• The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World

VANILLA ( Vanilla planifolia Andrews )
Names in Other Languages:

English Vanilla
French Vanilla
German Vanille
Spanish Vainilla
Italian Vaniglia
Turkish Vanilya
Japanese Banira

FAMILY: Orchidaceae

ORIGIN:   Central America, West Indies, Northern South America and it is cultivated in Madagascar, Comoros Islands, Reunion, French Polynesia, Tahiti, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mozambique, Seychelles, Uganda, Guatemala and Mexico

Vanilla flower and unripe fruits *


Vanilla counts as the "queen of all spices". This originates from the interaction of more than 40 single aromas, which only the natural cured vanilla blends in itself. Gourmets not only use it to bestow a special flavour to sweet dishes but give also many savoury dishes a quite special note. After saffron and cardamom, vanilla is the worlds most expensive spice.

Vanilla is the pod-shaped capsular fruit (10 - 15 cm in length, diameter 5 - 15 mm) of the plant Vanilla planifolia. The pods are harvested when unripe and are then fermented and dried.

The vanilla pods contain a black or brown fruit pulp with numerous small seeds.

Since manual labor is required both for pollinating vanilla blossoms and for harvesting the fruit, natural vanilla is today generally replaced with the synthetic flavor substances vanillin and ethyl vanillin to reduce costs. However, these substances are not capable of completely replicating the flavor of natural vanilla, the aroma of which is the result of the interplay between a total of approx. 40 different aroma substances [1].

Oil content: 1.5 - 3.0% essential oils, in particular vanillin (C8H8O3 ) [2]


The cured, dried fruits of the plant impart the flavor. Most of the fragrance resides in the seeds and the oily liquid surrounding the seeds. The ripe fruit (pod), frequently (but wrongly) called bean. Most of the fragrance resides in the seeds and the oily liquid surrounding the seeds


Sweet, aromatic and pleasant.

Source: www.herbdatanz.com/vanilla_picture_monograph.htm


The substance chiefly responsible for the unique fragrance and flavour of the vanilla bean is vanillin (C8 H8 03). 

The fermented fruit contains about 2% vanillin. In vanilla pods of exceptionally good quality, the crystallized vanillin may be visible on the surface in the form of tiny white needles.

Besides vanillin (85% of total volatiles), other important aroma components are p-hydroxybenzaldehyde (up to 9%) and p-hydroxybenzyl methyl ether (1%). Even trace components do significantly improve the flavour; about 130 more compounds have been identified in vanilla extract (phenoles, phenol ether, alcohols, carbonyl compounds, acids, ester, lactones, aliphatic and aromatic carbohydrates and heterocyclic compounds). Two stereoisomeric vitispiranes (2,10,10-trimethyl-1,6- and methylidene-1-oxaspiro(4,5)dec-7-ene), although only occurring in traces, also influence the aroma.

Conventional wisdom has it that the quite different fragrance of Tahiti vanilla is due to vanilline (1.7%) and additional contents of piperonal (heliotropin, 3,4-dioxymethylenbenzaldehyde) and diacetyl (butandione). This view, however, has been challenged when an investigation of Tahiti vanilla yielded no piperonal, but only vanillin, anisyl alcohol, anisic acid and small amounts of both 3-anisaldehyde and the more common 4-anisaldehyde. [3]

Vanilla additionally contains 25% of sugars, 15% fat, 15 to 30% cellulose and 6% minerals. Water content is unusually high (35%).

Nutrient composition of vanilla extract (with 34.4% ethyl alcohol)
Nutrient Value per 100 g of edible portion
Water (g) 52.58
Energy (kcal) 288
Protein (g) 0.06
Total lipid (fat) (g) 0.06
Ash (g) 0.26
Carbohydrate, by difference (g) 12.65
Ca (mg) 11
Fe (mg) 0.12
Mg (mg) 12
P (mg) 6
K (mg) 148
Na (mg) 9
Zn (mg) 0.11
Cu (mg) 0.071
Mn (mg) 0.230
Thiamin (mg) 0.011
Riboflavin (mg) 0.095
Niacin (mg) 0.425
Panthothenic acid (mg) 0.035
Vitamin B (mg) 0.026
Fatty acids, total saturated (g) 0.010
Fatty acids, monounsaturated (g) 0.010
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated (g) 0.004
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (2002). www.nal.usda.gov.

