Research J. Pharm. and Tech. 12(6): June 2019
ISSN 0974-3618 (Print) www.rjptonline.org
Vanilla- Natural Vs Artificial: A Review
Vijayalakshmi. S , Disalva. X, Chittaranjan Srivastava, Arun A*
School of Hotel and Catering Management, Vels Institute of Science, Technology and Advanced Studies
(VISTAS), Chennai, India
*Corresponding Author E-mail: email@example.com
Natural and artificial flavours are identical. Natural flavours made by extracting chemicals from natural
ingredients, artificial flavours are made by creating the same chemical compositions synthetically. The most
popular flavouring compound - Vanilla, can find its application in food and beverage industry, perfume and
pharmaceutical industries. This review features natural vanilla flavouring from the vanilla bean. The extraction
process, chemical constituents and health benefits are emphasised. Culinary uses of vanilla flavouring are
analysed. Production of artificial/synthetic vanillin and its health impact is also highlighted. Food and Drug
Administration rules have been discussed. From this context consumer awareness and understanding are
significant towards the difference between artificial and natural vanilla flavouring and their associated benefits,
which help them to make the right decisions for their well being.
KEYWORDS: Flavour, Natural Vanilla, Artificial Vanillin, Culinary Uses, Health benefits and Impact, Food
and Drug Administration.
Flavour plays a key role in the acceptance or rejection of
food1. The most popular flavouring compound - Vanilla,
can find its application in food and beverage industry,
perfume and pharmaceutical industries2,3. ‘Vanilla’ is
derived from Spanish, meaning sheath or pod and ‘illa’,
conveys little (i.e.) a vine yielding small pods.
Vanilla pods are macerated and percolated in a solution
of ethanol and water and thus vanilla extract is obtained.
The compounds, oil and aroma in vanilla beans are
extracted from the plant genus planifolia. Vanilla flavour
is an indispensable ingredient in many bakery and
confectionary products, custards, ice creams, and
The objectives of this article are to differentiate between
natural as opposed to artificial vanilla flavour additive.
Culinary uses of vanilla flavour are discussed and also
chemical additives in synthetic vanillin are listed out in
Received on 12.10.2018 Modified on 17.11.2018
Accepted on 18.12.2018 © RJPT All right reserved
Research J. Pharm. and Tech. 2019; 12(6):
Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) and Food and Drug
Administration rules are mentioned. Also to high light
whether vanillin extracted from nature is safer or
artificial made vanillin is safer.
Natural vanilla flavourings:
Natural Vanilla flavour is obtained from total of 110
species of plant genus Vanilla which belongs to the
family Orchidaceous, a tropical hiking orchid. Vanilla
planifolia and Vanilla tahitensus are two species from
this genus have been approved in most countries,
however because of its pod quality and yield, Vanillus
planifolia is widely recommended. The flavour and
aroma of vanilla extract is due to the presence of vanillin
(4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde). The species of
Vanilla Planifolia having a highest vanillin content
comparatively with the species Vanill tahitensi5
Cultivation of Vanilla:
Indonesia and Madagascar are the largest producers of V.
Planifolia. The influx of Spaniards in Mexico and the
discovery of artificial pollination techniques, V.
planifolia cultivation is possible in many tropical
USA, Germany, France and Netherland are the main
consumers of vanilla. The demand for natural vanillin
increases in the international market year after year.
Vanilla is originated from South East Mexico but above
Research J. Pharm. and Tech. 12(6): June 2019
90 per cent of vanilla production comes from the Indian
Ocean Island nations, Indonesia and Madagascar7.
India entered the international vanilla market during a
crisis due to shortage of supply from Madagascar and
resulting price rise. Now in India, vanilla cultivation has
become a major activity for farmers in Tamil Nadu,
Karnataka and Kerala4, 8 and 9.
