Table of Contents > Herbs & Supplements > Vanilla Print

Vanilla

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Also listed as: Vanilla planifolia
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • Acetic acid, aldehyde, americanin A, beta-D-glucosidase, beta-glucosidase, cellulose, cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid, coumaric acid, diphenolase, ethyl vanillin, ferulic acid, glucose, glucoside A, glucoside B, glucovanillin, homocitric acid, malic acid, methyltransferases (OMT-2 and Van OMT-3), natural vanilla, Orchidaceae (family), p-coumaric acid, peroxidase, phenols, phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase isoforms, p-hydroxybenzaldehyde, p-hydroxybenzaldehyde glucoside, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, piperonal, sucrose, Vanilla barbellata, vanilla bean, Vanilla claviculata, Vanilla dilloniana, vanilla extract, Vanilla fragrans, vanilla ice cream, Vanilla madagascariensis, Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla pompon, Vanilla tahitensis, vanillic acid, vanillin, vanillyl alcohol, vanilmandelic acid.

Background
  • Vanilla is derived from orchids in the genus Vanilla. Traditionally, vanilla has been used as a food flavoring as well as for scent. Vanilla planifolia, native to Mexico, is the predominant species throughout the world. Vanilla supply is threatened, and many vanilla-flavored products are not made with natural vanilla.
  • Vanilla has few reported medicinal uses. There is limited evidence that vanilla has antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer, antioxidant, insect repellant, food preservative, and radioprotective properties. It may be useful in treating sickle cell anemia. The scent of vanilla has been shown to have calming effects on newborns.
  • Some vanilla products have been contaminated with bacteria, as well as coumarin, a compound in plants that prevents blood clotting. Allergic reactions have been reported. Vanilla may also affect the taste of breast milk, which may influence food preference in breastfed adults.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


In human study, the odor of vanilla was effective in significantly reducing crying and grimacing during a heel stick in full-term newborns that had been familiarized with the scent, and distress after the procedure was reduced. Additional study is needed in this area.

C


In laboratory study, a compound in vanilla reduced sickling of blood cells. In human study, the compound decreased the percentage of sickled red blood cells in patients with sickle cell anemia. Additional study is needed in this area.

