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Stevia

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni. Family: Asteraceae

COMMON NAME(S):Stevia, Sweet Leaf of Paraguay, Caa-he-e, Ca-a-yupi, Era-caa, Capim doce

Stevia is a safe, all-natural alternative to artificial sweeteners and refined sugar in the diet. It has been used for centuries by native Indians in Paraguay, and consumed safely in massive quantities for the past 20 years. The Japanese use it in sugar-free chewing gums and diet sodas. It has undergone dozens of tests world-wide and was found to be free of toxins. Stevia has many uses besides its traditional use as a sweetener.

Stevia was first discovered by Europeans when Spanish Conquistadors sent word to Spain that natives of South America used stevia to sweeten herbal teas.

History

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 in the early 1900s. Glycosides responsible for the plant's sweeteners were discovered in 1931. Stevia extracts are used today as food additives by the Japanese and Brazilians as a noncaloric sweetener. However, in the US. use is limited to supplement status only.

Botany :- Stevia is a perennial shrub indigenous to northern South America, but commercially grown in areas such as Central America,Israel, Thailand, and China. The plant can grow to 1 m in height, with 2- to 3-cm long leaves. The leaves are the parts of the plant used.

Uses of Stevia

Stevia is used as a sweetening agent. It has also been found to have hypotensive, hypoglycemic, and bactericidal properties.

he plant's leaves, the aqueous extract of the leaves, and purified steviosides are used as sweeteners. Stevia sweeteners have been produced commercially in Japan since 1977 and are widely used in food products, soft drinks, and for table use. Japan currently consumes more stevia than any other country; there, stevia accounts for 40% of the sweetener market.

Side Effects of Stevia

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

Dosage

Less than 1 gram per day can be used effectively as a sweetener. Usually, the powdered herb is added directly to tea or to food.

Toxicology

Stevia has been shown not to be mutagenic or genotoxic.One report indicates that constituents of stevioside and steviol are not mutagenic in vitro. Stevioside was found to be nontoxic in acute toxicity studies in a variety of laboratory animals. Chronic administration of stevia to male rats had no effect in fertility vs. controls.An other report concludes that stevioside in high doses affected neither growth nor reproduction in hamsters of both sexes.

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