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 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). 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 and sugar leaf. Although it is famous for its use as a sweetener, it is also used as a medical supplement for various conditions.
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.
Stevia was not recognized 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 favored 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 is helpful in treating diabetes, heartburn, gingivitis, osteoporosis and high blood pressure; just to name a few of the uses and benefits. The way it helps in each condition is as follows:
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.
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.
The use of Stevia tea regularly in Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia showed evidence that it aids in digestion, stomach upset, gastrointestinal functions and heartburn.
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 keep your teeth and gums in a healthy state.
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.
Any of the remedies with Stevia should be discussed with your doctor before adhering to the suggested uses since everyone’s system and needs vary. The most frequent use of the Stevia is as a dietary supplement for the management of weight.
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.
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. As with all supplements, standard advice is that women that are pregnant or breastfeeding should confirm the safety of the Stevia with their personal physician.
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