This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
MEDICINAL PART. The fruit or pods.
Description. -- Vanilla Aromatica is a shrubby, climbing, aerial parasite, growing in the clefts of rocks, or attaching itself to the trunks of trees. It suspends itself to continguous objects, and is truly an aerial plant. The stem is round, about as thick as the finger, from twenty to thirty feet in length, and oftener thicker at the summit than at the base. The leaves are alternate, oblong, entire, on short petioles, green, fleshy, and pointed by a species of abortive tendril. The flowers are yellowish white. The fruit is a species of bean, yellow or buff color, of an agreeable aromatic odor; the beans must be dried with care or they will lose their properties.
History. -- Vanilla grows in Mexico and other parts of tropical South America. There are several species which are supposed to furnish the Vanilla of commerce. It yields its virtues to water or alcohol.
Properties and Uses. -- It is an aromatic stimulant, and is used, in infusion, in hysteria, rheumatism, and low forms of fever. It is also called an aphrodisiac, powerfully exciting the generative system. Vanilla is said to exhilarate the brain, prevent sleep, increase muscular energy, and stimulate the sexual propensities.