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So herbalcraft.ca is a valid Canadian source, I ordered tonka beans and menthol crystals from them, and alchemy-works.com is still a valid U.S. source, my order from them arrived today. I now have 10 oz. (300 or so) of tonka beans and 4 oz. of menthol crystals so I don't think I'll be out of either anytime soon.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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  • 5 months later...
Its used in rat poison and Coumadin to thin the blood with some pretty dangerous side effects.  Do you really want to put that in your baking product? :wacko:

A good substitute is to combine 1/2 tsp. each good quality vanilla and pure almond essence.

It turns out, we already are dosing ourselves with coumarin in a lot of our baked goods and breakfast goodies. Take a look at this German government food safety report, which they have very nicely posted in English:

http://www.bfr.bund.de/cm/279/frequently_a...other_foods.pdf

It's focused on the coumarin content of cassia cinnamon (as opposed to Ceylon/"True"/Saigon cinnamon). For folks who aren't cinnamon snobs, almost all the cinnamon you buy/eat in the US is actually cassia. "Normal" cinnamon sticks - one thick, curled layer, about 3 inches long - that's cassia. The ground "cinnamon" at the grocery store and supplied to the food industry, yep, cassia. "True" cinnamon is harder to get, more expensive, and in "stick" form, is made up of several paper-thin layers. It's also more potent and a bit more "spicey". Even "true" cinnamon has some coumarin, just at a lower level.

The grannie/hippie crowd should also get their beads in a bunch: chamomile contains coumarin! Oh my! Grannie must have been trying to kill me when she served me home made cinnamon rolls and chamomile tea!

About the "rat poison" issue - it's used as rat poison specifically because rats metabolize it differently than humans. It's strongly toxic to them, but only mildly toxic to humans (and almost never fatal), which makes it an excellent substance to use as rat poison. With an LD50 for humans of 275 mg/kg, it would take about 26g of pure coumarin to have a 50% chance of killing me.

As someone pointed out here, the US ban on Tonka beans coincided with the commercial development of Warfarin (trade name Coumadin), which is a chemically modified form of coumarin. I'd also like to point out that both purveyors of pure vanilla products and synthetic "vanillin" products would have reason to want Tonka beans banned as a competing product. I suspect that the Tonka bean industry had lousy lobbyists back in the 50s.

About "toxins" in general. Most "toxins" are totally harmless below a certain level. That's why the German government report above establishes a "Tolerable Daily Intake." The report also discusses the effects of higher doses, and reports that for the tiny percentage of individuals who appear to have a sensitivity to coumarin, they typically recover fully within weeks, and should not expect long term health implications.

To sum up: we're all exposing ourselves to coumarin pretty much every day already. But that's OK, because it doesn't appear to have a toxic effect below the "Tolerable Daily Intake" level. Sure it's technically "toxic", but only in relatively large doses, and medical evidence points to any liver damage from high doses being entirely reversible.

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  • 2 years later...

Reviving this topic. Does anyone know the shelf life of tonka beans. I bought two about 18 months ago and put them at the back of the cupboard. After a clean out this weekend, I have the two tonka beans and a variety of other ingredients (I had forgotten about) to play with. Just wondering if the beans would still be OK (they were well stored). They were fairly cheap from a local supplier so no harm done if they need replacing.

Cheers

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Im the first person to skirt US regulations on banned food items (I have lotsa banned jello in my kitchen

and I have Cottees w/Cyclamates) but Ill have to say that the words "Rat Poison" make me say NO!

Maybe tasting one single bite of a Tonka Bean cookie would be okay, but I dont wanna risk it.

Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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They should be okay but you should use them with caution if serving the stuff to other people.

As pointed out in an earlier post, they may produce "reversible" liver damage. However, it is only reversible if someone has a healthy liver to begin with.

For anyone who has had hepatitis in the past, has been a moderate to heavy drinker for many years or has been prone to binge drinking, the effect can be severe, if not fatal.

If the person consuming it is on any of the blood thinning medications, regularly takes NSAIDS or aspirin or medications for rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory disease, ingestion of even small amounts of tonka bean products can cause severe internal bleeding, bleeding in the retina with resulting blindness.

I know it's fun to play with some of these things and I do believe the FDA has gone overboard about some things in the past but this is something different.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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One option for adding the scent of the beans to a recipe would be to wrap them in a thin piece of paper (e.g. a square of toilet paper), and put the little packet in a jar with the sugar to be used in the recipe, then letting that sit for a couple of days; only the aromatic compounds would infuse the sugar.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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  • 6 months later...

