Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Properties of Vanilla planifolia

Document Type : Narrative Review


Department of Pharmacy, University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy


Introduction: Spices are an ingredient that today is considered indispensable in the kitchen not only for the important role of flavoring and coloring food, but also for the antibacterial, antioxidant, eupeptic, antidiabetic and anticancer properties, which have been highlighted through chemical and pharmacological analysis.
Methods: In order to use spices in the food sector, it is necessary to have a product with characteristics of authenticity and genuineness such as to protect the consumers from possible health risks. The aim of the present study was to find the best extractive conditions for vanilla capsules with the use of different solvents such as ethyl ether, methyl alcohol and dichloromethane and subjecting the extracts obtained to qualitative and quantitative analysis.
Results: From the analysis carried out it was possible to highlight that the main component of the vanilla pod is vanillin from which the particular aroma derives. Other important compounds are: vanillic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, p-hydroxybenzaldehyde, anisic alcohol; and vanillin degradation products which are also available in small concentrations.  In addition, the following flavonoids have been identified: rutin, morine, quercetin, myricetin, kaempferol, apigenin, whci are considered to be responsible for pharmacological activities.
Conclusions: Knowledge of chemical composition of a spice is necessary to guarantee its authenticity. In the case of vanilla, possible sophistications can be highlighted considering the relationship between vanillin and the other main components which in the natural extract is well defined and, in addition to being an index of good quality, allows to identify the origin of the plant and to discover any adulterations,as by adding synthetic vanillin or other spices.