Vanilla Essential Oil

Vanilla essential oil benefits and uses

Vanilla Essential Oil

Vanilla essential oil is extracted from fermented pods of the vanilla orchid vine

There are three types of vanilla essential oil*, which are:

  • extracted from Vanilla planifolia, sometimes labelled Bourbon vanilla,
  • extracted from V. pompona, sometimes labelled West Indies vanilla, and
  • extracted from V. tahitensis (which is not often used, due to the low vanillin content), sometimes called Tahitian vanilla.

You may also come across an oil called Mexican vanilla, which is also extracted from V. planifolia like Bourbon vanilla, but unfortunately is often adulterated with oil from the tonka bean (which contains coumarin, a dangerous substance which can cause damage to the liver amongst other things), so anything with the label Mexican vanilla is best avoided.

Vanilla is a vine in the Orchid family. All three types of vanilla plant are closely related, and production of the vanilla pods from which the oil is derived requires careful attention, involving fermentation for 6 months in order to develop the actual vanilla flavour/fragrance.

How vanilla essential oil is produced

Though you may see pages which purport to tell you how to make your own vanilla essential oil, what you actually get by following the instructions is not essential oil but more like some of the cheap (fake) vanilla essential oils on the market. Technically it is an infusion or maceration, not an essential oil.

*In fact, although there is a vanilla resinoid (produced by solvent extraction from cured vanilla beans), what is sold by reputable aromatherapy suppliers as “essential oil” is either the absolute (which requires further extraction from the resinoid) or a diluted absolute. Given that vanilla itself is the second most expensive spice (after saffron), the absolute is far too expensive for most of us to consider, which is why it’s normally sold diluted. However, although not technically an essential oil, that’s what most people call it so from here on that is how I will be referring to it in this post.

Due to its high price and the length and complexity of its production, vanilla essential oil is one of those oils that are often counterfeit. This sham vanilla oil might be an oil infusion, or some vanilla extract diluted in a carrier oil, or even a completely synthetic oil – which may smell ok, but will not have any of the healing properties of the genuine article and might be actively dangerous. So if you see vanilla oil that seems inexpensive – or you find it on the shelves of a pound shop or grocery store, you can pretty much assume that it’s fake.

Properties of Vanilla Essential Oil

Vanilla oil is antibiotic, anticarcinogenic (particularly for prostate and colon cancers), antidepressant, antifungal (active against Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans), anti-nausea, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, balsamic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, mood enhancing, mosquito repellent, relaxant, a sedative and tranquiliser.

Uses of Vanilla Essential Oil

Because of its property as an emmenagogue, vanilla oil is not suitable for use during pregnancy in the first trimester, and therefore cannot be used for morning sickness.

If using the absolute for massage etc., dilute in a suitable carrier oil at a rate of 5 drops to each 10ml of carrier. You may prefer to use this dilution for oil burners as well.

For use in the bath, mix 3-4 drops of the oil with a little milk to form an emulsion and stir in to the water once the bath is ready. Please be careful when using essential oils in the bath, and bear in mind when getting in and out that it will make the area more slippery than usual.

Vanilla can be used for massage to fight depression, ease stress, calm the mind and increase libido. It’s also helpful for relieving muscle and joint pain, cramped muscles or cramps associated with menstruation, to reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system. It can be used direct on acne, eczema, itching, burns, cuts and inflamed skin to soothe, promote healthy skin, to reduce cellulite and also on the scalp to encourage hair growth. It’s also beneficial for regulating menstruation.

It can be used in a burner, electric diffuser or in the bath for stress, nervous tension, insomnia, coughs and other respiratory problems. It is said to encourage sweet dreams if used in the bedroom, as well as having a reputation as an aphrodisiac. Diffused vanilla oil is a mosquito repellent, which makes it very helpful in bedrooms in countries where mosquitoes are a problem. To avoid the danger of fire while you sleep, you could use an electric diffuser or put the oils onto a cloth which is laid over a radiator instead of using a candle-based oil burner.

I offer Vanilla Essential Oil in my online shop.

Spanish Sage health benefits: great memory aid

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Spanish sage smells like spicy lavender

Spanish sage smells like spicy lavender

The recent news about Gingko biloba is disappointing. In case you missed it, the BBC publicized a recent study by Imperial College, London, testing the effects of Gingko on memory in those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), in comparison with a placebo. These results confirmed a previous study published in New Scientist of August 2002, which concluded “Gingko biloba has no beneficial effect on memory in healthy older people”. This new test shows that it has no measurable effect in those suffering from dementia either.

However, all is not lost. Another study in 2003 has shown that Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulifolia syn. S. lavandulaefolia) does have measurable positive effects on memory retention, and without any side effects.

Spanish sage (also called lavender-leaved sage) is a pretty herb, with smaller leaves than its more common relative garden sage, and pale lavender flowers, which seem to be produced quite profusely. Another close relative is clary sage.

Spanish sage is a hardy evergreen shrub which reaches a height of about 30cm (1′) and spreads over an area of about 50cm (18″). It requires well drained light to medium soil, but is not fussy about pH. It will not grow in shade.

It is easy to grow from seed sown under cover in early Spring, pricked out and potted on until early summer, when it can be hardened off and planted in its final position. It can also be propagated from half ripe cuttings during the growing season.

The part used in medicine is the leaves, which can be harvested as required, taking the main crop just before the flowers open and dry or distil for essential oil.

The test results I mentioned earlier were on short term memory, the type of memory which deteriorates most rapidly in AD. Further tests were planned, specifically on patients suffering from AD, but I assume these are ongoing, as I can find no reports of their results. [update: the 2003 study can be found here: Tildesley N.T., Kennedy D.O., Perry E.K., et al (June 2003). “Salvia lavandulaefolia (Spanish sage) enhances memory in healthy young volunteers”. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 75 (3): 669–74. PMID 12895685.] Volunteers who took part in the trial were given capsules of either Oil of Spanish Sage or an inactive placebo. The Sage Oil capsules used in the study are manufactured by Power Health Products Ltd of York, UK.

Garden sage, Salvia officinalis, has been used as a brain tonic and memory aid for hundreds of years. John Gerard, a well-known herbalist of his time, wrote about sage in 1597, saying “It is singularly good for the head and brain and quickeneth the nerves and memory”, and Nicholas Culpeper’s Herbal of 1652 says “It also heals the memory, warming and quickening the senses”.

Spanish Sage is not suitable for use as a herbal remedy during pregnancy, or by anyone trying to become pregnant.

Make a standard infusion by using 30g (1 ounce) of fresh or 15g (a half ounce) dried leaves to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) of boiling water. Allow to steep for at least 15 minutes (up to 4 hours) then strain off the herb and discard. Take up to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) per day, split into 3 doses.

Spanish sage is antiseptic, astringent, digestive, expectorant, febrifuge and tonic. Use the standard infusion as a brain tonic and to treat digestive disorders, respiratory conditions, menstrual problems, infertility, nervous tension and depression.

I offer Spanish sage oil capsules in my online shop.

All herbs grown for medicinal use should be kept free from chemicals of all kinds, including chemical fertilizers, to avoid adulterating the active ingredients contained within them. To find out more about growing organic herbs, visit the Gardenzone.


Spanish sage is sometimes used in aromatherapy, though you may have difficulty finding somewhere to buy it. It is used for skin care, respiratory and digestive disorders, depression and stress-related conditions. It is not suitable for use during pregnancy or for children under 6 years.

As with all essential oils, Spanish sage essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.