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I received a gift that is a jug of Pure Mexican Vanilla. Having never dealt with large quantities of vanilla, it made me curious as to what would happen if a person had too much vanilla.

I understand that the alcohol has a higher toxicity rate and is probably more fatal than the actual vanilla itself, but I'm curious as to what ratio of mass of pure vanilla to mass of the human would be considered fatal.

Also, what is the physiological effect of a vanilla overdose as it pertains to inhibiting critical bodily functions? That is -- specifically what about a vanilla overdose would cause fatality?

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You get a present and the first thing you do is thinking about how to kill someone with it? – Mario Jun 5 '14 at 20:50
Why do you think vanilla is toxic? – Chris Jun 5 '14 at 20:51
I'm just not used to seeing Vanilla in the "jug-sized" unit of measurement. My friend said not to drink it all in the same place. Naturally that piqued my curiosity about the fatality of Vanilla. – matrixugly Jun 5 '14 at 20:52
First question: Is it real vanilla extract? Or is it synthetic vanilla? In the first case, it contains alcohol, but that should it be. – Chris Jun 5 '14 at 21:06
As Paracelsus said: "The dosage makes the poison" – Remi.b Jun 5 '14 at 21:11
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Vanillin is the chemical that gives vanilla its flavour and smell [1].

Vanillin is pharmacologically active, causing depressed blood pressure, increased respiratory rate & death due to cardiovascular collapse [3].

Non-Human Toxicity Values [4]

  • LD50 Rat oral 1580 mg/kg
  • LD50 Rat ip 1160 mg/kg
  • LD50 Rat sc 1500 mg/kg
  • LD50 Mouse ip 475 mg/kg
  • LD50 Guinea pig oral 1400 mg/kg
  • LD50 Guinea pig ip 1190 mg/kg
  • LD50 Rat oral 2.8 g/kg
  • LD50 Guinea pig oral 1.40 g/kg
  • LD50 Mouse ip 0.78 g/kg
  • LD50 Rat sc 1.8 g/kg
  • LD50 Dog iv 1.32 g/kg slow in fusion.


  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Vanillin," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed June 26, 2014).

  2. PATTY F. A. 1963. Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology. Volume II Toxicity, page 1696 (referenced from TOXNET, Vanillin - Human Toxicity Excerpts)

  3. TOXNET. Vanillin
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Hm that's really interesting. But would humans react similar or differently compared to animals? Plus it would be interesting - considering the initial question regarding the bottle - which would component would be "deadlier"? I assume the alcohol, but would still be interesting to know. – Mario Jun 5 '14 at 21:20
@Mario - The LD50 Rat oral for Ethanol is 7g/kg. Surprisingly, the vanillin is deadlier. – MCM Jun 8 '14 at 1:50
@MCM In raw form, yes, but I wouldn't expect the mix to be 50% alcohol, 50% vanillin. There's a reason people enjoy alcohol rather than getting killed by it left and right. ;) – Mario Jun 8 '14 at 5:44
@Mario - People overdose on alcohol all the time. Now sugar or water... yeah. Wiki says "pure" extract would be about 35% alcohol and at least 100g of beans per gallon. So drinking an entire gallon of the stuff might be lethal for most people who weighed 65kg or less from the Vanilla. There'd be approximately 1.32L of alcohol - or about 1000g, also enough to probably kill somebody who weighed 150kg or less. They'd be killed by the alcohol before the vanilla. – MCM Jun 8 '14 at 12:34

Out of interest, I've had a look around a bit and it seems like the most dangerous part of that bottle might be the alcohol.

According to the FDA...

The term unit of vanilla constituent means the total sapid and odorous principles extractable from one unit weight of vanilla beans, as defined in paragraph (b) of this section, by an aqueous alcohol solution in which the content of ethyl alcohol by volume amounts to not less than 35 percent.

(Emphasis mine.)

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This is not far away from what Whiskey has. Only that vanilla extract will be a bit more expensive... – Chris Jun 5 '14 at 21:10
@Chris So in this case, ordering "Bourbon" might be a bit vague? ;) The EU actually demands 40% or more (for Whiskey). – Mario Jun 5 '14 at 21:14

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