Sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf
Central and South America
Stevia is a natures sweetest leaf. Stevia leaf itself is 30-100 times sweeter than table sugar and has, not surprisingly, been used as a sweetener by indigenous peoples long before the Inca Empire.
Stevia extract is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar with no after-taste. Stevia has a negligable effect on blood glucose levels and even appears to enhance glucose tolerance. So if you're looking for the perfect sugar replacement for diabetics, anyone needing a low calorie sweetener or a low carbohydrate diet, Stevia is the answer.
Stevia extract has been used commercially as a sweetener in a number of countries for some years.
Other traditional uses for Stevia include stimulating alertness and countering fatigue, facilitating digestion and gastrointestinal functions, regulating blood glucose levels, nourishing the liver, pancreas and spleen; help the body sustain a feeling of vitality and well-being and external application for blemishes.
Some stevia users report a decrease in desire for sweets and fatty foods. Additionally, some users have reported that drinking stevia tea or stevia enhanced teas helped to reduce their desire for tobacco and alcoholic beverages.
Stevia have been shown in studies to inhibit the growth and reproduction of some bacteria that are responsible for tooth decay. Stevia extracts are used in many toothpaste and mouthwash products around the world.
More recent medical research has shown that stevia has potential for treating obesity, high blood pressure and hypertension.
Stevia extract is most often used as a sweetener although the powdered leaf is also popular. Stevia extracts are extremely sweet so only a very small amount needs to be used. Use as you would an artificial sweetener. PRECAUTIONSStevia (at dosages much much higher than used for sweetening purposes) has been documented to have a hypoglycemic effect (lowers blood sugar levels). Those with diabetes should use stevia with caution and monitor their blood sugar levels as medications may need adjusting.Stevia (at dosages much higher than used for sweetening purposes) has been documented to have a hypotensive effect (lowers blood pressure). Persons with low blood pressure and those taking antihypertensive drugs should avoid using very large amounts of stevia and monitor their blood pressure levels accordingly for these possible effects.
Stevia is sometimes added to yerba mate, a traditional tea drunk in western South America, from Paraguay to Argentina. Stevia has been used as a sweetener and as a herbal medicine by the indigenous peoples of Central and South America for thousands of years.
Stevia came to the attention of the west in 1899 when a Swiss botanist documented it and described it's unusually sweet taste. Stevia seems to have then been largely ignored until the 1930s when two French chemists isolated two glycosides that give Stevia it's sweet taste. These were named stevioside and rebaudioside. In the 1970s in Japan, Stevia cultivation commenced as an alternative to artificial sweeteners. The Japanese now eat more Stevia than anywhere else, where it accounts for 40% of all sweeteners consumed.
Today Stevia is cultivated and used as a food in many countries and is increasingly being accepted for the marvellous, health promoting sweetener that it is.
The sweet taste of stevia is because of the presence of the two unique glycosides, stevioside and rebaudioside.