Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana)
Stevia is a perennial plant from the Aster family that grows in South America. In tropical regions, stevia can grow as tall as 4 feet. Leaves are harvested before the plant flowers in late summer. On commercial farms, the herb is grown in long rows similar to growing tea. It can be grown as an annual or in a greenhouse in cooler regions of the world. It has been used as a natural sweetener by people in Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil for centuries with no adverse reactions recorded. Many times sweeter than sugar, very little is needed to sweeten foods and beverages. The herb is grown commercially in many countries in South America, Israel, Thailand and China.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally The herb is a good sweetener for diabetics as it actually can lower their blood sugar. It delays the absorption of sugar from the intestines, thus regulating the sugar levels that get into the blood stream. It may actually improve insulin sensitivity and encourage insulin production by the body. Studies show that it might also reduce blood pressure and improve the heart's muscle tone. It helps with weight loss.
Externally Stevia is antibacterial and can be used on the skin. Some studies also show that it may help prevent or delay tooth decay. It may also prevent plaque from adhering to the teeth and reduce the bacteria that create cavities and gum disease. It can be added to mouthwash and toothpaste to control the bacteria in the mouth.
Other Uses Stevia has been used as a sweetener and food substance for over 400 years. It is a primary sweetener in countries like Japan and China, where it is found in foods and beverages. It can replace sugar in baked goods by altering the recipe.
Herbs to Combine/Supplement
Leaves The leaves are used as a sweetener and medicinally.
Stevia is nontoxic and studies have not shown any adverse reactions. In excessive doses, it may increase the actions of antihypertensive and antidiabetic medicines.
Preparation and Dosage
The herbal remedy can be found as powdered extract, dried, and liquid.
Stevia powder can be mixed into recipes according to directions as a sweetener. To use medicinally, a standard dose for an extract is three times per day. Another common dose is 1 gram per day. For the best results, follow the directions that can be found on the label.