Other Name(s):

Bourbon Vanilla, Common Vanilla, Madagascar Vanilla, Mexican Vanilla, Réunion Vanilla, Tahitian Vanilla, Tahiti Vanilla, Vainilla, Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla tahitensis, Vanille, Vanille Bourbon, Vanille de Bourbon, Vanille de Madagascar, Vanille du Mexique, Vanille de Tahiti, Vanillin.


Vanilla is a plant. The bean (fruit) is commonly used to make flavoring, but it is also used to make medicine.

People take vanilla to treat intestinal gas and fever. They also use it to increase sexual desire (as an aphrodisiac).

In foods and beverages, vanilla is a well-known flavoring, but it is also added to foods to reduce the amount of sugar needed for sweetening. Some people add vanilla to food to help stop tooth decay.

In manufacturing, vanilla is used as a flavoring in syrups used in making medications. It is also used as a fragrance in perfumes.

Vanilla extract can be pricey. So lab-produced vanillin is often used as a substitute for vanilla. Sometimes vanilla extracts are diluted with less expensive extracts. Vanilla extracts from Mexico have been diluted with tonga bean extracts, but these contain a chemical called coumarin. Since 1954, the FDA has prohibited the use of coumarin in food.

How does it work?

Vanilla contains chemicals that are high in flavor and fragrance, but it is not known how it works for medicinal uses.

Uses & Effectiveness

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Fever.
  • Intestinal gas.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of vanilla for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).


Next to red peppers, you can get the most vitamin C from ________________. See Answer

Side Effects

Vanilla is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in amounts commonly found in foods. However, there are some side effects. Skin contact can cause irritation and swelling (inflammation). It might also cause headache and sleep problems (insomnia), especially for people who manufacture vanilla extract.

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Vanilla is LIKELY SAFE for pregnant and breast-feeding women when taken by mouth in food amounts. Larger medicinal amounts should be avoided until more is known.


The appropriate dose of vanilla depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for vanilla. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.


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Farthing, D., Sica, D., Abernathy, C., Fakhry, I., Roberts, J. D., Abraham, D. J., and Swerdlow, P. High-performance liquid chromatographic method for determination of vanillin and vanillic acid in human plasma, red blood cells and urine. J Chromatogr.B Biomed.Sci Appl. 4-16-1999;726(1-2):303-307. View abstract.

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Ferguson, J. E. and Beck, M. H. Contact sensitivity to vanilla in a lip salve. Contact Dermatitis 1995;33(5):352. View abstract.

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Fitzgerald, D. J., Stratford, M., and Narbad, A. Analysis of the inhibition of food spoilage yeasts by vanillin. Int J Food Microbiol 9-1-2003;86(1-2):113-122. View abstract.

Fitzgerald, D. J., Stratford, M., Gasson, M. J., and Narbad, A. The potential application of vanillin in preventing yeast spoilage of soft drinks and fruit juices. J Food Prot. 2004;67(2):391-395. View abstract.

Fitzgerald, D. J., Stratford, M., Gasson, M. J., Ueckert, J., Bos, A., and Narbad, A. Mode of antimicrobial action of vanillin against Escherichia coli, Lactobacillus plantarum and Listeria innocua. J Appl.Microbiol 2004;97(1):104-113. View abstract.

Fladby, T., Bryhn, G., Halvorsen, O., Rose, I., Wahlund, M., Wiig, P., and Wetterberg, L. Olfactory response in the temporal cortex of the elderly measured with near-infrared spectroscopy: a preliminary feasibility study. J Cereb.Blood Flow Metab 2004;24(6):677-680. View abstract.

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Garcia, A. F., Cabal, C., Losada, J., Alvarez, E., Soler, C., and Otero, J. In vivo action of Vanillin on delay time determined by magnetic relaxation. Hemoglobin 2005;29(3):181-187. View abstract.

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Gustafson, D. L., Franz, H. R., Ueno, A. M., Smith, C. J., Doolittle, D. J., and Waldren, C. A. Vanillin (3-methoxy-4-hydroxybenzaldehyde) inhibits mutation induced by hydrogen peroxide, N-methyl-N-nitrosoguanidine and mitomycin C but not (137)Cs gamma-radiation at the CD59 locus in human-hamster hybrid A(L) cells. Mutagenesis 2000;15(3):207-213. View abstract.

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Inouye, T., Sasaki, Y. F., Imanishi, H., Watanebe, M., Ohta, T., and Shirasu, Y. Suppression of mitomycin C-induced micronuclei in mouse bone marrow cells by post-treatment with vanillin. Mutat.Res 1988;202(1):93-95. View abstract.

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Liang, J. A., Wu, S. L., Lo, H. Y., Hsiang, C. Y., and Ho, T. Y. Vanillin inhibits matrix metalloproteinase-9 expression through down-regulation of nuclear factor-kappaB signaling pathway in human hepatocellular carcinoma cells. Mol.Pharmacol 2009;75(1):151-157. View abstract.

