The herb, Stevia rebaudiana, has been used for centuries by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay, who had several names for the plant, several of which are Kaa'-he-E, Caa'-ehe, or Ca-a-yupe- all. referring to the sweet leaf or honey leaf. It is commonly known in South America as yerba dulce meaning sweet herb. The Guarani used stevia nutritionally and medicinally.
The plant came to the attention of the rest of the world when South American naturalist, Bertoni, "discovered" the plant in the late 1800's. After his report, the herb became widely used by herbalists in Paraguay.
Stevia's most obvious and notable characteristic is its sweet taste. However, the sweet taste is not due to carbohydrate-based molecules, but to several non-caloric molecules called glycosides. Individuals who cannot tolerate sugar or other sweeteners can use stevia. The first glycoside molecule was isolated from stevia in 1931 by two French chemists named Bridel and Lavieille and called stevioside.
During WW II, sugar shortages prompted England to begin investigation of stevia for use as a sweetener. Cultivation began under the direction of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, but the project 'was abandoned in the aftermath of the war. Japan began cultivating stevia in hothouses in the 1950's. By the 1970's, Japan started using stevia commercially and today, they are the biggest users of the extract, which has captured 50% of Japan's sweetener industry.
Other aspects of stevia are capturing people's attention. The herb is sold in some South American countries to aid diabetics and hypoglycemics. Research has shown that a whole leaf concentrate has a regulating effect on the pancreas and helps stabilize blood sugar levels. Stevia is therefore useful to people with diabetes, hypoglycemia, and Candidiasis.
Other traditional uses of stevia are: lowers elevated blood pressure (hypertension), digestive aid that also reduces gas and stomach acidity, and for obesity. The herb acts as general tonic which increases energy levels and mental acuity.
Stevia has been shown to inhibit the growth and reproduction of bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay, making it an excellent addition to tooth pastes and mouthwashes. Many people have reported improvement in their oral health after adding stevia concentrate to their tooth paste and using it, diluted in water, as a daily mouthwash.
Stevia is useful in healing a number of skin problems. Whole stevia concentrates may be applied as a facial mask to soften and tighten the skin and smooth cut wrinkles. Smooth the dark liquid over the entire face, allowing it to dry for at least 30-60 minutes. A drop of concentrate may be applied directly to any blemish, acne outbreak, lip or mouth sore. Stevia concentrate is also effective when used on seborrhea, dermatitis, and eczema. Reportedly, cuts and scratches heal more rapidly when stevia concentrate is applied.
Stevia concentrate added to soap eliminates dandruff and other scalp problems and improves the health and luster of the hair, also helping to retain natural hair color.
Refined sugar consumption continues to rise in the United States. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (Nov. 1998), sugar consumption rose by 25 pounds since 1986 to 152 pounds per person per year (calculated from sugar production figures). Sugar displaces nutritive calories leading to numerous health problems and obesity. A major factor contributing to this high rate is the widespread and continually growing habit of drinking sugar-laden soft drinks.
Health Benefits of Stevia
Natural & Alternative Wellness