Types of vanilla beans:
Bourbon-Madagascar, Mexican and Tahitian are the
3major types of vanilla. The Bourbon-Madagascar
vanilla is featured with thin pod, a rich and sweetest
flavour. Mexican vanilla tastes smooth and rich, while
Tahitian vanilla has the thickest and darkest-coloured
pod that’s aromatic with less flavour comparitively10.
Bourbon vanilla is long and slim pod, with a rich and
sweet flavour. It has a thick, strong vanilla notes and
contain a large quantity of tiny seeds. Bourbon Vanilla is
a generic term for Vanilla planifolia10 and 11.
The flavour of Mexican vanilla has a mellower, smooth,
quality and a spicy, woody fragrance. Their robust
flavour is great for rich baked goods, sauces, ice cream,
sweet breads, custard, cheesecake and other desserts12.
Tahitian vanilla is rare species from France Polynesia.
These beans are more subtle than Madagascar beans
comparatively. Rather than being sweet and strong,
Tahitian vanilla beans are usually blended with ice
creams, custards and fruit-based desserts. Tahitian
vanilla beans are used in cold foods. The essential oil
from Tahitian vanilla beans is blended into perfumes and
soaps and imparted its flavour. Tahitian vanilla beans are
so subtle when added to body fragrances13.
A. Bourbon Vanilla B. Mexican Vanilla C. Tahitian Vanilla
Fig. 1: Types of vanilla beans
A. Bourbon Vanilla Essence B. Mexican Vanilla Essence C.
Tahitian Vanilla Essence
Fig. 2: Types of vanilla essence
Curing of Vanilla beans:
Freshly planted vanilla beans have no flavour or aroma.
The curing of harvested vanilla pods are involved four
Vanilla pods are dipped in hot water (63 to 65oC) for
three minutes and retarded the vegetative tissues growth
of pods. The enzymatic reaction is initiated and the
aroma is developed by killing process. Heating in an
oven and/or exposing the bean in direct sun light are few
other methods to kill the pods.
The pods are wrapped in woollen clothes to maintain the
temperature (45–65 °C) of beans and alternate this is
stored in air tight wooden boxes during night. This is
exposed to sun during day time and continued for nearly
10 days. Thus, the moisture is maintained between 60
and 70% by weight.
The beans are dried in a wooden rack at room
temperature for three to four weeks that results
considerable reduction of bean weight up to one third
(25 -30%) of the actual. The beans become flexible and
stretchy by drying process.
The beans are stored in closed boxes for five to six
months and this process is called conditioning. The
processed beans are sorted and graded, bundled and
wrapped in paraffin paper and preserved till the required
quality of bean is achieved, especially flavour and
Constituents and odour of Natural Vanilla:
The compounds present in vanilla extract determine the
aroma. The other non-volatile constituents like tannins,
polyphenols, free amino acids and resins which impart
the aroma to vanilla 15.
An extract contains resins retain aromatic compounds for
longer. Volatile constituents such as acids, ethers,
alcohols, acetals, heterocyclics, phenolics, hydrocarbons,
esters and carbonyls are influencing the aroma and
flavour of vanilla16. Many other compounds- vanillin, p-
hydroxybenzaldehyde, guaiacol, and anise alcohol are
important for the aroma profile of vanilla. Each vanilla
bean only contains around 3% - 5% vanillin by its
volume. However, vanillin signifies for about 25% of the
total flavour and fragrance experience of genuine vanilla
extract and remaining 75% are the organic compounds
found in real vanilla beans. This is the major difference
between extract and essence. But the bean extract
contains three other major components, vanillic acid, 4-
hydroxybenzoic acid, and 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde,
which account for 17 percent (by weight) of the flavor
Research J. Pharm. and Tech. 12(6): June 2019
chemicals that make up vanilla17.