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Naleid, A. M., Grimm, J. W., Kessler, D. A., Sipols, A. J., Aliakbari, S., Bennett, J. L., Wells, J., and Figlewicz, D. P. Deconstructing the vanilla milkshake: the dominant effect of sucrose on self-administration of nutrient-flavor mixtures. Appetite 2008;50(1):128-138. View abstract.

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Ngarmsak, M., Delaquis, P., Toivonen, P., Ngarmsak, T., Ooraikul, B., and Mazza, G. Antimicrobial activity of vanillin against spoilage microorganisms in stored fresh-cut mangoes. J Food Prot. 2006;69(7):1724-1727. View abstract.

Nielsen, P. V. and Rios, R. Inhibition of fungal growth on bread by volatile components from spices and herbs, and the possible application in active packaging, with special emphasis on mustard essential oil. Int J Food Microbiol. 9-25-2000;60(2-3):219-229. View abstract.

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Odink, J., Korthals, H., and Knijff, J. H. Simultaneous determination of the major acidic metabolites of catecholamines and serotonin in urine by liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection after a one-step sample clean-up on Sephadex G-10; influence of vanilla and banana ingestion. J Chromatogr 2-26-1988;424(2):273-283. View abstract.

Odoux, E., Chauwin, A., and Brillouet, J. M. Purification and characterization of vanilla bean (Vanilla planifolia Andrews) beta-D-glucosidase. J Agric Food Chem 5-7-2003;51(10):3168-3173. View abstract.

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Oliva, J. M., Ballesteros, I., Negro, M. J., Manzanares, P., Cabanas, A., and Ballesteros, M. Effect of binary combinations of selected toxic compounds on growth and fermentation of Kluyveromyces marxianus. Biotechnol Prog. 2004;20(3):715-720. View abstract.

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Pak, F. E., Gropper, S., Dai, W. D., Havkin-Frenkel, D., and Belanger, F. C. Characterization of a multifunctional methyltransferase from the orchid Vanilla planifolia. Plant Cell Rep 2004;22(12):959-966. View abstract.

Palama, T. L., Fock, I., Choi, Y. H., Verpoorte, R., and Kodja, H. Biological variation of Vanilla planifolia leaf metabolome. Phytochemistry 2010;71(5-6):567-573. View abstract.

Palama, T. L., Khatib, A., Choi, Y. H., Payet, B., Fock, I., Verpoorte, R., and Kodja, H. Metabolic changes in different developmental stages of Vanilla planifolia pods. J Agric Food Chem 9-9-2009;57(17):7651-7658. View abstract.

Palama, T. L., Menard, P., Fock, I., Choi, Y. H., Bourdon, E., Govinden-Soulange, J., Bahut, M., Payet, B., Verpoorte, R., and Kodja, H. Shoot differentiation from protocorm callus cultures of Vanilla planifolia (Orchidaceae): proteomic and metabolic responses at early stage. BMC.Plant Biol 2010;10:82. View abstract.

Panagou, E. Z. and Nychas, G. J. Dynamic modeling of Listeria monocytogenes growth in pasteurized vanilla cream after postprocessing contamination. J Food Prot. 2008;71(9):1828-1834. View abstract.

Pinegar, J. A. and Buxton, J. D. An investigation of the bacteriological quality of retail vanilla slices. J Hyg (Lond) 1977;78(3):387-394. View abstract.

Podstolski, A., Havkin-Frenkel, D., Malinowski, J., Blount, J. W., Kourteva, G., and Dixon, R. A. Unusual 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde synthase activity from tissue cultures of the vanilla orchid Vanilla planifolia. Phytochemistry 2002;61(6):611-620. View abstract.

Ponnusamy, K Paul D Ji Hyang K. Inhibition of Quorum Sensing Mechanism and Aeromonas hydrophila Biofilm Formation by Vanillin. Environmental Engineering Science 2009;26(8):1359-1363.

Porras-Alfaro, A. and Bayman, P. Mycorrhizal fungi of Vanilla: diversity, specificity and effects on seed germination and plant growth. Mycologia. 2007;99(4):510-525. View abstract.

Ramaroson-Raonizafinimanana, B., Gaydou, E. M., and Bombarda, I. Long-chain aliphatic beta-diketones from epicuticular wax of Vanilla bean species. Synthesis of nervonoylacetone. J Agric Food Chem 2000;48(10):4739-4743. View abstract.

Ramaroson-Raonizafinimanana, B., Gaydou, E. M., and Bombarda, I. Long-chain gamma-pyrones in epicuticular wax of two vanilla bean species: V. fragrans and V. tahitensis. J Agric Food Chem 1999;47(8):3202-3205. View abstract.

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