Chances are you’ve used vanilla to add flavor to your favorite recipes if you do any cooking or baking at home. Most people have some of this commonly used spice hidden somewhere in their spice cabinet. It’s also used as the flavoring agent in America’s favorite ice cream flavor. The process for growing, harvesting, and fermenting vanilla is quite time consuming, making vanilla the most expensive spice with the exception of saffron. What’s surprising is that vanilla is not only flavorful, but it’s actually good for you. What are the health benefits of vanilla?
Health Benefits of Vanilla: It May Have Anti-Cancer Benefits
Could the cure for cancer be in your spice cabinet? Vanillin, the active ingredient in vanilla, has shown some interesting anti-cancer properties. Not only does it prevent mutations, the changes in the cell’s DNA that lead to cancer, but it also stops growth of cancer cells in a laboratory setting. A study conducted on mice showed that vanillin stopped the metastasis or spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs and decreased their ability to invade new tissue. Bromovanin, a derivative of vanillin, also shows some promise for the treatment of cancer and could be used in the development of new cancer treatments.
Health Benefits of Vanilla: Can It Help Those with Alzheimer’s?
Vanillin, the active component of vanilla, has antioxidant activity and appears to offset some of the oxidative damage that occurs in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease – particularly the formation of a compound called peroxynitrite. Peroxynitrite plays a role in other degenerative diseases of the brain such as Parkinson’s disease. Although research in this area is still in its infancy, it may hold future promise for people dealing with these debilitating diseases.
Health Benefits of Vanilla: Treatment for Sickle Cell Disease?
Studies have shown that vanillin can stop the sickling of red blood cells that leads to problems for people with sickle cell anemia. Unfortunately, vanilla can’t be used directly since it would be destroyed by the acid in the stomach. Researchers are hoping that a drug using vanillin can be developed to treat sickle cell disease in the near future.
Health Benefits of Vanilla: Medicinal Uses in the Past
Vanilla has been used historically as far back as the seventeenth century to treat a variety of conditions including stomach ulcers and sleep difficulties. The essential oil reportedly has sedative-like properties. Some alternative practitioners use vanilla essential oil to treat insomnia, anxiety, and depression. It’s also thought to be an aphrodisiac although there’s little scientific evidence to support this.
Surprised? As you can see, there’s more to that little bottle of vanilla than meets the eye. Use it in good health.