Monday, September 26, 2011

The Comfort and Sweetness of Vanilla

In the past week I have been savoring the scent of fresh Tongan Vanilla beans that I purchased in Vava'u. They recently arrived in my mailbox, the moment that I opened the box, a wave of deliciousness came over me and I was so happy to see my package, covered in beautiful and colorful Tongan stamps. 
Vanilla beans are grown from orchid flowers.
There are about 150 species of vanilla orchids that grow around the world.
In Mexico, indigenous people used ground vanilla with the resin of copal in ceremony in ancient temples. Many tribes of Mexico revered vanilla as sacred and used it in herbal medicine practices. When the Spaniards arrived in the Americas they were introduced to the magic of vanilla and took it back to Europe where it developed as a valuable commodity along side cacao.
 There are only a few places on the planet where the conditions are ideal for the growing Vanilla.
 Lucky for me, Tonga happens to be one of them! A Tongan woman told me that Vanilla beans are infused in coconut oil to maintain smooth and beautiful skin.
Vanilla was in the American pharmacopoeia until the early 1920's. It was used for gastric disorders, as a stimulant, and for hysteria. 
Vanilla essential oil, is slightly warming in nature, and in Chinese Medical application nourishes the Liver to release pent up emotions such as anger, resentment and frustration. It also is used to strengthen the Will, associated with the Kidneys.
The smell of vanilla brings me great comfort as it reminds me of my Argentine mother who included fresh vanilla beans when making Dulce de Leche. 

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