In view of various volatile compounds reported in
vanilla extract, vanillin is the single most characteristic
component of flavour. Bioactive properties and because
of advancements in chemistry and pharmacology, most
of the earlier uses of vanilla have given way to
functional uses of vanillin, vanilla’s main constituent3 and
Vanillin 4- hydro benzaldehyde 4-hydroxybenzoic vanillin acid
Fig. 3: Constituents of natural vanilla
According to Food and Drug Regulations (C.R.C., c.
870)19, vanilla extract products are to be
processed/produced from vanilla beans (Vanilla
planifolia or Vanilla tahitensia). In 100 ml of extract, it
must have an amount of soluble substances that
proportional to their natural state available for extract.
Specifically, if the beans contain lesser than 25% water
content, the vanilla extract must consist of at least 10 g
of vanilla beans; if the beans contain more than 25%
water content, the vanilla extract must consist of at least
7.5 g of vanilla beans. Any other colour should not be
found in vanilla extract.
Culinary Uses of Vanilla:
The most significant flavouring component in many
baked items and custards is found vanilla that adds its
taste. Vanilla is adding creaminess in sauces, balancing
sweetness in desserts, and also adding flavour to tea,
toning or masking bitterness and acidity20. Vanilla
extract is not only delicious in many bakery products and
other includes beverages like milkshakes, flavouring
drinks and yogurt for a better flavour. Vanilla exhibits
antioxidant and antimicrobial activity thus acting as a
food preservative21 and 22.
Health Benefits of Vanilla Extract:
Vanilla bean extract is richer when compare to the
artificial and they are not only for their aroma and taste,
but these beans in fact have unbelievable health benefits.
• Helps to treat infection:
The active compounds present in the plant Vanilla
such as vanillin and Isoeugenol known to have anti-
• Antioxidant activity:
Antioxidants found in natural vanilla extract are
vanillic acid and vanillin, that protects the body from
harmful components, such as free radicals and toxins.
These antioxidants are used to preserve food and
health supplements as nutraceuticals22.
• Antimicrobial activity:
The active ingredients of the vanilla extract in
Vanilla planifolia are flavonoid and alkaloid in
nature. All the parts of this plant can be a potential
source for evolving newer antimicrobial
• Anti-inflammatory activity:
Vanilla extract has anti-inflammatory abilities and
preserves liver health25.
• Antinociceptive effect:
A study conducted by Vanillin is known to have
The Problem with Natural Vanilla Production:
Vanilla is a very difficult to cultivate as basically it
requires 600 hands for pollination to produce one kg of
cured beans. The processing of the beans involves
crucial and time consuming to evaluate their aroma and
inspect the quality of each bean27. Farmer’s income is
escalating from vanilla by attaining valuable
certifications such as organic, fair-trade, and Rainforest
Alliance Certification. Perhaps it is difficult to plant
more orchids since their area of farms are often quite
miniature and the maturation process takes four years for
Hence food markets face a huge shortage of the vanilla.
Food makers, meanwhile, are confronting skyrocketing
costs for natural vanilla29. To meet the growing demand,
food brands have to introduce synthetic vanillin to the
Synthetic vanillin is an alternate and chemical form for
natural vanilla which is made from petrochemicals and
by products from the paper industry. This synthetic
vanillin is a nature identical vanilla. It is commonly used
to reduce production costs. Since it’s cheap, available
everywhere and vanilla flavoured over-the-counter
medicines, beverages, and cookies are found. Thus
synthetic vanillin is able to satisfy the demands of the
vanillin consumers2 and 30.
Both natural and synthetic vanilla contains the same
major flavour chemical, vanillin. Natural vanilla has a
much richer mouth feel and aroma compared with
‘vanilla essence’ or ‘synthetic vanilla’ as it only contains
Research J. Pharm. and Tech. 12(6): June 2019
synthetically derived ‘vanillin’ hence the lack of diverse
There are two types of synthetic vanillin- 1. lignin-based
and guaiacol based. The lignin-based vanillin is made
from wood pulp, has a richer flavour. The guaiacol based
vanillin is more cost effective flavour to the shortage of
Synthetic Vanillin Contains Chemical Additives:
Synthetic vanillin flavouring is due to its chemical,
lignin vanillin which mimics the flavour of natural
extract from real vanilla. The first commercial synthesis
of vanillin starts with the more readily available natural
compound is eugenol. Lignin vanillin is obtained from
wastes produced in the paper manufacturing industry.
