Stevia

Scientific names: Stevia rebaudiana

Common names: Stevia also is known as Sweet Leaf of Paraguay, Caa-he-é, Ca-a-yupi, Eira-caa, and Capim doce.

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...No safety concerns despite wide use.

What is Stevia?

Stevia is a perennial shrub indigenous to northern South America, but commercially grown in areas such as Central America, Israel, Thailand, and China. The leaves are the parts of the plant used. Stevia is a member of the daisy (Asteraceae) family.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Stevia has been used to sweeten tea for centuries, dating back to the Guarani Indians of South America. For hundreds of years, native Brazilians and Paraguayans also have employed the leaves of the plant as a sweetening agent. Europeans learned about stevia in the 16th century, whereas North American interest in the plant began in the 20th century when researchers heard of its sweetening properties. Paraguayan botanist Moises Bertoni documented stevia in the early 1900s. Glycosides responsible for the plant's sweetness were discovered in 1931. Stevia extracts are used today as food additives in Japan and Brazil as a non-caloric sweetener. In the US, however, use is limited to supplement status only.

Sweetening agent

Stevia has been used for centuries as a natural sweetener. The plant contains sweet glycosides (eg, stevioside), with the most intense sweetness belonging to the species S. rebaudina. Stevia as a sweetening agent works well in weight-loss programs to satisfy “sugar cravings,” and is low in calories. The Japanese are the largest consumers of stevia leaves and employ the plant to sweeten foods, such as soy sauce, confections, and soft drinks, as a replacement for aspartame and saccharin.

Other uses

In addition to its use as a sweetening agent, stevia also has been found to have hypotensive, hypoglycemic, and bactericidal properties. However, research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of stevia for any condition.

What is the recommended dosage?

Stevia leaf is used ad lib for sweetening foods.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/nursing

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

No major contraindications, warnings, or side effects have been documented.

Toxicities

Stevioside was found to be nontoxic in acute toxicity studies in a variety of laboratory animals.

References

  1. Stevia. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2004. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 23, 2007.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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