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Vanilla planifolia

Caxixanath - mysterious flower' is the Maya name for the sacred Vanilla vine. Vanilla is a climbing orchid species, native to the rainforests of Central America. It drapes itself around its host tree in a hugging embrace. The flowers, which only remain open for 24 hours, are fertilised by a tiny species of hummingbird and by the stingless Mexican bee. The ensuing pod is not actually fragrant until it is fermented, which can take up to six months after they are picked. The Mayas have always regarded the rich, sensuously alluring aroma as an aphrodisiac and used it as a stimulating perfume. When the Spaniards 'discovered' Vanilla they quickly caught on to its use and when they brought it back to the Old World, they touted it as a highly potent aphrodisiac. It also became popular as a spice, but the high cost made it a luxury item for chefs, which it still is today. Modern technology has made it possible to synthesise Vanilla artificially, but neither the scent, nor flavour or effect are quite the same as those of the real thing.

Western herbalism no longer uses Vanilla beans medicinally. In Central America Maya healers consider it a powerful aphrodisiac that relaxes the nerves and stimulates the senses. Thus it is given in cases of hysteria, mental or sexual exhaustion, as well as for tension and free floating anxiety.

Vanilla can be used as a perfume to honour the Great Goddess of Love and for sex magic. It may be included in love philtres, lotions and potions to attract a lover or to rouse passion. It also stimulates the mind and may be used to enhance creativity.