Vanilla Bean – Vanilla planifolia

Vanilla orchid and bean by Koehler

Vanilla orchid and bean by Koehler

Aromatic vanilla made from the bean
lingering sweet fragrance somewhere in between
the moon, the Milky Way a bright sunbeam
delicious ingredient for vanilla ice-cream…

By Sandra Glassman


This member of the Orchid family is a native of the tropical forests of Mexico, but can also be found in tropical areas of Asia, New Guinea, and Africa. Where the vine is cultivated they once believed the Cojon de gato (Thevetia peruviana) tree was the best companion for growth. In Mexico it was used in antiquity to flavor their chocolate. It was introduced to Europe by the Spanish historian and explorer, Hernandez.


In Meso-America (an area encompassing central Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) it was a special treat that was only allowed to be consumed by the Royalty. Among the Olmec, Zapotec, Teotihuacan, Maya, Mixtec, Totonac and Aztec it was believed only those of the ruling class deserved to partake in this aphrodisiac! In the 1990‘s the Chicago Institute of Smell and Taste it was determined to be a powerful stimulant to men.


In folk medicine it is an aromatic stimulant, used to exhilarate the brain, prevent sleep, improve muscular energy, and to stimulate sexual desire! It is used in infusion form for hysteria, rheumatism and low fever.


The aroma is used in perfumes, and veterinary medicine. In the Victorian Language of Flowers vanilla stands for innocence, purity, charm, silence, and secrecy. In magic it is utilized in love spells, meditation, healing rituals, and mental clarity & strength.


A Warning: do not use the essential oil of vanilla when pregnant. Avoid high  concentrations in skin care of the essential oil.


The above pic is from Koehler’s Medicinal-Plants 1887  [Image in Public Domain]

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