Hi, my loves and welcome to WiccaNow. I’ve been sharing a lot of magkical herb and plant guides recently, like this post about the magickal properties of lemongrass, another about jasmine, one about roses and one about the magickal properties of mugwort. I’ve also shared a botanical witchepedia for those of you who want an overview of a large array of plants and herbs. Today I want to continue down this road by sharing my guide to the magickal properties of vanilla.
Vanilla is an interesting tropical plant that has a long, and sometimes brutal history. It’s a favourite among bakers. It helps to promote inner peace and some of its other magickal properties include love, happiness, and luck. Medicinally, it can help fight acne and will improve the health and vitality of hair as well as being rich in antioxidants among other things.
Disclaimer: Any medicinal benefits given here are a product of my own research and as such should not be taken over the advice of trained medical professionals. If you are ill, please go and see a doctor. Always make sure that anything you consume is 100% safe. If you are pregnant, consult your doctor or midwife before consuming something you haven’t tried before.
The History of Vanilla
It’s believed that vanilla has been cultivated since the 15th century. The flowering, flat-leafed orchid was first cultivated by the Totonac-Aztec people, who lived in what is currently known as Veracruz. They were invaded and conquered by a neighbouring Aztec tribe from central Mexico who fell in love with the taste of vanilla and named it “Tlilxochitl” meaning “black flower”. They named it after the fact that the mature fruit will shrivel and darken shortly after being harvested.
When the Spanish invaded and conquered the Aztecs in the 1520s, conquistador Hernán Cortés introduced vanilla to Europe and until the mid 19th century Mexico remained the main vanilla producers and suppliers for the rest of the world.
In 1819, vanilla plants were shipped to a few islands off the Indian coast by French businessmen in the hopes that they could cultivate their own vanilla supply rather than relying on the Mexican supply chain. The main island they were cultivated on was Réunion.
While vanilla did grow, the crops didn’t produce any fruit as there were no insects capable of pollinating the flowers. While the flowers carry both male and female sex organs and don’t need another flower for cross-pollination, they have a membrane separating the two organs meaning that only specific insects are capable of pollinating them.
In 1837 a Belgian botanist, Charles Morren, discovered that the flowers weren’t being pollinated and came up with a method of artificially pollinating them. This method turned out to be completely financially unviable and as such could not be used commercially.
In 1841, a 12-year-old slave named Edmond Albius figured out how to hand pollinate the vanilla flowers in a cost-effective and fast way using a blade of grass and his thumb. This revolutionised the way vanilla was grown and made it possible to commercially cultivate the pods outside of their native Mexico. The method of pollination that he pioneered is still used today. While Edmonds discovery changed the way vanilla was produced and enabled Réunion to become the world’s largest supplier of vanilla, he died in poverty. Pretty outrageous isn’t it? Yeah, I think so too…
After methods of cultivation had been achieved and were commercially viable, vanilla plants were sent to other Islands in the area along with pollination instructions so that commercial production could begin.
During the late 1970s, a tropical cyclone ravaged the areas where the main vanilla crops were produced. This caused a massive price increase which continued until the mid 1980s. In the 1980s, the cartel who had been in charge of the vanilla prices and distribution since the 1930s disbanded which caused a drop in price of around 70%, lowering the price per kg to around $20USD.
In 2000, another massive cyclone hit Madagascar. This, combined with political unrest and a poor vanilla crop for the previous 3 years increased the prices exponentially and drove them up to $500USD per kg by 2004. However, by 2005 prices had dropped down to $40/kg due to the increased production of imitation vanilla and new countries who had started to cultivate their own crops. This meant that there was an increased supply and a decreased demand which lead to a further drop in price to $20/kg by 2010. Another cyclone in 2017 drove the prices back up to $500/kg. Currently vanilla prices sit at around $600/kg, making it more expensive per kg than silver.
Fun Facts About Vanilla
- There are three main varieties of vanilla that are sold in the world today, which all originated from the species originally cultivated by the Totonac-Aztec people. These 3 species are Vanilla Planifolia which is grown in Madagascar and other tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, Vanilla Tahitensis which comes from the South Pacific and Vanilla Pompona which is grown in the West Indies as well as Central and South America.
