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Vanilla

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  • Botanical: Vanilla planifolia
  • Family: Orchidaceae
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Vanilla

Botanical

Vanilla planifolia

Family

Orchidaceae

Known as

Vanilla, Vanilla planifolia, Flat-leaved Vanilla, Tahitian Vanilla, Gewürzvanille, Vanillin, Vanille, Echte Vanille

Old Use

culinary; medicinal

Parts Used

flowers, fruit, seed

Aroma

spicy, sweet

Medicinal

bowel cleansing, fever, gastrointestinal, rheumatism

Infection & Inflammation

fever

Respiratory System

bronchitis

Stomach & Intestinal

abdominal pain, digestion, gastrointestinal

Properties

antibacterial, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, carminative, stimulant

Note

middle

Extraction

solvent

Description

It uses its fleshy roots to support itself as it grows. Flowers: greenish-yellow, with a diameter of 5 cm (2 in). They last only a day, and must be pollinated manually, during the morning, if fruit is desired. The plants are self-fertile, and pollination simply requires a transfer of the pollen from the anther to the stigma. If pollination does not occur, the flower is dropped the next day. In the wild, there is less than 1% chance that the flowers will be pollinated, so in order to receive a steady flow of fruit, the flowers must be hand-pollinated when grown on farms.

Fruit:  produced only on mature plants, which are generally over 3 m (10 ft) long. The fruits are 15-23 cm (6-9 in) long pods (often incorrectly called beans). They mature after about five months, at which point they are harvested and cured. Curing ferments and dries the pods while minimizing the loss of essential oils. Vanilla extract is obtained from this portion of the plant.

Properties & Uses

Vanilla is used medicinally as an aphrodisiac, as a stimulant, and to relieve fevers and gastric complaints, although there is no scientific evidence for its effectiveness in these cases. However, research has shown that vanillin, the main flavour molecule in vanilla, does have antimicrobial and antioxidant activities.

Cautions

none known

Distribution

Native to Mexico and Central America.

Constituents

vanillin, vanillic acid, 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde and 4-hydroxybenzoic acid