Top Vanilla Benefits + Side Effects

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 10/03/22 •  12 min read

What are vanilla benefits and side effects every ethical consumer must know? Here are vanilla pros and cons and how buying them will impact your health, the environment, animals and laborers. 

vanilla benefits and side effects

Food is something we consume every day. If you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on vanilla benefits and side effects.

You are going to learn all about vanilla benefits and side effects. This will include vanilla benefits for your health and potential risks, vanilla water footprint and carbon footprint, sustainability, if vanilla is vegan or impact animals in other ways, and much more. 

After learning if vanilla is good or bad for you, the environment, animals and human rights, you will be able to make the best choices you can the next time you buy food.

This post is all about vanilla benefits and side effects that every ethical consumer should know.

Top Vanilla Benefits And Side Effects


Energy: vanilla is good for / helps aid digestion, soothe gut inflammation and help with cramping, stomach-ache and diarrhea (when taken as an herbal tea), boost metabolism, increase sexual desire and libido as an aphrodisiac, treat intestinal gas and fever, induce calm and relieve stress (when used as part of an aromatherapy treatment), treat cough, cold or respiratory infection, reduce inflammation and throat irritation (using vanilla extract mixed with a little warm water)

Longevity: vanilla is good for / helps boost immunity, detoxification, heart health, prevent inflammation of the arteries and blood clots, reduce cholesterol levels

Appearance: vanilla is good for / helps hair health, treat split-ends, hair loss and promote hair growth (if applied topically as Vanilla essential oil), fight breakouts, reduce scars and brighten the complexion (as an antibacterial), weight loss

Vanilla is…


Water footprint: high, 126,505 liters of water used to produce 1 kilogram of vanilla beans / 15,159 gallons of water used to produce 1 pound of vanilla beans

Carbon footprint: possibly low, 2.0 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of beans, a car driving equivalent of 4.75 miles or 7.75 kilometers

Destruction: high, vanilla production is relatively destructive, deforestation, erosion of soil, endangering wildlife and greenhouse gas emission, vanilla needs the shade of trees to grow and requires a long curing process, every single flower has to be hand pollinated in the morning in every country except Mexico (where local the Melipona bees are pollinators)

Vanilla is…

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Kills: none, pure vanilla production does not require any animals to die, however ‘vanilla flavoring’, and ‘‘vanilla scents’ use a chemical compound called castoreum which comes from the anal glands of beavers

Harms: none, pure vanilla production does not require any animals

Indirectly kills or harms: none, no animals are indirectly killed or harmed from pure vanilla production as long as there are no toxic chemicals, buy Non-GMO/organic, as pesticides harm and kill wildlife and ecosystems by contaminating soil, water, air and plants that animals eat

Vanilla is…


Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always accessible

Living conditions: varies, laborers are often exploited, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation

Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits


Where does most vanilla come from?

The world’s top vanilla producing country is Madagascar, followed by Indonesia and Mexico. The world’s top vanilla exporting country is Madagascar, followed by Indonesia, Germany, USA, Papua New Guinea, India, Comoros, France, Uganda and Switzerland.

Where does vanilla flavoring come from?

Pure vanilla and natural vanilla comes from vanilla beans, however ‘vanilla flavoring’, ‘vanilla scents’ and ‘imitation vanilla’ use a chemical compound called castoreum, which comes from the anal glands of beavers

vanilla is acidic.

acidic foods and alkaline diet to improve ph levels

Is vanilla alkaline or acidic? Vanilla is acidic. What is the pH level of vanilla? Vanilla has a 5.5 pH level once digested.

When you eat food, it breaks down to an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper and iron produce an alkaline ash; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.

Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List

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vanilla is gluten free.

gluten free foods and what to eat on a gluten free diet

Is vanilla gluten free? Yes, vanilla is gluten free. Vanilla does not contain gluten.  

While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…

Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include:

There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.

Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List

vanilla is not a common food allergen.

the most common food allergens include milk, wheat, soy, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and crustaceans

Is vanilla a common food allergen? No, vanilla is not a common food allergen. Some people may experience allergic reactions to vanilla but it is relatively rare by comparison.

A group of the eight major allergenic foods, AKA the Big-8, include:

These foods account for about 90% of all food allergies in the United States.

Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.

Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List

vanilla has a high water footprint.

water footprints of food and products

Does vanilla have a high or low water footprint? Vanilla has a relatively high water footprint compared to other foods.

What is the water footprint of vanilla? It takes 126,505 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of vanilla beans / 15,159 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of vanilla beans.

Did you know that water is a finite, non-renewable resource?

We must do what we can to conserve fresh water and a major way to reduce needless water consumption is to change the way we eat. That’s not to say we need to reduce our water intake…quite the opposite. It’s important for our health to drink lots of water and eat foods that hydrate. The kind of water conservation we’re talking about here is behind the scenes.

How much water does it take to produce an apple? A serving of rice? A steak dinner?

We need to be aware of “water footprints”. That is, the amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of goods we consume. As it turns out it takes significantly more water to yield foods that come from animals than foods that come from plants. Imagine how much water a cow needs to consume to generate a piece of beef. Not only how much water a single cow drinks, rather all the water that went into producing the crops that the cow ate.

Find out how much water your food consumes with this: Water Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

vanilla possibly has a low carbon footprint.

carbon footprints of food and food emissions

Does vanilla have a high or low carbon footprint? Vanilla possibly has a relatively low carbon footprint compared to other foods.

What is the carbon footprint of vanilla? It takes around 2.0 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of beans, a car driving equivalent of 4.75 miles or 7.75 kilometers.

Food not only has a water footprint but also a carbon footprint, known as CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Since carbon measurements are a bit more difficult to comprehend, it is common to equate CO2e to the distance which a car drives in miles or kilometers.

When calculating carbon emissions, some factors may include…

There are a number of steps we can take to reduce energy output. According to Oxford Martin School researchers, if the world went vegan, eliminating animal-derived products, it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds and avoid climate damages of $1.5 trillion.

But that’s not all!

It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:

Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

vanilla is unsustainable.

sustainable shopping, for eco friendly brands and products good for the environment

Overall, is vanilla eco friendly? Is vanilla sustainable?

Vanilla production is relatively unsustainable due to…

A 2018 Oxford University study – which is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet – found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as animal farming provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of our farmland.

Consuming animal products and byproducts is not environmentally friendly and is one of the worst things for the Earth. Not only is meat production wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution. The industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change.

A 2010 United Nations report said that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world the worst impacts of climate change.

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vanilla (pure) is vegan but vanilla flavoring and vanilla scent are typically not vegan.

vanilla is not vegan if flavoring comes from beavers

Is vanilla vegan? Yes, pure vanilla is vegan. Pure vanilla is a spice and not an animal product or byproduct, therefore making it a vegan food. However, vanilla flavoring and vanilla scent are typically not vegan, as they include a chemical compound called castoreum, made from the anal glands of beavers.

Because we cannot see for ourselves how these animals live and what they endure does not mean it isn’t happening. The meat, poultry and dairy industries do everything they can to distance us from knowing how our food comes to be in order to keep us in the dark about what we support each time we buy animal derived products and byproducts.

Go vegan for animals!

It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.

Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non Vegan Foods List

vanilla may have labor issues and human rights concerns.

labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Is vanilla a product with labor concerns?

At this time there have been no major concerns with vanilla production but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening!

It’s important to stay aware of human rights concerns and worker exploitation that may come with specific brands.

Did you know the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? The labor involved behind each and every product cannot go unrecognized. 

Sadly, many labor concerns exist around the world in both developed and developing countries. We must be vigilant to ensure what we buy is not contributing to industries that are unfair to their valuable workers. Some known problems include workplace health and safety, child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even experience harassment, humiliation and violence and unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks. Consequently, laborers can face nausea, dizziness, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke -the leading cause of farmworker death! 

Such mistreatment is like modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade. 


Vanilla–its science of cultivation, curing, chemistry

Vanilla Extracts and Vanilla Flavors –

Crystal Spring: health benefits of vanilla

PREZI: Vanilla Extract Social Justice/Environmental Issues

Vanilla extract – FoodData Central

Adriane Marie

Hi, I'm Adriane, creator of HEALabel! I organize info for you to comprehensively see how purchases impact health, environment, animals and laborers. Stay aware because you care! Subscribe below to get my weekly newsletter with tips, new info and other ethical consumer insight.