This section is from the book "Materia Medica Pharmacy, Pharmacology And Therapeutics", by W. Hale White. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica Pharmacy, Pharmacology And Therapeutics..
Vanilla. - The fruit of Vanilla planifolia Andrews (nat ord. Or-chideae).
Eastern Mexico, in hot, damp woods; cultivated in the tropics.
From 15 to 25 cm. long, and about 8 mm. thick, linear, narrowed and bent or hooked at the base, rather oblique at the apex, wrinkled, somewhat warty, dark brown, glossy-leathery, one-celled, and containing a blackish-brown pulp, with numerous, minute seeds, and more or less acicular crystals; odor and taste peculiar, fragrant.
Its chief constituents are - Vanillin, C8H8O3, a crystalline principle, 1.7 to 2.75 per cent., which develops upon the ripening of the pod. (2) Fixed Oil, 11 per cent. (3) Resin. (4) Sugar. (5) Mucilage. Vanillin is the Aldehyde of Methylprotocatechuic Acid; and can be prepared artificially from Coniferin, Carbolic Acid, Guaiacol and Eugenol, C10H12O2, the last being found in Oil of Cloves (see p. 534).
Uses of Vanilla. Vanilla is used solely as a flavoring agent.