The use of vanilla is generally can be grouped into three; as a ubiquitous flavouring material, as a critical intermediary in a host of pharmaceutical products, and as a subtle component of perfumes.

Vanilla’s mellow fragrance enhances a variety of sweet dishes such as puddings, cakes, custards, creams, soufflés and ice cream, milk, candies, crème caramel. Vanilla flavour is detectable in many chocolate and confectionery items and several liqueurs such as Crème de Cacao and Galliano.

In the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, vanillin serves as an important intermediate in the manufacture of: L-dopa (the anti-Parkinsonian drug), methyl dopa (a compound with anti-hypertensive and tranquilizing properties), papaverine (treatment of heart problem), trimethoprim (anti-bacterial agent), hydrazones (2,4-D-like herbicide), and anti-foaming agent (in lubricating oils)[4]


Vanilla is considered with its aphrodisiac effects. It is also said that vanilla is a febrifuge, used to reduce fevers, it is used as pharmaceutical flavouring.

Vanillin exhibits in vitro antifungal activity against the yeasts Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans [5]

It is reported to inhibit the growth of some food spoilage yeasts (e.g. Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Zygosaccharomyces rouxii, Z. bailii and Debaryomyces hansenii) in culture media and some fruit purées[6]

In yeast, however, it is shown to be co-mutagenic and corecombinogenic and also vanillin offers protection against X-ray and UV radiation-induced chromosomal change in V79 Chinese hamster lung cells[7]

Vanillin also functions as an antioxidant. At concentrations normally added to food preparations, it offers significant protection against protein oxidation and lipid peroxidation induced by photosensitization in rat liver mitochondria [8]


playID=27 http://www.tis-gdv.de/tis_e/ware/gewuerze/vanille/vanille.htm

(*)Photo by Jim Reddekopp

[1] Falbe, J. - Regitz, M.: Römpp Chemie Lexikon, Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart 1995
[2] Scharnow, R.: Codiertes Handbuch der Güter des Seetransports, VE Kombinat Seeverkehr und Hafenwirtschaft - Deutfracht/Seereederei - Ingenieurhochschule für Seefahrt Warnemünde/Wustrow, Rostock 1986, Bd. 1: Stückgut A-K, Bd. 2: Stückgut L-Z, Bd. 3: Spezialgut
[3] (Zeitschrift f. Lebensmitteluntersuchung und -forschung A, 199, 38, 1994)
[4] ROSENBAUM E.W. (1974), ‘Vanilla extract and synthetic vanillin’, in Jonson A. H. and Peterson M. S. (Editors), Encyclopedia of Food Technology, Westport, Connecticut, AVI Publishing, 924– 30.
[5] BOONCHIRD C. and FLEGEL T.W. (1982), ‘In-vitro antifungal activity of eugenol and vanillin against Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans’, Can. J. Microbiol., 28, 1235– 41.
[6] CERUTTI P. and ALZAMORA S.M. (1996), ‘Inhibitory effects of vanillin on some food spoilage yeasts in laboratory media and fruit purees’, Int. J. Food Microbiol., 29, 379– 86.
[7] KESHAVA C., KESHAVA N., ONG T. and NATH J. (1998), ‘Protective effects of vanillin on radiationinduced micronuclei and chromosome aberrations in V79 cells’, Mutation Res., 397, 149– 59.
[8] KAMAT J.P., GHOSH A. and DEVASAGAYAM T.P.A. (2000), ‘Vanillin as an antioxidant in rat liver mitochondria: Inhibition of protein oxidation and lipid peroxidation induced by photosensitization’, Mol. Cell. Biochem., 209(1 & 2), 47– 53.