Has anybody noticed that tonka beans and sweet grass smell amazingly similar? It was nagging at me, I knew the smell but couldn't quite connect it. It finally made it through the fog and I realized that it smells like a milder version of tonka beans. All of the uses of sweet grass where I live are ceremonial/medicinal/craft-related, I don't know of it being used for food-related purposes or if it even can be. I think I have to do some digging around on google.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I know Native Americans who raise sweetgrass for weaving and shamanistic uses.

I have a few plants given to me several years ago to see if it would grown in this area and I was going to try my hand at some minimal weaving. It is supposed to grow only north of the 40th parallel but at this altitude it is doing okay as long as it is shaded for most of the day during the hottest part of summer. It seems to have acclimated well and comes back every spring.

The only culinary use I have heard of is it's use in a syrup - to be used sparingly as it contains significant amounts of coumarins which are blood thinners.

Here's a couple of photos to show what it looks like. It's very windy right now so it is not standing. Tomorrow I will cut some and take photos in here with a ruler.

Most of the blades are at least 20 inches long, some a bit longer.

HPIM4391.JPG

I've coiled some of it in a loose circle so you can see how the blades are long and supple.

HPIM4392.JPG

I should add that I have been told by Native Americans that rabbits will not eat sweetgrass, even if they are starving. Apparently they know it will kill them. Not so dumb animals!

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Interesting about the coumarins - that's in Tonka as well if I'm not mistaken.

Correct. That is the reason that vanilla flavoring that includes tonka beans is not legal in the U.S.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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  • 1 year later...

I got some last year, and though 1/2 bean was too little for my creme brule, so I used 1 whole bean. DON'T DO IT!

The beans pack a lot of flavour.

I made a Tonka ice cream a few weeks ago with a 1/2 bean and it was still a little too much - but maybe was boosed by the vanilla I also had in the mix. It really seems to attach to the oils.

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  • 1 year later...

 

I made a Tonka ice cream a few weeks ago with a 1/2 bean and it was still a little too much - but maybe was boosed by the vanilla I also had in the mix. It really seems to attach to the oils.

 

 

I'm planning to make some tonka ice cream using the recipe from Bentley. It uses 3 beans for 600ml milk/cream which seems high. Maybe it's supposed to be strong flavoured when mixed with the other dessert components. Googling recipes, almost all of them use 1 bean and with more liquid and a couple using 1.5 or 2 beans. Maybe I'll start with just 1 bean.

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Again.  A warning.  If you are going to serve the ice cream to ANYONE else make sure they are not taking Warfarin, Coumadin, PLAVIX, other blood thinners/anticoagulants, or have taken ASPIRIN within the past 48 hours. 

One of my neighbors, who brought back from Mexico a bottle of "vanilla extract" made with tonka beans, used some in a flan and subsequently had a significant bleeding episode with subcutaneous area that looked like bruises - both eyes, nosebleeds and had to be hospitalized overnight so she could be given Vitamin K injections. 

She had been on Plavix for a couple of months.  She is just lucky she did not have a brain bleed.

 

Children are especially susceptible to the effects of the coumarin in tonka beans because they run and fall a lot.

 

Normal people, not taking aspirin are fine but pregnant women, anyone with liver disease should avoid it. 

 

The beans can vary widely in the amount of coumarin they contain.  Some have small amounts while others are 10 times as potent. 

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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I'd start with 1, maybe 2 if you really like the aroma (because that's what it's pretty much gonna taste like). I had my fun with them but haven't used them in a few years and still have a sealed bag of them in the cabinet that I may never use. In the category of food items that come with a warning, I find the flavor from using cherry pits much more to my liking than the flavor from tonka beans (I'm not suggesting they're at all similar, just both in the "potentially dangerous" category). I've decided tonka beans, at least the tonka beans I have experience with, are a bit on the perfumey side for my liking. Maybe I just prefer cyanide over coumarin? :biggrin:

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Andie ty for your post..I will never use my Tonkas now. I have Von Willebrands and dont wanna bleed.

I would rather be safe than sorry.  I have been trying to find the article I read a few years ago about one of the Mexico team soccer players who just bumped his knee at home - after drinking a homemade beverage made with tonka beans - by the time he got off the team bus at whatever place they were playing, his knee was hugely swollen from bleeding inside the joint and the doctors attributed it to a combination of the tonka stuff and aspirn. 

My neighbors at the time (since have moved) followed futball closely and the guys were incensed that the guy wasn't able to play for several games.

  • Like 1

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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