C
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, aromatherapy, calming, cancer, cosmetic (lip salve), epilepsy, flavoring, food preservation, fragrance, insect repellant, mosquito repellant, radioprotection.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for vanilla in adults. For sickle cell anemia, one gram of vanillin has been used daily for 40 days.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for vanilla in children. For agitated behavior, familiarization with a vanilla scent (vanillin odorant diluted in glycerol oil to 0.64%) has been used during a routine heel stick in newborns.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in individuals with known allergies or sensitivity to vanilla, its constituents, balsam of Peru, propolis, or plants in the genus Vanilla.
  • Allergic reactions such as contact sensitivity and inflammation have been reported with use of vanilla containing products and food.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Some vanilla products have been found to be adulterated with coumarin, a compound in plants that prevents blood clotting. Therefore, vanilla should be used cautiously in patients with bleeding disorders or in those taking drugs that increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Use cautiously in patients with dental problems, a history of migraine headaches, sensitive skin, lung problems, or in patients taking oral contraceptives.
  • Avoid vanilla products from untrusted sources, due to the risk of contamination by volatile organic compounds, bacteria, fungi, coliforms, pseudomonads, and coumarin.
  • Avoid in medicinal amounts if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Avoid in individuals with known allergies or sensitivity to vanilla, its constituents, balsam of Peru, propolis, or plants in the genus Vanilla.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Vanilla is likely safe when consumed in amounts generally found in foods in nonallergic pregnant and breastfeeding women. Medicinal use of vanilla is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women, due to a lack of available scientific evidence. Vanilla may flavor a lactating woman's milk.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Some vanilla products have been found to be adulterated with coumarin, a compound in plants that prevents blood clotting. Therefore, vanilla may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
  • Constituents in vanilla may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be increased or decreased in the blood and may cause increased or decreased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. Patients using any medications should check the package insert and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
  • Vanilla may also interact with antibiotics, anticancer agents, antifungals, antisickling agents (for sickle cell anemia), agents that inhibit the enzyme carbonic anhydrase, cisplatin, contraceptives, mosquito repellants, radiotherapy, and raloxifene.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Some vanilla products have been found to be adulterated with coumarin, a compound in plants that prevents blood clotting. Therefore, vanilla may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto.
  • Constituents in vanilla may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs and supplements using the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may become too high or too low in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the P450 system.
  • Vanilla may also interact with antibacterials, anticancer herbs and supplements, antifungals, antioxidants, antisickling herbs and supplements (for sickle cell anemia), agents that inhibit the enzyme carbonic anhydrase, aromatherapy, eucalyptus oil, ginseng, hormonal herbs and supplements, and mosquito repellants.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Brunton, PA and Hussain, A. The erosive effect of herbal tea on dental enamel. J Dent 2001;29(8):517-520.
  2. Camps, N, Dominguez, A, Company, M, et al. A foodborne outbreak of Salmonella infection due to overproduction of egg-containing foods for a festival. Epidemiol.Infect. 2005;133(5):817-822.
  3. Eccles, R, Lancashire, B, and Tolley, NS. Experimental studies on nasal sensation of airflow. Acta Otolaryngol 1987;103(3-4):303-306.
  4. Ferguson, JE and Beck, MH. Contact sensitivity to vanilla in a lip salve. Contact Dermatitis 1995;33(5):352.
  5. Garcia AF, Cabal C, Losada J, et al. In vivo action of Vanillin on delay time determined by magnetic relaxation. Hemoglobin 2005;29(3):181-187.
  6. Goubet N, Strasbaugh K, and Chesney J. Familiarity breeds content? Soothing effect of a familiar odor on full-term newborns. J Dev.Behav.Pediatr 2007;28(3):189-194.
  7. Haller, R, Rummel, C, Henneberg, S, et al. The influence of early experience with vanillin on food preference later in life. Chem Senses 1999;24(4):465-467.
  8. Kanny, G, Hatahet, R, Moneret-Vautrin, DA, et al. Allergy and intolerance to flavouring agents in atopic dermatitis in young children. Allerg.Immunol (Paris) 1994;26(6):204-210.
  9. Kistemann, T, Dangendorf, F, Krizek, L, et al. GIS-supported investigation of a nosocomial Salmonella outbreak. Int J Hyg Environ.Health 2000;203(2):117-126.
  10. Kumar, A, Rawlings, RD, and Beaman, DC. The mystery ingredients: sweeteners, flavorings, dyes, and preservatives in analgesic/antipyretic, antihistamine/decongestant, cough and cold, antidiarrheal, and liquid theophylline preparations. Pediatrics 1993;91(5):927-933.
  11. Mazza, DS, O'Sullivan, M, and Grieco, MH. HIV-1 infection complicated by food allergy and allergic gastroenteritis: a case report. Ann Allergy 1991;66(5):436-440.
  12. Mennella, JA. Mother's milk: a medium for early flavor experiences. J Hum Lact 1995;11(1):39-45.
  13. Nnamani IN, Joshi GS, Danso-Danquah R, et al. Pyridyl derivatives of benzaldehyde as potential antisickling agents. Chem Biodivers 2008;5(9):1762-1769.
  14. Odink, J, Korthals, H, and Knijff, JH. Simultaneous determination of the major acidic metabolites of catecholamines and serotonin in urine by liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection after a one-step sample clean-up on Sephadex G-10; influence of vanilla and banana ingestion. J Chromatogr 2-26-1988;424(2):273-283.
  15. Rattaz C, Goubet N, and Bullinger A. The calming effect of a familiar odor on full-term newborns. J Dev.Behav.Pediatr 2005;26(2):86-92.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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