Vanilla is one of the oldest and one of the most expensive spices as well as one of the most familiar, but you don't hear a lot about it's health benefits. That's probably because it is more important for its flavoring and aromatic uses.
Vanilla extract is taken from the vanilla bean in Central America. The production of this extract began in Mexico in its early centuries. This was done by the Totonacas, and has been used for medical purposes through time including today. It has been used for different medical conditions ranging from breathing issues and reproductive conditions to emotional conditions such as anxiety.
There are three main commercial preparations of natural vanilla:
powder (ground pods, kept pure or blended with sugar, starch or other ingredients).
extract (in alcoholic or occasionally glycerol solution, both pure and imitation forms of vanilla contain at least 35% alcohol).
Vanilla flavoring in food may be achieved by adding vanilla extract or by cooking vanilla pods in the liquid preparation. A major use of vanilla is in flavoring ice cream. The most common flavor of ice cream is vanilla, and thus most people consider it to be the "default" flavor. The cosmetics industry uses vanilla to make perfume. In old medicinal literature, vanilla is described as an aphrodisiac and a remedy for fevers.