Stevia rebaudiana is an herb in the Chrysanthemum family, which grows wild as a small shrub in parts of Paraguay and Brazil. While native Indians of the Guarani Tribe appear to have used the leaves of this herb as a sweetener since pre-Columbian times, it was not until 1887, when a South American natural scientist, called Antonio Bertoni, first "discovered" it.
It is estimated that there are over 80 species of Stevia known to grow wild in North America and perhaps as many as 200 additional species native to South America. Of these, only Stevia rebaudiana and another, now-extinct species, appear to posses the natural sweetness, which are their distinguishing characteristic.
The sweet secret of Stevia lies in a complex molecule called stevioside. It is this complex molecule and a number of other related compounds that account for stevia's extraordinary sweetness.
The Stevia herb or leaf, in its natural form, is approximately 10 to 15 times sweeter than common table sugar. Extracts of Stevia can range from 100 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. And best of all, Stevia does not effect blood sugar metabolism. Some studies even report that Stevia reduces plasma glucose levels in normal adults.
While Stevia has primarily been used as a sweetener, it has also been investigated as an aid in regulating blood sugar metabolism in diabetics.
It should be used as a replacement for artificial sweeteners and can be used in cooking and baking. Stevia can be used by diabetics and those on calorie-controlled diets.
Stevia has traditionally been used to sweeten teas and coffee-like beverages. It can also replace sugar or honey in most other beverages as well. Stevia does not break down when it is heated, so it can be used in foods that are baked or cooked.
Stevia is a flavour enhancer, as well as a sweetener. It helps to bring out the true flavours in cereals, breads, pickles, juices, berries, sherbets, candies, yoghurt, ice cream, chewing gum, toothpaste and mouthwash.
Stevia has been used as a remedy for bleeding gums and as a gargle for sore throats and cold sores. This is due to stevia's anti-bacterial activity. Stevia has been shown to inhibit the development of plaque and cavities.
Radiance Stevia Extract Powder, which is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. Replace 1 cup of sugar with approximately ¼ teaspoon of Stevia Extract Powder.
For recipe ideas using Stevia, Stevia Sweet Recipes is a recipe book containing over 100 recipes using Stevia instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Healthy Online stocks many different Stevia products, including:
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