It is part of the “sweet” category of foods, and is thus excellent for bringing balance to the spleen and stomach.
Unlike vanilla essence, which is a chemically manufactured flavouring (made from coal tar and wood) vanilla extract is a natural product derived from vanilla beans. Vanilla extract is far richer in taste and contains many other health benefits you will never get from its artificial counterpart.
Vanilla is an “enhancer” of other extracts, so adding vanilla extract increases the potency and flavour of anything else you add. Thus, for example, in the Gluten-Free Melting Moments recipe, I combine it with Orange Extract. The alchemical reaction of the two flavourings, enhances both and creates a deliciously enhanced orange flavour as a result. Likewise, in my special combination of Vanilla; Strawberry and Rose Extract, the vanilla adds exponentially to the overall flavours of the strawberry and rose. In each case, there is more vanilla extract than the other flavours, as this is the most effective way of enhancing the overall taste.
Surprise surprise; vanilla extract, like the majority of the ingredients in my recipes, contains antioxidants, including vanillic acid and vanillin. Antioxidants are vital in the protection against free-radicals and toxins in our body. Free-radicals are abnormal cells, which not only have the capacity and appetite to transform health cells into this mutant state, but also cause inflammation in our body as a result. This can lead to serious illnesses and conditions such as arthritis; macular degeneration of our eyes; rheumatism; “bad” cholesterol; high blood pressure; heart conditions; diabetes and cancer.
In 2007, a research study was published in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.” It found that vanilla extract contains 26-90% of the antioxidants in unprocessed vanilla. The percentage depends on the type of antioxidant and the concentration of the extract. The conclusions were that “vanilla showed great potential as a health supplement and as a food preservative.”
Vanillin, one of the antioxidants found in vanilla, gives the beans their distinctive aroma. There is evidence that vanillin may have anti-inflammatory capabilities. An animal study in 2011, issued in the “European Journal of Pharmacology”, found that as a result of the vanillin content, vanilla extract had powerful liver-protective and anti-inflammatory abilities. The results showed a reduction in overall inflammation in the animals. There have yet to be any official studies on humans to verify if the same results could be obtained.