Medically reviewed on June 7, 2018
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.
Stevia also is known as Sweet Leaf of Paraguay, Caa-he-é, Ca-a-yupi, Eira-caa, and Capim doce.
What is it used for?
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.
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.
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.
Contraindications have not yet been identified.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented.
No major contraindications, warnings, or side effects have been documented.
Stevioside was found to be nontoxic in acute toxicity studies in a variety of laboratory animals.