Vibrant Vanilla! - Everyday Essentials

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Vanilla Botanical Extract Various Sizes

Vibrant Vanilla!

Most of us instantly recognize the scent of Vanilla. Reminiscent of baked goods and desserts, Vanilla is a notably sweet aroma.  While it possesses an absolutely rich scent, it also holds many benefits and is a great addition to DIY projects and diffuser blends. Let’s find out more about the different variations of Vanilla.

Background of Vanilla

Vanilla “beans” (properly called pods) are the fruit of the Vanilla planifolia orchid, and it’s the most commonly grown variety of Vanilla. The orchid is native to Mexico and other Central American countries but now grows worldwide. In fact, most of today’s commercial crop comes from Indonesia and Madagascar [1,2]. Growing, harvesting, and processing true beans can be time-consuming as it’s still done mostly by hand.

Initial attempts to grow Vanilla outside of Central America failed completely. Spanish conquistadors who brought the orchids back to Europe failed to recognize that Vanilla fruit won’t grow without being pollinated by a certain type of bee. In the mid-1800s, discovery of hand pollinating was uncovered, allowing it to be grown in various locales [2].

Since its flowers only last about 24 hours, the orchids go through inspection each day and hand-pollinated one at a time.  Once the pollinated flower “sets” fruit (a process that takes 5-6 weeks), the pods will mature on the stem for about six months before harvest action.

To avoid producing an inferior product, suppliers hand-pick pods at precisely the right time, just when the bean begins yellowing and the terminal end starts to split.  The curing process begins after harvesting, which involves stopping the maturation process by various methods such as dunking in boiling water, frozen, “scratched” down their length, heated in a low oven,  or dried in the sun.  Further curing includes “sweating” the pods, drying them, and then “conditioning” them. The whole process involves at least another six months before the lovely aromatic beans are ready for grading and shipping [3].

Types of Extracts

First, technically speaking, there is no such thing as Vanilla essential oil.  The term “essential oil” refers to products obtained during steam distillation or cold pressing of plant material. Since they are not obtained by either process, the term “essential oil” can’t be applied to Vanilla products. For aromatherapy purposes, Vanilla is obtained either by solvent extraction or by CO2 extraction.  There are three vanilla products offered by Plant Therapy: Vanilla Oleoresin, Vanilla 12% C02 Extraction, and Vanilla Botanical.

Vanilla Oleoresin       

Vanilla Oleoresin from Plant Therapy on pink backgroundVanilla Oleoresin is a concentrated product made by removing the solvent (usually ethanol) from its extract. This extract holds a thicker consistency, it’s a better addition to DIY projects as opposed to diffusing as it could potentially clog your aromatherapy diffuser.

Vanilla Oleoresin only emulsifies (mixes) fully in ethanol (alcohol), it’s a bit more challenging to work with when making product blends.  As an example, when you put it into a carrier oil, the oleoresin will sink to the bottom in a “blob” and remain there. But if you put a bit of oleoresin into alcohol, like vodka, it will dissolve completely.

Caramel Latte Salt Scrub

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2  cup Fine Grain Pink Himalayan Salt
  • 1/4 cup Jojoba Carrier Oil
  • Coffee, Sweet Orange, and Vanilla Oleoresin (108 total drops for a 2% dilution–experiment with a few drops of each first to see if you like more of a coffee, vanilla, or orange aroma to stand out.)

What you’ll do:

Add the essential oils and oleoresin to the carrier oil and mix. Then, let stand for a few minutes to meld the aromas together. Next, drizzle the oil mix into the sea salt, stirring until you get the consistency you like. Place into a container with a lid and use within a couple of weeks, as the product has no preservative.

Vanilla 12% CO2

Vanilla 12% CO2 is obtained by the method of supercritical carbon dioxide (chemical formula: CO2) extraction.  Under pressure, CO2 gas transforms into an “almost” liquid phase called the supercritical state. Plant material (in this case, vanilla pods/seeds) goes into an airtight receptacle, and carbon dioxide gas is pumped in under pressure; low heat is also applied to aid extraction.

As the pressure inside the container rises, CO2 gas nearly liquifies, bathing the plant material in supercritical CO2. The combination of high pressure and low temperatures encourages the plant material to releases its aromatic components. After a period of time, there is less pressure, and the supercritical CO2 changes back to its gaseous state, completely disappearing from the extracted material.

Vanilla 12% CO2 Extraction emulsifies completely in a carrier oil. Infusing it into Jojoba Oil for a lip balm is a great way to use this.  Add 18 drops of Vanilla 12% CO2 per ounce of Jojoba Carrier Oil and mix thoroughly; then you can use the aromatic infused Jojoba Oil as the liquid oil part of your favorite lip balm recipe.

