First and foremost we must establish this fact; there is no such thing as vanilla pure essential oil! A recent inquiry regarding why Vanilla Co2 Total Extract was so costly compared to Vanilla pure essential oil found online prompted the writing of this article. In doing so we hope to forewarn unsuspecting consumers and prevent disappointment through receiving a mislabeled synthetic substitute.
Those engaged in selling Vanilla pure essential oil are likely doing so either dishonestly, or perhaps by giving the benefit of the doubt, are simply unfamiliar with the origin of their own products and fail to realize that Vanilla does not exist as a pure essential oil. The scent of vanilla is easily created in the form of a synthetic, lab created fragrance oil but is certainly not natural or pure.
Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) is a vine growing plant indigenous to several tropical climates; Central and South America, Mexico, India, and South Africa with a very high quality originating from the island of Madagascar. Vanilla planifolia produces a beautiful orchid looking yellow colored flower.
After flowering, long pods emerge that are also referred to as beans due to their long bean-like shape.
The Vanilla pods above are in their natural state having been dried and cured are a widely revered delicacy in the food and flavor industry. Perhaps you have noticed when grocery shopping the substantial price difference between vanilla flavoring, a synthetic imitation, and pure vanilla extract derived from macerating cured vanilla beans in alcohol for 8+ weeks.
The type of Vanilla used in professional aromatherapy, all-natural skin care products, and natural perfume is sometimes sold alongside pure essential oils although with a clear description and label to distinguish it from being classified as a pure essential oil.
Other than food grade vanilla extract there are five types of Vanilla, none of which are a pure essential oil due to specific extraction methods used to create Vanilla in liquid form.
1. Vanilla Co2 Extract (Select or Total)
2. Vanilla Absolute
3. Vanilla Oleoresin
4. Vanilla Dilution (Co2 or Absolute) blended in a fixed oil
5. Vanilla Tincture (beans macerated in an alcohol base)
A pure essential oil is achieved by steam distillation, expeller or cold pressing of a plant part. For more information about how essential oil is produced see this article. Vanilla is not steam distilled, expeller pressed, or cold pressed; therefore there is no such thing as Vanilla pure essential oil.
The quantity of raw material required to process by supercritical Co2 extraction or produce concrete for later solvent extraction of an Absolute, along with export/import tariffs, not to mention GC/MS analysis to determine constituents and purity, all play a critical role in the price of Vanilla Co2 or Absolute.
Vanilla Co2 Total Extract is achieved by supercritical Co2 extraction, often referred to as Vanilla Bourbon, and roughly 200 times stronger than vanilla extract used in cooking. Vanilla extract used for flavoring contains approximately 2% vanillin (the natural component that gives Vanilla it's distinctive aroma and taste) whereas Vanilla Co2 Total extract used in aromatherapy is remarkably higher. As can be seen here Organic Vanilla Co2 Total extract from Madagascar contains 26% vanillin, the highest concentration of vanillin commercially available.
Caution should be given to any source that claims to offer Vanilla labeled Pure Essential Oil. The best advice to not be duped is to READ the description for the Vanilla being sold and find out if it is a Co2 select or total extract, solvent extracted Absolute, tincture, or dilution. Because of the cost (and strength) of a true Co2 Total extract or solvent extracted Absolute some sources will dilute a Co2 extract or Absolute to make it more affordable. This is an acceptable practice provided it is labeled accordingly, e.g. Vanilla Absolute 20% in Jojoba, Vanilla Co2 Total - 30% in Fractionated Coconut, and so forth.