If you’ve noticed a rise in the cost of vanilla over the last year or so, you’re not alone. Vanilla is one of the most popular flavorings used in sweets – from cakes and cookies to ice cream – it’s usually there. I discovered just before Christmas that there might be a problem acquiring vanilla. I was looking for vanilla essential oil so that I could make some orange-vanilla lip balm for my mom as a Christmas gift. A young lady was stocking the shelves and informed me that there has been a worldwide shortage of vanilla beans, and that finding essential oil and/or vanilla beans would be iffy. Also pricey if I did find them for sale.

So, I left empty handed. But then I turned to Google for answers, because I REALLY wanted to make those lip balms.

In March of 2016, a cyclone hit Madagascar which is where 80 to 85% of vanilla is grown. Because it takes 4 to 5 years for a vanilla bean to be grown, there were huge worries about the current and future crops, therefore prices jumped and supply was limited. The good news is the plants weren’t as badly damaged as anticipated and prices have now started to come down.

I found out from searching on Google that I could make my own vanilla oil, if I could find a couple of vanilla beans. I bought the last two at our local grocery store (cost me about USD $10.00). They were totally dried out, to the point that they snapped in half when I opened the package. It didn’t matter, though, because I was going to be soaking them in a carrier oil anyway.

I put a half cup of almond oil in a small mason jar, broke the vanilla beans into pieces and dropped them in. Then I put the jar inside my small crock pot, turned it on the low setting, and put the lid on. I left it for six hours, then turned the crock pot off, and let it cool completely. The warmed almond oil extracted the oils from the beans. It smelled heavenly!

It wasn’t strong enough to use for baking, and I wouldn’t recommend doing that anyway. However, it was perfect for making my mom a lip balm. You may be wondering why I didn’t use vanilla extract. Vanilla extract typically has alcohol in it, and alcohol and oils don’t mix. The extract would just sink to the bottom of the oil and not diffuse into the oils. So, no yummy scent in the lip balm.

So, in a nutshell, there are almost always ways to work around a problem, so don’t give up. And my mom loved her gift.