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9 min read / 18 November 2023 / yasmin sharp

10 Benefits and Uses of Vanilla Oil

Discover the versatile world of vanilla oil with our blog highlighting 10 incredible benefits and practical uses that will elevate your wellness and beauty routines.

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Amber glass bottle of vanilla essential oil with vanilla flowers around it

 

Vanilla has been used for centuries in everything from cooking and perfumery to self-care and aromatherapy.

Whilst today it is more closely associated with sweet-smelling perfumes and delicious desserts, there are a whole host of additional vanilla essential oil benefits that are waiting to be explored.

There is also some confusion about what is and isn’t real vanilla oil and the best way to use it, so we’ve put together a comprehensive guide that details everything you need to know.

What is vanilla oil?

Vanilla oil is derived from the Vanilla planifolia, a native species of the Orchidaceous family.

The plant originated in Mexico, before arriving in Europe during the 16th century and is now grown across the world.

It is classed as being more of an absolute, rather than an oil, and unlike most essential oils, it cannot be extracted via steam distillation or mechanical pressing.

This makes it difficult and quite expensive to source pure vanilla oil.

Vanilla CO₂, vanilla absolute, and vanilla oleoresin are the most common methods used to produce pure vanilla oil, with Madagascar now recognised as the largest producer of vanilla in the world.

Two vanilla pods crossed over each other with a latte coloured background

Vanilla essential oil benefits

The benefits of vanilla essential oil include its ability to help you:

1. Feel more relaxed and calmer

The scent of vanilla essential oil is used by many people to induce a feeling of calm and relaxation.

Scientists have also looked into this and found that it can play a big part in helping to reduce feelings of anxiety in stressful situations.

The sweet, creamy aroma offers a sense of comfort that can soothe your thoughts, so you feel more centred and in control.

2. Manage bodily tension

Vanilla oil benefits the body as well as the mind, helping your body to relax and release tension.

Research has found that the scent of vanilla can reduce muscle tension, blood pressure and heart rate, whilst also improving long-term wellbeing.

Scientists also compared it to other scents, such as clementine, and concluded that vanilla was more effective at inducing relaxation.

3. Lift your mood

Whilst vanilla essential oil benefits the mind when it comes to relaxation and the body in terms of easing tension, it can also be used as an energy booster.

Researchers have also found that it has mood-boosting qualities , with participants in the study confirming that it helped them to relax, whilst also making them feel happier and more content.

4. Cover up bad odours

Sometimes bad odours can drift through the house, whether it's coming from the rubbish bin or if something particularly strong was cooked the night before.

Vanilla essential oil can be used as a deodoriser to cover up these smells, giving you a natural alternative to artificial sprays that can sometimes be too strong or potentially contain harmful ingredients.

5. Cleanse and purify your skin

You may not be aware of some of the vanilla oil benefits for skin, due to its natural antibacterial properties.

The antimicrobial effects help to cleanse and purify the skin, and you can either dilute with a carrier oil and apply to your skin or hair, or add a few drops to a skincare product.

Vanilla essential oil can work extremely well with body creams, facial cleansers, shampoos and conditioners, giving you an easy way to include it into your daily routine.

Dried vanilla flower with a white background

6. Combat free radicals

Oxidation in the body leads to the formation of free radicals, which can badly damage bodily tissues, and they also have very strong links to premature ageing and cancer.

Studies have found that vanilla extract has high levels of antioxidant activity, which can provide more protection against certain types of cell damage.

However, these effects have only so far been studied in animals and test tubes.

7. Boost your libido

The secretion of hormones like testosterone and oestrogen could be increased by the application of vanilla oil.

It is also believed that it can help people who are dealing with impotence, loss of libido and erectile dysfunction.

Vanilla oil’s ability to lift moods can play a big part, as conditions like erectile dysfunction are often caused by fatigue, stress, depression or low levels of testosterone.

8. Relieve PMS symptoms

More than 75% of menstruating women experience PMS symptoms, which is typically caused by hormonal imbalance.

Skin issues, bloating, fatigue, breast tenderness, emotional changes and cramps are common PMS symptoms.

The benefits of vanilla essential oil allow it to activate or balance hormone levels, whilst also working as a sedative so the body feels calmer and more tranquil.

9. Fight off infections

Vanilla essential oil contains compounds such as vanillin and eugenol, which have been found to be effective against infections.

According to a study published in 2022 , vanilla oil was able to inhibit the initial growth of S. aureus cells and the development of the mature biofilm after 48 hours.

This is important because S. aureus cells are regularly found on the skin and in the respiratory tract, which often leads to infection.

10. Reduce inflammation

The nervous, circulatory, excretory, digestive and respiratory systems could all be helped by vanilla essential oil, as it has the ability to reduce inflammation.

This is due to the vanillin compound, which is rich in antioxidants and can reduce damage caused by inflammation.

Using the oil may help to lower cholesterol and could also work as a natural treatment for arthritis.

Bundle of vanilla pods

How to use vanilla essential oil

Vanilla essential oil benefits can be enjoyed in several different ways, giving you the option to try it as:

An air diffuser

If you own an electric diffuser, reed diffuser or oil burner, you can simply add 10 drops to the device and let the scent fill the room.

So, whether you want to relax and unwind or need a mood booster, this is an easy way to inhale the benefits of the oil whilst also luxuriating in the scent.

