A vanilla bundle.

The Surprising Health Benefits of Vanilla

One of the most popular flavors in the world, Vanilla is a taste and aroma found worldwide in confections, dairy products, perfumes, and even candles. In addition to its rich, sweet, buttery qualities, the gamut of body and mental health benefits that occur naturally in vanilla have also long been celebrated. Though it is typically used as an extract or flavor additive, these beneficial compounds are retained in the product, resulting in excellent-tasting vanilla products that are still healthy for you.

Where is Vanilla Produced?

Vanilla flavor is typically extracted from the vanilla bean, which grows as long green pods on the vanilla orchid, also called Vanilla planifolia. This plant was initially discovered by the Totonac Indians in Mexico, cultivated primarily for its flavor and medicinal uses. Thanks to the Melipona bee, local orchids could be pollinated, resulting in vanilla pods that could be grown for health benefits and consumption.

The pollination of the Melipona bee would be a stopgap to the spread of vanilla for several centuries. Though Spanish explorers attempted to spread the vanilla orchid throughout the world, the lack of a suitable pollinator resulted in beautiful-looking flowers but no vanilla pods. This changed when hand-pollination methods were developed in Réunion, Madagascar, allowing farmers to produce vanilla pods on a scale never seen before, using specialized techniques to promote more robust, healthy, and flavorful vanilla pods. These methods, including various curing processes, are still used today to grow and cultivate your recipes’ most healthy and delicious vanilla.

How is Vanilla Prepared?

There are several preparation methods to extract the many health benefits present in vanilla, ranging from separating seeds to alcohol extraction. Before any processing, however, vanilla pods must be aged and dried in a controlled environment, developing the satisfying, concentrated flavor and dark color we typically associate with vanilla. After this aging process, vanilla beans can be processed in several ways:


Hundreds to thousands of tiny black seeds are contained within each vanilla bean. A significant amount of vanilla flavor is held within these seeds, which can be separated from the husk and sieved to achieve a uniform flavoring agent that performs well in dry baked goods, flavoring sugar, or syrups. These seeds are also typically used for vanilla paste.


After the seeds are separated from the husk, the exhausted pods are dried, sterilized, and ground into a powder to mimic the appearance of vanilla seeds at a lower cost. Specks are slightly less concentrated in flavor but full of vanilla aromas and health benefits.

Ground Beans

Ground beans are of the highest quality and select vanilla beans. These select beans are ground into a thick paste traditionally used for chocolate manufacturing, such as chocolate bars, truffles, or dessert cakes.


The most common type of vanilla flavoring, whole vanilla pods or exhausted husks, are soaked in an alcohol solution, extracting the volatile aromatic compounds from the vanilla bean and infusing it into the alcohol. Over time, the vanilla will lose more and more of its flavor compounds, making for a more complex and developed vanilla flavor. Vanilla extracts can be distilled in several ways, including wooden casks, unique alcohols like bourbon or rum, and even specialized vanilla bean pods. Regardless of the extraction ingredients used, however, the health benefits vanilla is coveted for are retained.

A vanilla flower.

How Is Vanilla Healthy for You?

The effects of vanilla have been well understood for centuries, with some of the first civilizations using vanilla in medicines, foods, and tinctures. However, the compounds that make vanilla effective have only been understood recently.

The secret behind vanilla’s health benefits lies in vanillin, the aromatic plant compound that occurs naturally in vanilla plants. While it is present in high concentrations in vanilla beans, it can also be extracted in smaller amounts from foods like rice bran or clove and produced synthetically in lab environments. Regardless of its production method, vanillin has many positive effects on the body, ranging from digestive to circulatory and mental health benefits.

Digestive Benefits of Vanilla

Vanillin provides several positive effects on the digestive system, primarily through its impact on acid production. Vanilla can help regulate gastric acid production and reduce bloating or stomach pain when consumed.

Circulatory Benefits of Vanilla

Like coffee and tea, Vanilla is relatively high in antioxidants, aiding circulatory health and soothing minor heart symptoms. Primarily, antioxidants are effective at regulating the concentration of free radicals in the body, which can contribute to heart diseases and cancer.

Mental Health Benefits of Vanilla

Vanillin is effective for promoting mental health, both as aromatherapy and when ingested. The taste and smell of vanillin have been proven to encourage serotonin production in the brain, reduce heart rates, and soothe symptoms of anxiety, all of which make vanilla great for your mental health — even treating symptoms that arise from anxiety or depression.

Make the Most of Your Vanilla

Metarom USA is a world-class flavor manufacturer and distributor with excellent and healthy vanilla options for your recipes. Select from liquid extracts, seeds, and various other suspensions, making it simple to add our natural and rich vanilla flavor to any baked good, beverage, confection, or other product! Contact us today to get access to our best-in-class flavorists and flavor chemists, who have decades of combined experience to assist with your flavor needs.