Stevia is a fairly new sweetener and sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana. It has gained great popularity in recent years to aid in weight management. It is commonly known as Candyleaf. It possesses a potent sweet taste that is calorie-free and used as a sugar-substitute. The supplement has several other uses and is currently approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

What Exactly is Stevia?

Stevia, unlike many other sugar-substitutes, claims to be safe and effective as it is a plant that happens to have a very sweet taste, rather than a synthetic sugar substitute. The scientific name for the active ingredients found in Stevia is Stevioside. 

The Stevia rebaudiana plant is a member of the Sunflower family. Its full name is rebaudioside A (Rebiana is the trade name for high-purity rebaudioside A). Stevia grows abundantly throughout South America and other subtropical areas.

Other names for Stevia are: sweet leaf, honey leaf, sugar leaf and candyleaf.

History of Stevia

The Guarani Indians knew of the sweet herb grown in the wild long before it was presented to other parts of the country. The plant is a perennial that was originally indigenous to the Amambay Mountains in Paraguay but the use of Stevia did not claim popularity as a sweetener by others until the 1800s where it became popular in Argentina and Brazil.

A Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni did further research on the sweetener in 1887, with final results not forthcoming until the 1900s where the plants become more widespread. Plantations became more prevalent nationwide to produce and harvest this valuable leaf throughout the world.

Taste and Dietary Use of Stevia as a Sweetener

Stevia was not recognised until 2008 as a sweetener in the United States. At that time, it was approved as a safe food additive by the FDA and also became popular in Argentina, Venezuela, Japan, Malaysia, Colombia, Brasil, Uruguay, Mexico, Paraguay, South Korea, Israel and Russia as a sugar substitute.

Although the leaf itself had sweetness to it, it sustains a longer taste than sugar, with a bitter aftertaste that is somewhat like licorice. It is widely favoured as a supplement in sugar and carbohydrate-restricted diets. Stevia is commonly found in health food stores and on other food store shelves under typical names as Truvia, Pure Via and more.

Stevia for Weight Loss

The most frequent use of the Stevia is as a dietary supplement for the management of weight. It does not directly cause weight loss, however its use as a sugar substitute can contribute to weight management in several ways; Stevia has zero calories, does not raise blood sugar levels, and allows for the enjoyment of sweetness without the added calories of sugar.

By reducing overall calorie and sugar intake, stevia may be part of a strategy to support a healthier diet and weight management.

Other Medical Uses for Stevia

Although it is famous for its use as a sweetener, Stevia is also used as a medical supplement for various conditions. It is helpful in treating; diabetes, heartburn, gingivitis, osteoporosis and high blood pressure.

The way Stevia helps each condition is as follows:

Stevia and Diabetes

Because there are zero-calories and no real sugar components in Stevia, it has no significant effect on glucose levels for a diabetic. Some studies suggest a dose of the Stevia at 1,000 mg daily, reducing diabetes by about 18 per cent, while others recommend 250 mg taken 3 times daily. Of course, as with the use of any sugar substitute, Stevia should be used in moderation according to the direction of your doctor.

Stevia for High Blood Pressure

According to studies in 1991, adding Stevia to the diet at a dose of between 750 and 1500 mg per day not only reduced high blood pressure but showed some diuretic effects and also eliminated excess sodium. Further studies are being conducted to prove these findings, although it is believed that drinking a Stevia tea twice daily can keep blood pressure at a proper level.

Stevia for Digestion and Heartburn

Stevia tea is a herbal infusion made from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, which is native to South America. The use of Stevia tea regularly in Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia shows evidence that it aids in digestion, stomach upset, gastrointestinal functions and heartburn.

While scientific research specifically on the digestive benefits of stevia tea is limited, some people believe that it may help with digestion and heartburn due to the following potential properties:

Anti-inflammatory Effects: Stevia tea may possess anti-inflammatory properties due to the presence of compounds like polyphenols and flavonoids. Inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract can contribute to digestive discomfort and heartburn. Drinking stevia tea might help reduce inflammation and alleviate related symptoms.

Antioxidant Activity: Stevia tea contains antioxidants that can help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. Oxidative stress can contribute to digestive issues and inflammation. By reducing oxidative stress, stevia tea may support digestive health and help alleviate heartburn.

Regulating Blood Sugar Levels: Some research suggests that stevia may help regulate blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing postprandial glucose spikes. Stable blood sugar levels are essential for proper digestion and may help prevent symptoms like bloating and discomfort that can exacerbate heartburn.

Calming Effect: Warm beverages like herbal teas can have a soothing effect on the digestive system. Drinking stevia tea may help relax the muscles of the digestive tract, promote peristalsis (the movement of food through the intestines), and alleviate symptoms of indigestion or heartburn.

Low-Calorie Alternative: Unlike sugary beverages that can exacerbate digestive issues, stevia tea is calorie-free and does not contain added sugars. Choosing stevia tea as a hydrating beverage option may help prevent heartburn and discomfort associated with high-sugar drinks.

Stevia for Gingivitis

Stevia has shown its effect on suppressing infectious organisms in the teeth and gums. It can help to inhibit plaque growth and overall oral health. Stevia can be used as a mouthwash by mixing 3 to 4 drops of it in a half cup of warm water or add 2 drops to regular toothpaste and brush as usual. Regular use, at least twice daily, can help to keep your teeth and gums in a healthy state.

Stevia for Osteoporosis

Stevia may offer potential benefits for bone health, indirectly aiding in the management of osteoporosis. Studies have shown that making a mixture of Stevia tea, alfalfa and Vitamin D powder can improve bone density by up to 75 per cent if used daily.

Stevia’s use as a sugar substitute can help maintain stable blood sugar levels and support weight management, both of which are crucial for optimal bone density. Additionally, stevia’s anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce inflammation associated with bone loss.

While stevia can be a part of a bone-healthy diet, it should be incorporated alongside other preventive measures, including a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, regular exercise including weight bearing exercises, and other lifestyle modifications.

Forms of the Stevia and Potency

Stevia ranges on average about 250 to 300 times sweeter than natural sugar, but without the calories. Stevia is available as a dry powder (similar to sugar), in a tea formula, as a liquid, in capsules and pill form.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Stevia Notes / Side Effects

When used in moderation as a sugar substitute, Stevia is a safe, natural supplement. Although rare, some people can experience some side effects such as bloating and nausea, numbness, dizziness and muscle pain.

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