Stevia Benefits

Stevia
Latin Name

Stevia rebaudiana

Also Known As

Sweetleaf, Sugarleaf, Ka he-he, Sweet Herb

Origin

Central and South America

Parts Used

Leaf

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

Stevia is a natures sweetest leaf, at 30 -100 times sweeter than regular sugar, it has been used as a sweetener by indigenous peoples of its native South America for millennia.

Known to the Guarani Indians as “kaa he-he” (meaning sweet herb), Stevia was also utilised as a traditional medicine. It was used as a tonic for heart problems, high blood pressure, digestive issues, to regulate blood sugar and nourish the liver.

Stevia Benefits

Diabetes

There are many benefits of Stevia to diabetes sufferers. This natural sweetener can suppress glucose levels, significantly increase glucose tolerance and stabilise blood sugar levels. Artificial sweeteners such as saccharin can raise the blood sugar and change the bacterial composition in the gut which can then cause glucose intolerance. In fact, many studies show that people within the normal weight range who consume artificial sweeteners are at a higher risk of developing diabetes than overweight people who refrain from sugar.

In people with type 2 diabetes, Stevia has been found to trigger the hormone glucagon. This is the hormone that regulates blood glucose levels and its system of production is commonly faulty in people with type 2 diabetes.

Stevia outperforms both regular sugar (sucrose) and the dangerous artificial sweetener, “aspartame”. In a 2010 human study of 19 lean healthy individuals and 12 obese subjects (18 – 50 years old), the participants who consumed the Stevia on three separate test days were found to have a significantly lower insulin and glucose response than the sucrose and aspartame groups. They also noted that “Stevia may assist with glucose regulation”.

The glycosides in Stevia act like insulin by stimulating the uptake of glucose into cells. Stevia benefits can also impede the onset of diabetes in pre-diabetics and can prevent diabetes related complications in patients already suffering from the disease.

Heart Health

Stevia contains compounds that act as diuretics, increasing urination, facilitating the excretion of excess sodium and relaxing the blood vessels. This results in less stress on the cardiovascular system and lower blood pressure, which protects the heart and reduces the chances of arteries hardening. This can help to prevent more serious conditions such as strokes and heart attacks.

A review of the health benefits of Stevia in 2017 found that the phytochemicals, phenols and flavonoids (antioxidants) contained in this herb can help to protect cardio health. They help to reduce inflammation, prevent obesity and the complications of metabolic syndrome.

A few studies have been conducted that indicate Stevia can also lower blood pressure. Known as the “silent killer”, persistent high blood pressure is a known factor in strokes, heart attacks and other cardiac events.

In 2003, a two-year, double-blind placebo-controlled study of 174 people with milder hypertension (average initial BP of approximately 150/95) was conducted in China. The study used a dose of 500 mg of Stevia three times daily. A reduction in blood pressure of approximately 6% - 7% was seen in the treatment group as compared to the placebo group within the first week, and blood pressure continued to be measured throughout the two-year study period. At the end of the study, 34% of those in the placebo group showed heart damage from high blood pressure (left ventricular hypertrophy), while only 11.5% of the stevioside group did - a difference that was statistically significant. No significant adverse effects were seen.

Weight Loss

Replacing regular sugar with Stevia has many benefits to healthy weight loss. Not only does it increase energy and alertness, it has zero calorific value and zero glycaemic index (GI). It will help to curb sugar cravings and doesn’t spike the blood sugar like artificial and regular sweeteners.

Sugar cravings are often caused by Candida overgrowth – a yeast that has a voracious appetite for sugar. Replacing regular sugar with Stevia can literally starve the Candida to death. Many people find when the Candida dies, their sugar cravings do too.  

A review of scientific studies on the “Health and Wellness of Stevia as a Sweetener” by Dr Keith Ayoob concluded that for weight management, “Foods containing Stevia may help with a long-term modest effect on body weight, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.”

For appetite he concluded, “Foods containing stevia help lower total calorie intake, without over-consumption later in the day.”

Dental Health

Stevia prevents cavities because it does not contain “fermentable carbohydrates”. When specific bacteria that are present in the mouth meet with fermentable carbohydrates such as sugars and starches, the bacteria metabolises these carbohydrates into organic acids which will begin the erosion of enamel.

Although Stevia is sweet, it does not contain fermentable carbohydrates. A study published in the journal "Caries Research", concluded that Stevia can be considered nonacidogentic, and therefore appropriate to support dental health.

Typical Use

Organic Stevia Leaf Powder

Organic Stevia is 30 - 100 times sweeter than regular sugar and therefore should be used in small quantities. Use as desired.

Stevia Extract Powder

Stevia Extract  is extremely sweet and should be used in very small quantities. Use as desired

Folklore and History

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 the 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.

Stevia
Constituents

The sweet taste of stevia is because of the presence of the two unique glycosides, stevioside and rebaudioside.

Precautions

Please consult your healthcare practitioner if you are taking prescription medication for diabetes or high blood pressure before using Stevia.