Vanilla flower with vanilla beans on a gray background12% refers to the percentage of the naturally occurring component vanillin, which provides vanilla with its characteristic warm, sweet aroma. There are also CO2 extracts containing 26% and 30% Vanillin; these are often used in perfumery and are a bit more challenging to work with as they are solid or semi-solid at room temperature.

 Note: Plant Therapy is currently sold out of this product; however, this is valuable information on the CO2 and we will keep this information for the blog.   

Vanilla Botanical

Sustainably sourced from Uganda, Vanilla Botanical holds a rich, intense, and sweet aroma. Uganda is one of the main areas of vanilla production in the world, with perfect agri-climatic conditions. The green beans are harvested in June-July and December-January. In Uganda, a fast-curing and hydro-distillation process has been developed resulting in a higher content of vanillin, giving the final product its aroma.  It becomes a favorite to add to body care products or DIY beauty projects. Vanilla Botanical also can help release feelings of agitation, thus providing a relaxing, calm environment.



[1] Lubinsky P, Bory S, Hernandez-Hernandez J et al.  Origins and Dispersal of Cultivated Vanilla.  Economic Botany 62 (2): 127-38, 2008.

[2] Correll D.  Vanilla: Its Botany, History, Cultivation, and Economic Importance.  Economic Botany 7: (4), 291-358, 1953.

[3] Havkin-Frenkl D, French JC, Pak FE, Frenkl C.   Interrelation of Curing and Botany in Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) Bean.  Acta Horticulturae 2004: 93-102.


24 thoughts on “Vibrant Vanilla!”

  • The last question asks why the C02 is kidsafe but the oleoresin is not – when I go to the oleoresin product in the shop it says that it is kidsafe. Can you please clarify?

    1. Jen, we are so sorry for this confusion! Recently, we reevaluated the chemical constituents in Vanilla Oleoresin and determined that it *does* meet our KidSafe requirements 🙂 This blog was written before the change was made and will need to be updated to reflect this. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our awesome Customer Service Team at [email protected] for more information

    1. Kel, I would recommend diffusing with an ultrasonic diffuser (uses water), and just be sure you are cleaning after each use so your diffuser doesn’t become clogged. As for being used in or around food, our official stance is:
      “All of our Essential Oils are 100% pure free from any chemicals or pesticides and are ingestible. However, we do not recommend the ingestion of any essential oils. They are highly concentrated and have the capacity to cause serious damage if used internally without the necessary expertise required in administering it. This is supported by the International Federation of Aromatherapists.”

  • Great blog. I just ordered some vanilla Oleoresin today, can’t wait to try some of these recipes!

  • I have actually utilized the fact that the oleoresin does not disperse in oil to make a vanilla infused jojoba oil. I dropped some into my jojoba oil container and left it for a week or two. The jojoba had this absolutely wonderful vanilla scent. It’s Because it won’t dissolve that you can use the oleoresin like vanilla beans to infuse an oil. I’ve also done almond and safflower oil like this. I used it in a lip balm a bit ago which was vanilla infused almond oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil and lime eo. (And beeswax). It worked brilliantly.

  • When using Vanilla Oleoresin in a recipe just for scent purposes, since it’s not a true essential oil, do you count the drops used for your total dilution?

    1. What are you going to make just for scent? If you’re not making a product that’s going onto the body, dilution isn’t really an issue. But yes, you would count the drops just as you would any other oil.

  • Would this vanilla be good for using in making soap? Would it blend completely with the other oils?

    1. Are you referring to Vanilla CO2 or the Oleoresin? If you’re referring to the Oleoresin, then no. It would not blend with the carrier oils.

    2. Are you referring to Vanilla CO2 or the Oleoresin? If you’re referring to the Oleoresin, then no, It would not blend with the carrier oils.

  • So, does this mean that the oleoresin is kid safe to diffuse, just no skin contact? For example, the new Sugar Cookie synergy – can it be safely diffused around a child?

    1. Hi Ann, our “official” position is that it’s better to avoid oleoresin use with children by all methods. We make recommendations, but then it is ultimately up to the customer to decide what’s right for them. 🙂

  • I’m curious how quickly the C02 vanilla comes out of the bottle. Does it come out quickly, like say lavender EO, or more slowly like vanilla that’s been extracted (not sure if that’s the right word) in jojoba oil? I’ve used the latter from another company and would love something that will mix well with oil but comes out a little more quickly. 🙂

    1. Hi Christy, I’ve heard of two different experiences with the Plant Therapy Vanilla C02. Christina Smith’s vanilla C02 drops fairly readily from the bottle when it’s tipped; and the brand new batch I have is semi-solid in the bottle. Even when the bottle was warmed in my hand it would not drop out, and I needed a small pipette to get it out of the bottle.

    2. My bottle came semi solid and never really “thawed out” so I just put it in a ziplock, use luke WARM water for a couple of minutes to make it loose again. Works like a charm.

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