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Aztec Secrets: Amazing Health Benefits Of Vanilla

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The ancient herbalists and shamans of Mesoamerica knew the amazing qualities of many substances that modern humans only see as cooking spices or food flavor enhancers. Some of the plants they administered to heal the sick are yet to be re-discovered. But one plant that produced very special beans was known to have powerful properties to heal and keep people healthy. Today, the essence of that bean is on the shelves of many kitchen cupboards: vanilla extract.

Origins of vanilla

The vanilla bean plant grows in Mexico, the Caribbean and South America. Natives indigenous to the region understood the special qualities of vanilla for many centuries. When the Europeans arrived, they soon discovered the amazing plant, its medicinal uses and how to use it with food and beverages.

Of the three types of vanilla bean, Vanilla planifolia has the best health benefits and is the most treasured.

Other than its near ubiquitous use in many baked goods, vanilla was used for centuries to help heal wounds. It can also be used to relieve mild anxiety, and many anectodal tales from as far back as the Aztecs purport the bean is a powerful male aphrodisiac and also assists with weight loss.

Of course, if the vanilla is taken in fudge and cakes and cookies, weight loss becomes problematic.

Health properties

The website livestrong.com notes: “Vanilla contains high levels of antioxidants, according to a study led by B.N. Shyamala from the Spices and Flavour Technology Department of the Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysore, India. Shyamala’s study was published in a September 2007 issue of the ‘Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.’ Antioxidants are valuable for reducing free-radicals in your body, which are the waste products from normal as well as harmful metabolic processes. Excess free radicals may cause diseases, including cancer.

“Vanilla’s anti-carcinogenic property primarily comes from the compound vanillin, a polyphenol known to be a powerful antioxidant. The essential oil of vanilla has been shown to reduce free radicals thought to promote the development of inflammation and certain cancers.”

According to Nutrition and You vanilla extract has an array of vitamins and minerals including the B-complex and calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

Other significant health benefits obtained from vanilla extract (processed to purity with alcohol) is its ability to act as a mild tranquilizer and sedative, an antidepressant, and helps fight inflammation from fevers.

Many swear that whole vanilla beans offer the best health properties. Although expensive, discounts on quality beans can be found on the Internet. Nutrition and You advises caution when shopping for vanilla beans “as adulteration with artificial flavorings is quite common. A well processed good quality pod will remain potent for as long as three to four years.”

Vanilla extract has also been shown to be an effective scent used in aromatherapy and patients report it has a calming, soothing effect. It can even be successfully used to combat mild sleep disorders.

Far beyond a tasty ingredient of ice cream and candies, vanilla can be a powerful ally in the ongoing quest for good health.

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    Total 13 comments
    • W. Willow

      My gramma told me that she used vanilla as perfume when she was a young woman. That would’ve been in the 1920s.

    • Anonymous

      What a stupid article. All the bs aside, the Aztecs are extinct for a reason. Nice try at an Appeal to Tradition LOL.

    • ImprobabilityDrive

      Thanks for the vanilla!

    • lil'eaglehelper

      The older the wisdom, the better.
      Good food = good medicine
      Good medicine = good food
      Something horribly overlooked these days, thus a nation of fatties and cry babies and pills for it all. Stay stupid, my friends…..

    • Anonymous

      Yeah li’eagle. Appeal to Tradition is a logical argument. Wait, no it’s not. Don’t be stupid.

    • Authentica

      Our species has survived for thousands of years through those ‘stupid’ traditions. Aztecs are extinct due to cultural genocide, not their immense natural knowledge of medicinal foods. Besides, tradition, although I’m all for innovation & adaption, is the bedrock of human society. It’s what creates culture, which is what makes us human.

    • Anonymous

      Well said, Authentica. We must go back to ancient knowledge instead of going forward towards nothingness. That’s what happens when you eat McDonalds and think killing animals is a good thing. Free yourself from your mind and open up your heart. That’s what life is about.

    • Anonymous

      Humans cannot survive without consuming the flesh of other animals. That’s just a simple fact. Anyone claiming to be a strict vegan is either lying through their teeth or lying on their deathbed. Certain essential vitamins ONLY come from animals. Not found in any known plant species on Earth. Sorry folks, that’s reality. Tradition and culture are very important (subjectively speaking) but we are not headed “towards nothingness.” We are headed to scientific breakthroughs and medical progress. I just adore when people put down science while enjoying the products every day. Indeed, simply commenting on here used scientific research spanning centuries. It’s time we get real people.

    • Authentica

      Tradition & culture give us a sense of who we are, & where we are heading, which is subjective, but people psychologically need firm foundations to be healthy & functional, so to me they are also objectively important. They balance us with the wisdom learned by our ancestors so we don’t destroy ourselves with our intellects which can be powerful but dangerous.

      We enjoy scientific breakthroughs every day, however we must not forget the foundation of science (& Life), which is thousands of years of trial-&-error by indigenous peoples all over the world. Improving method & knowledge through ‘t & r’ is a recognised scientific approach, not to be relegated as ‘primitive’ as that is a subjective view. Science is not the ‘holy grail’ of life though – family, history, connection to nature, spiritual balance & health are. Science can never replace nature & in my opinion the medical establishment is going backwards at present. Not working with the bodies innate healing mechanisms due to greed. Science will destroy our planet if not balanced with traditional respect & understanding for Nature. Science seems more like a fanatical cult to me every day, from top down. Balance is the key word here. Scientists confirm ancient knowledge all the time.

    • Malaki

      Love the armchair scientists hiding behind the anon tag…

      Science could become the new world religion if it wanted to but academics is too worried about the next round of grant funding then doing anything reasonable for the world.

      Its easier to ride the corporate wallet into “nothingness” then to stand and create real freedom and more importantly a bright future for our world.

      That is why there is a devotion to tradition, there once existed a world where values were cherished and fighting for whats right was exalted, not whatevers easiest.

      Its easier to sit back though slurping the scientific koolaid then take some hard looks at the tradition weve left behind and the darkness it’s taking us towards.

      If you think science is taking us to a bright future then you’re right…

      It’ll be the brightest thing you see before we fall to dust.

    • Pateriot

      “Well said, Authentica. We must go back to ancient knowledge instead of going forward towards nothingness. That’s what happens when you eat McDonalds and think killing animals is a good thing. Free yourself from your mind and open up your heart. That’s what life is about.”

      Our ancestors did a whole lot of killing and eating animals!! Smoke enough of the herb and things no longer have to make sense. You simply “free yourself from your mind and open your heart.”

    • lil'eaglehelper

      No drugs, no alcohol or whatever mediums people make fun is needed. Pure mind and open heart is all you need.
      Modern science/medicine should include mind body and spirit = Universal laws of Interdependence…Create seperation of physical, mental, spirit and emotional development creates part of a person…every law is being broken today… knowonder….I asked about this ancient understanding,thousands of years old? I was corrected, millions of years old…

    • betty189

      thank you,good info,never knew this!

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