla extract) may be useful in inhibiting the free radicals responsible for tumor development.
Antidepressant Activity of Vanillin
The smell of vanilla is soothing and calming to many people who love the flavor, so it’s not surprising that it can have antidepressant effects. Research published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology in March-April 2013 showed that vanillin, in a dose of 100 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (or 45 milligrams per pound), has antidepressant effects comparable to a common antidepressant medication known as fluoxetine. This study was performed on mice, not humans.
Fluoxetine, commercially known by the brand name Prozac, has side effects that include strange dreams, sleeplessness and changes in sex drive. Vanillin offers an alternative without these uncomfortable, disturbing side effects. You should, of course, check with your doctor before switching from prescribed antidepressants to vanilla extract as treatment.
An older Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute study published in 1994 in the Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging showed that, compared to humidified air alone, administration of a fragrance with a vanilla-like scent reduced reported anxiety in patients undergoing MRI for cancer screening. Vanilla is often added to scent perfumes and lotions due to its calming, sweet and pleasing aroma. The odor of vanilla extract on skin lingers, so you enjoy benefits for hours.
Magnesium and Potassium
Vanilla extract contains some magnesium and potassium — minerals essential for good health. Potassium is necessary for proper kidney and heart function as well as muscle contraction and nerve function. Adults need between 2,600 and 3,400 milligrams per day. The 6 milligrams in a tablespoon of vanilla extract may seem inconsequential, but every bit helps contribute.
Adults require from 320 to 410 milligrams of magnesium daily. A tablespoon of vanilla extract offers just 1 milligram of this mineral that contributes to muscle and nerve function and blood pressure regulation, among many other functions. A 2018 article in Open Heart reported that about 50 percent of Americans consume less magnesium than they need for good health. Again, every little bit helps, so the amount in vanilla extract counts.
Alcohol in Vanilla Extract
Yes, vanilla extract contains alcohol. In fact, it has a content between 35 and 40 percent, which is similar to the potent product known as Jägermeister. Consuming vanilla extract is safe in the quantities usually called for in recipes. You can buy it in grocery stores without a liquor license because the Prohibition-era Volstead Act exempted flavoring extracts from being considered as a regulated alcohol.
Vanilla extract was considered nonpotable, or so unpleasant to the taste buds that no average person would drink it straight from the bottle in any notable quantity. Don’t be fooled, however, because drinking a whole bottle of vanilla extract can result in drunkenness and development of health complications. You won’t accrue the health benefits of vanilla extract by chugging large amounts.
- Molecules: “Efficiency of Vanilla, Patchouli and Ylang Ylang Essential Oils Stabilized by IRON Oxide@C14 Nanostructures Against Bacterial Adherence and Biofilms Formed by Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumoniae Clinical Strains”
- Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity: “Overview of the Role of Vanillin on Redox Status and Cancer Development”
- Indian Journal of Pharmacology: “Evaluation of Antidepressant Activity of Vanillin in Mice”
- History of Science: “Making a Global Sensation: Vanilla Flavor, Synthetic Chemistry, and the Meanings of Purity”
- Encyclopaedia Britannica: “Vanilla”
- USDA National Nutrient Database: “Vanilla Extract”
- Journal of Food Protection: “Effect of Vanillin, Ethyl Vanillin, and Vanillic Acid on the Growth and Heat Resistance of Cronobacter Species”
- National Cancer Institute: “Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention”
- MedlinePlus: “Fluoxetine”
- National Institutes of Health: “Potassium”
- National Institutes of Health: “Magnesium”
- Open Heart: “Subclinical Magnesium Deficiency: A Principal Driver of Cardiovascular Disease and a Public Health Crisis”
- Oxidants and Antioxidants in Medical Science: Comparative Studies on the Antioxidant Potential of Vanillin-Producing Saccharomyces Boulardii Extracts”
- Bon Appetit: “Why Don’t You Buy Vanilla Extract in a Liquor Store?”
- Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging: “Fragrance Administration to Reduce Anxiety During MR Imaging”
- National Geographic: “The History of Vanilla”