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Veterinarian Reviewed on June 14, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
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Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana)


Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) is also known as Sweetleaf or Sugar Leaf. It is native to both North and South America. It is a flowering plant that has rather small and smooth elongated leaves and clusters of small white flowers.

The Stevia is very well known to be a sugar substitute because of its high stevinol glycoside content. The Stevia plant is also known to be 300 times sweeter than sugar and it has been in demand lately because of its low calorie and low carbohydrate properties.
Stevia has no effect whatsoever in increasing blood glucose levels making it an ideal sugar substitute for people that have low carbohydrates and low sugar diets.

The Stevia plant is grown in Paraguay, Brazil and in Asia. There are also commercial growers of Stevia throughout North America.

History and Origin

The Stevia has been used in Central America as an herbal medication as well as a food sweetener. Stevia has been gaining worldwide attention as a sugar substitute. Many countries realized the importance and effects of this plant in the sugar industry and have issued many studies for the safety and use of the Stevia.
The FDA has clearly stated that Stevia can certainly be used as a sugar substitute in the US. The Stevia has many other therapeutic properties that can benefit many metabolic processes of the body and with absolutely no effect in blood sugar levels at all.

Ancient Uses

The Paraguay and Bolivia native tribe called the Guarani were the first people to use and cultivate Stevia and called it “sweet herb”. It was used as a sweetener in tea and as a treatment for gastrointestinal problems such as heartburns and stomach upset. No side effects were noted in the use of Stevia, making it the ideal food sweetener.

Modern Uses

The Stevia plant has been well regarded as an alternative to sugar and no negative effects to blood sugar levels have been noted. The Stevia also contains a wide array of nutritional value that can contribute to overall body health.

The Stevia is used as an artificial sweetener in many commercial products such as carbonated drinks and other commercially prepared foods. The Stevia plant has been a common ingredient in artificial sweeteners to totally replace the use of sugar in a sugar free or low carbohydrate diet. Stevia will not cause any harm on teeth and gums. It has absolutely no calories and can also be used for baking and cooking. You can even prepare Stevia plants at home for extraction process to get the sweetening effect it provides on dishes.

Side Effects

There are no known negative side effects in the use of Stevia. Although it can totally replace sugar in the diet for diabetics and for people who are on a controlled diet, consult your doctor if you have a preexisting illness since Stevia might cause adverse effects if it is combined with your current medication.

If you are a diabetic, it is best to control your illness with a planned diet and a controlled lifestyle to manage your blood sugar levels completely.

Read also: Sleep Problems in Children

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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