- Vanilla Planifolia is known as Bourbon vanilla after the Island Réunion which used to be known as Ile Bourbon.
- Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron. This is due to the incredibly labour intensive way that it needs to be cultivated.
- Madagascar and Indonesia produce ⅔ of the world’s supply of vanilla.
- Vanilla comes from the word “vainilla” which is a derivative of the Spanish word “vaina” meaning sheath or pod. The Spanish word comes from the Latin word “vagina” which means sheath. Vainilla translated to “little pod”.
- Around 95% of vanilla products on the market contain 0 actual vanilla. They use a flavouring derived from lignins instead.
- Vanilla plants are climbing vine orchids, which need a structure, such as support posts or a tree, to grow on. If you left it completely alone, it would grow very high and produce very few flowers. Growers fold the climbing parts of the vine down so that they stay at a harvestable height. For some reason, this also stimulates the plants flowering capacity and they produce far more flowers with this technique.
- There are only a few animals which can naturally pollinate vanilla flowers. There are 2 genera of bees who are able to pollinate the flowers. The only other animal capable of this is a hummingbird.
- Vanilla seeds won’t germinate without the presence of mycorrhizal fungi as they have a symbiotic relationship. Without this fungi, an orchid seed doesn’t have enough energy to germinate. Due to this, most vanilla plants are reproduced with cuttings.
- Vanilla still needs to be harvested by hand. If they are harvested too early they lack flavour and if harvested too late they split open and are considered lower quality.
- Flowers only open for around 24 hours, meaning that the window of time for hand pollination is extremely small.
- It takes 9 months for a vanilla bean to ripen to the point where it’s ready to be picked.
Medicinal Benefits of Vanilla
Vanilla is still mainly used as a flavouring in food and beverages. Research into the medicinal benefits of vanilla are limited.
- Rich in antioxidants
- May help to reduce intestinal distress
- May reduce fever
- Might be an aphrodisiac
- Might reduce cholesterol, leading to a healthier heart
- May prevent tooth decay
- Promotes healthy hair growth and may slow down hair loss
- Can help to fight acne as it can target the underlying infection in the skin while also increase blood circulation meaning the skin heals faster
- It may help fight the symptoms of anxiety
Magickal Properties of Vanilla
Vanilla is often used in spells for love and friendship. It has both calming and strengthening properties which make it an amazing addition to healing spells and rituals. It can help to raise the positive vibrations in a room to enhance feelings of peace, tranquillity and comfort.
- Stress and anxiety
- Increasing mental capabilities
Deities: Aphrodite and Venus
Crystals: Amber, rose quartz, carnelian
A Simple Love Jar with Vanilla
This is a super simple little jar spell that will help draw love and friendship to you. It doesn’t have to be focused on romantic love, this jar spell works for self-love, friendship or love from family or even a pet.
- Take a small jar, I use a 100ml screw-top jar and fill the jar with a sweetener of your choice, I generally like to use sugar but honey, agave, coconut sugar or stevia are also all great options.
- Split a whole vanilla bean lengthways and nestle into the sugar. If you want, you can also add a piece of rose quartz into the jar.
- Screw the lid onto your jar and cup it in both hands.
- Focus on an intense feeling of love that you’ve experienced. This doesn’t have to be romantic love. This could be the love of your friends, the love from your parents, the love from a pet or a moment when you realised that you’re awesome and felt an intense sense of love for yourself.
- Feel as though you are completely enveloped in this love. Don’t question whether this love exists or not, feel as though it’s 100% assured that it does.
- Focus on this enveloping feeling of love and feel it coursing through your body and into your hands. Feel it flowing through your hands and direct it into the jar. Stuff the jar with love. Feel it being accepted and multiplied by the vanilla and the sugar.
“Vanilla bean excerpt your power, so I feel loved at every hour. So Mote it Be.”
- Clap your hands 3x to end the spell.
- Whenever you feel like you need a little pick-me-up or a little extra love, take the jar into your hands and allow it to give you back some of the love that you sent into it. You can also use the vanilla sugar to sweeten a cup of tea or add a teaspoon to your next baking project if you want to add a little extra love into it.
So, my loves, I hope this gives you all the information you were searching for about the magickal properties of vanilla!
Until next time,