A massage oil

You can mix vanilla essential oil with body creams and lotions before applying it to the body or dilute it with a carrier oil before application.

The scent of the oil is not only calming and soothing but using it as a massage oil allows the properties to deeply penetrate the skin.

It also mixes well with a variety of other oils, so you can create your own unique massage oil scent at home.

A skincare cream

After diluting vanilla oil with a carrier oil like jojoba oil, you can apply it to your neck, wrists, inner elbows and anywhere else you would normally spritz perfume.

The oil’s anti-ageing benefits also mean it can revitalise and refresh your skin, whilst using it as a hair treatment will leave it smelling luxurious.

A bath aromatherapy oil

The antioxidant benefits of vanilla essential oil can be enjoyed in a nice warm, relaxing bath, with the aromatherapeutic effects combining with the water vapours to treat and care for your skin.

It’s the perfect way to treat yourself after a long day, so you can relax and unwind with a little ‘you’ time before heading back into the fray.

A pillow mist

Vanilla essential oil creates a sense of calm and relaxation that makes it ideal for use in the bedroom.

If you struggle to sleep or just want to drift off to the scent of a sweet, soothing scent, then fill a spray bottle with distilled vanilla oil, shake and lightly mist your pillows 30-60 minutes before you get into bed.

Vanilla flowers at night

What to look for when buying vanilla oil

Unlike essential oils like peppermint oil or lavender oil, vanilla oil is not strictly an “essential oil”. This is due to the way it is made, as the oil is not cold-pressed, steam-distilled, or expeller-pressed.

The vanilla Co2 total extract is often used in aromatherapy, containing around 25% vanilla, whilst the extract used in cooking contains about 2% of the compound.

This is why vanilla oil should be sold as a fragrance oil rather than an essential oil, as its composition is not 100% pure.

A good rule of thumb to follow is to check the percentage level of vanillin in the product.

The higher it is, the better quality it will be. This makes it even more important to buy from a reputable company, especially if you intend on using the oil on your skin.

How to make vanilla oil

You can make a version of vanilla essential oil at home using a few simple ingredients, using one of these methods:

Vanilla oil infusion

  1. Chop organic vanilla beans or pods into small pieces and remove the seeds.
  2. Mix with a carrier oil (a less fragrant oil like jojoba oil is ideal).
  3. Let the mixture rest for about a week, which will strengthen the fragrance.
  4. Leave the fragrance in an air-tight container.
  5. When you are ready to use the oil, you can filter out the pods (this is optional).

Vanilla oil tincture

  1. Soak vanilla pods in a jar containing 151-proof rum.
  2. Leave the mixture to soak and marinate for two weeks.
  3. Remove the solid particles with a strainer.
  4. Keep the tincture in an airtight container.

The history of vanilla oil

It is believed that vanilla was first cultivated in the mountains of Mexico by the people of the Aztec Empire, where it was referred to as “the black flower”.

The flower’s unique taste saw it used alongside several other spices to add flavour to food and to sweeten drinks.

When Spain colonised Mexico at the start of the 16th century, they were the first European country to encounter vanilla.

Over time, the spice found its way across mainland Europe, Africa and Asia, with the Spanish naming it vanilla (or “vaina” in Spanish), which means “little pod”.

Whilst vanilla has retained its use in the culinary and perfumery industries, it has firmly established itself as a favourite in aromatherapy, offering a variety of health benefits for the mind and body.

Side effects of vanilla oil

Whilst vanilla extract is safe to consume, this is not the case with vanilla oil.

It is perfectly safe to use for topical application if it has been correctly diluted with a carrier oil, although first-time users should first complete a patch test.

A patch test will give you a better indication of how compatible your skin is with the oil.

First, dilute a small amount with a carrier oil and apply to the inside of your elbow. Cover with a plaster and leave for 24 hours.

If you do not experience any inflammation, redness or irritation, you should be fine to continue using the oil.

Children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid using vanilla oil and should speak with a doctor about alternatives.

Black and white illustration of vanilla pods with a flower

Whether you want to relax and find a sense of calm, raise your spirits or give your skin some TLC, vanilla oil has a lot to offer.

And for some people, it may also be able to reduce inflammation, combat infections and relieve mild PMS symptoms.

Whilst sourcing pure vanilla oil can be difficult, you can make your own version at home that is safe to use topically or through diffusion.

If you are a first-time user, it is advisable to complete a patch test before application, whilst pregnant and breastfeeding women should speak with a doctor about the risks of including vanilla oil in their daily routine.

 

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References

[1] W H Redd et al. (1994) Fragrance administration to reduce anxiety during MR imaging. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7949692/

[2] Stephen Warrenburg (2005) Effects of Fragrance on Emotions: Moods and Physiology. https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article/30/suppl_1/i248/270387

[3] Stephen Warrenburg (2005) Effects of Fragrance on Emotions: Moods and Physiology. https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article/30/suppl_1/i248/270387

[4] M Sefi et al. (2019) Beneficial role of vanillin, a polyphenolic flavoring agent, on maneb-induced oxidative stress, DNA damage, and liver histological changes in Swiss albino mice. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30782018/

[5] Stephen Warrenburg (2005) Effects of Fragrance on Emotions: Moods and Physiology. https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article/30/suppl_1/i248/270387

[6] Noah A. Maisch et al. (2022) Antibacterial effects of vanilla ingredients provide novel treatment options for infections with multidrug-resistant bacteria – A recent literature review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9530676/

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