Spotlight: Vanilla Oleoresin


Vanilla generates a sense of well-being and a feeling of relaxation. The scent of Vanilla suggests home, nurturance, and safety. Smelling vanilla evokes good feelings. Vanilla’s perfume is reassuring and pulls down inhibitions as well as being an aphrodisiac.

In the early 1990s, perfume makers began to introduce vanilla as a significant note in their fragrances. Now, vanilla is a dominant ingredient in a large number of perfumes and bath & body products.

Various attempts have been made to explain the popularity of vanilla-based fragrances. Many have tended to focus on the pleasant childhood memories associated with the smell of vanilla, its comforting milky warmth. Not all childhood memories are pleasant, of course, but those associated with vanilla are almost invariably positive – sweet treats and rewards, ice-cream holidays – which certainly helps to explain its popularity. Others have noted the appropriateness of vanilla scents for the softer, universally appealing fragrance– as opposed to the perfumes so overpowering that some restaurants were forced to ban them because the scent overpowered the taste of the customers food.


  • Psychologists and medical researchers were aware of our positive reactions to the scent of vanilla long before perfume makers recognised its potential. In experiments where an odour universally regarded as ‘pleasant’ is required, vanillin has been a standard choice for decades.
  • Medical experiments have shown that vanilla fragrance reduces stress and anxiety. Cancer patients undergoing Magnetic Resonance Imaging – a diagnostic procedure known to be stressful – reported a massive 63% less anxiety when heliotropin (a vanilla fragrance) was administered during the procedure.
  • Vanilla fragrance makes you calmer. A study at Tubingen University in Germany showed that vanilla fragrance reduced the startle-reflex in both humans and animals. The animal results indicate that the calming effects of vanilla may be due to some more essential property of the fragrance than the ‘positive childhood associations’ usually invoked to explain its universal popularity with humans. (Note: that these effects have only been documented for pure vanilla fragrance – not perfumes containing a blend of vanilla and other notes.)


Benefits & Uses

Physical Uses: Aphrodisiac, balsamic, emmenagogue, nervous sedative. Used for perfume, inducing menstruation, calming emotions, ease tension and anger. Used to reduce stress, promote sleep, uplift mood, strengthen sexual system, help to recall dreams.

Mental Uses: I have worked hard and I have accomplished much. It is good to reward yourself for work well done.

Emotional Uses: For times when personal and spiritual growth is very important, intense, wanting to be the best person you know how to be. To acknowledge the good work you have done, appreciate self for all your accomplishments, give yourself a pat on the back.

Spiritual Uses: When this oil is called for, it indicates that you are doing very well. It signals that you are going in the right direction and you need to take time and acknowledge and appreciate yourself and those in your environment.

People often inquire, “What type of vanilla essential oil should I use?” First of all, as many people like to point out, there is no such thing as a true vanilla essential oil.  The term “essential oil” refers to products obtained during steam distillation or cold pressing of bulk plant material. Since “Vanilla essential oil” is not obtained by either process, the term “essential oil” doesn’t apply to vanilla products. For aromatherapy purposes, vanilla is obtained either by solvent extraction (vanilla absolute or oleoresin) or by C02 extraction (vanilla C02).

Vanilla Oleoresin is a concentrate made by removing the solvent (usually ethanol) from vanilla extract. Depending on how concentrated the product may be, it will be liquid or semi-solid. This explains why frequent use of the thicker vanilla oleoresin tends to clog diffusers.  The more liquid oleoresin will be less likely to clog your diffuser.  Additionally, the type of diffuser may  have some bearing as to whether or not clogging will occur; ultrasonic diffusers that use water may clog less, and nebulizing diffusers that spray just a mist of the product might tend to clog more.

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

Try this luscious salt scrub from Plant Therapy using vanilla oleoresin, coffee essential oil, and sweet orange oil–it smells like a caramel latte!  Here’s the recipe:

  • 1/2  cup finely textured sea salt (it doesn’t have to be fancy, though–plain table salt will do.)  I whizz up my salt in the spice grinder to make sure it’s extra fine. Ellice’s tip:**Use fine cane sugar for a more gentle scrub**
  • 1/4 cup carrier oil.  You can use any oil you wish–olive, sweet almond, etc.
  • Coffee and sweet orange essential oils 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.)

Add the essential oil/oleoresin combination to the carrier oil and mix; let stand for a few minutes to meld the aromas together.  Then, drizzle the oil mix into the sea salt, stirring until you get the consistency you like.  If you like your scrub “runnier”, add more oil; if you like it “scoopable” or with a firmer texture, use more salt.  Place into a container with a lid and use within a couple of weeks, as the product has no preservative.

Love Vanilla? Check out my most delectable body butter yet! My whipped Vanilla Buttercream Body Butter is a scrumptious treat that resembles buttercream icing with a delicate vanilla scent. Perfect for nourishing dry skin with all natural & organic ingredients like Virgin Organic Coconut Oil and Raw Shea Butter. Available for purchase on etsy.



Plant Therapy

Gritman Essential Oils



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