Some vanilla flavouring also contains glycerine or a
glycol base32 and 18.
Ethyl vanillin is also an artificial chemical that tastes like
vanilla. Ethyl vanillin, or 3-ethoxy-4-
hydroxybenzaldehyde, is 3-4 times as potent as vanillin
and can be used to increase the aroma and flavour of an
extract. Ethyl vanillin is a chemically synthesized
flavouring agent related to vanillin or artificial vanilla. It
is three times as strong as artificial vanillin and acts as
an imitation vanilla. In the preparation of edible flavour,
ethyl vanillin can be used instead of vanillin. Ethyl
vanillin appears as a white to light yellow needle crystal
or crystalline powder. It has an aroma similar to vanilla
beans, but it is more concentrated than vanillin. Ethyl
vanillin can be used to flavouring chocolates, candies,
biscuits, beverages and ice creams33.
Fig. 4: Ethyl vanillin
Health Impact of Synthetic vanillin:
A negligible amounts of neurotoxins contained in
vanillin are capable of killing brain cells24. Ethyl vanillin
cause allergic34 and can irritate the eyes, skin, and the
Acceptable Daily Intake:
The widely industrially produced vanillin is ingested in
the form of bakery foods and hot and cold beverages.
Remaining is used externally as soaps, perfumes etc.
Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of vanillin in form of
food and beverage is worldwide and it implies that
almost every human. An ADI of 10 mg/kg has been
approved by FAO/WHO and EU. For a 70 kg person, the
ADI is 700 mg vanillin that corresponds to minimum
700 g chocolate, or 7000 g of ice cream35.
Food and Drug Administration rules:
Natural vanilla is been a main source for dairy products
like ice cream and yogurt for decades. According to
Food and Drug Administration rules in the United States,
declare that vanilla ice cream must get its flavour from
natural vanilla. If it is flavoured partially or through
some other source, the company should label “vanilla
flavoured” or “artificial vanilla” on the package, a likely
turnoff to consumers36.
Analysis of vanilla Compounds:
• Vanillin is a chief constituent of vanilla extract, a
flavouring ingredient which is been used in food
products and drinks. Analysis of vanilla Compounds
in vanilla extracts and model vanilla ice cream mixes
using novel technology has been studied37.
• Liquid chromatographic method has been used to
quantify coumarin, vanillin, and ethyl vanillin in
• RPLC method for the characterization of vanilla
extract, a key component in food, has been
• HPTLC method has been proposed to determine the
vanillin in three different food samples such as
vanilla essence, custard powder and vanilla flavoured
Vanilla has a very versatile flavouring agent and is
popular worldwide. It is found in all our confectionery
products like ice cream, candies, cakes, and cookies.
Vanilla also improves perception of sweetness and other
flavours. Natural vanilla extract is obtained by curing
vanilla beans. Vanilla substitutes are actually nature-
identical artificial vanillin (i.e.) synthetic vanillin
derivatives synthesized on multi-ton scale from guaiacol
or lignin extracts, which can be isolated from wood pulp
or petroleum by products. The distinction between
natural and artificial vanillin is the source of chemicals.
The synthetic chemicals in artificial vanilla flavour
generally cost less to produce than finding natural
sources of vanilla. Vanillin extracted from nature is safer
than artificially made nature identical vanillin. On the
whole, artificial vanilla tends to be cheaper, but the
health impact is to be considered.
Research J. Pharm. and Tech. 12(6): June 2019
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