Stevia, being very sweet, is commonly used as a sugar substitute or a low-calorie sweetener. It is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar.
Being natural, many have consider it to be a safer alternative to Splenda (sucralose) and Equal/NutraSweet (aspartame), Sweet One (acesulfame potassium), Sweet'N Low (saccharin) or Sugar Twin (cyclamate).
Too much sugar is bad for you. Why use artificial sweetener when you can go natural? Stevia is the clear choice.
We consider this herb to be the best low-calorie sweetener around. It has a very long history of successful use in many countries.
No Calorie Sweetener
It has received the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status in the United States after many years of controversy. It has been used in Japan for over two decades as a sweetener for soft drinks and cooking.
Lowering Blood Sugar Levels / Diabetes
Human clinical trials show that taking this supplement lowers blood sugar levels in healthy volunteers without diabetes.
In South America, this supplement is used to control diabetes. Studies shows that this herb is able to lower blood sugar levels after a meal by 18%.
Note: A clinical study showed that when used in lower amounts as a sweetener, there is no effect on blood sugar levels.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
This herb is shown to lower blood pressure in those people suffering from high blood pressure within 1 week of using it.
Note: A clinical study showed that when used as a sweetener, there is no effect on blood pressure.
What are some historical facts on stevia?
It is used in Japan as a low-calorie sweetener for over 20 years. The native South Americans have used this supplement for centuries. It is native to Paraguay but can be found grown in many parts of the world such as India, South Korea, China, Argentina and Brazil.
Finally, after decades of controversy, the FDA in the Unites States agreed that it's safe and received the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status in December 2008.
What is the active ingredient?
Stevia contains two active natural compounds, stevioside and rebaudioside A.
What is stevia used for?
This supplement is best known for use as a no calorie sweetener. It is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. As it is stable in high temperature, it can be used in baking and cooking. It is also traditionally used to control diabetes by South Americans.
Are there any dangers in using stevia?
In the United States, stevia received the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status for use as a sweetener in December of 2008.
One animal study showed that it decreased sperm production and reduces the testis weight in rats. However, several current studies did not show any such effects seen in the original study.
Stevia use during pregnancy. Is it safe to use?
Safety data of using this supplement comes from reproductive studies done in rats and hamsters. Studies lasting 2 years in rats and 6 months in hamsters showed no risk to their off springs.
One study used doses that are 80 times higher than what is normally used in humans; and there was no risk to the off springs of the hamsters. Very high doses (240 times more than normally used in humans) was toxic and also reduced the number of and weight of off springs.
Here's the truth. There's no study in humans to prove that it is safe to use during pregnancy. Animal studies show that it is be safe to the mother and off springs. The amount used as a sweetener in foods would not be of danger. Even doses used to treat diabetes and high blood pressure aren't anywhere near as high as those used in animal studies.
Most natural remedies (and prescription drugs as well) would probably never have human reproductive studies done on them. It's too expensive to carry out and there are huge ethical issues.
Can you have an allergy to stevia? Is it possible?
Simple answer. Definitely yes. Some people with allergies to similar plants such as ragweed, daisies, chrysanthemums and many others may also experience allergic reactions when taking this supplement.
What side effects can I expect from using stevia as a sweetener?
Side effects are generally mild and may include nausea,feeling of fullness, dizziness, muscle pain, numbness and headaches. Doses used as a sweetener is much lower and side effects are not normally expected.
Where can you buy this supplement?
You can buy it from most health foods stores or from online retailers.
calorie-free sugar substitute
Topically (on the skin)
The dosage used as a sweetener rare cause any side effects. Side effects, which are generally mild, include:
feeling of fullness
If you have an allergy to the daisy family of plants (ragweed, marigolds, chrysanthemums and others), do not take stevia as you may experience similar allergic reactions.
Safety - Stevia is shown to be quite safe. Dosage normally used as a sweetener as well as higher dosage has been shown to be safe. The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in the United State has finally given stevia the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status on December, 2008.
Pregnancy and Lactation - Animal studies have shown stevia to be safe to use during pregnancy. There is no safety data on human use during pregnancy. Avoid using if possible or use the smallest amount practical.
Diabetes / Anti-diabetic medications - caution
Taking stevia may cause further drop in blood sugar levels, although it is not expected to be a cause of concern. The dose found in foods used as a sweetener is not expected to cause significant drop in blood sugar. High doses may cause larger drops in blood sugar.
Let your healthcare provider know if you are taking this supplement other than for sweetening foods. Monitor your blood sugar levels more frequently when you are starting or stopping stevia until you are sure it doesn't change much.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) - caution
This supplement is known to cause small drops in blood pressure in human clinical trials. The amount in foods as a sweetener is not expected to affect blood pressure.
Let your healthcare provider know if you are taking this supplement other than for sweetening foods. Monitor your blood pressure more frequently when you are starting or stopping stevia until you are sure it doesn't change much.
Sweetener - Add enough of the powder or liquid to achieve the desired taste. Note that this amount is much lower than what is used for lowering blood pressure or blood sugar levels.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) - Research studies used 250 to 500 mg three times daily.
Lowering Blood Sugar Levels (Diabetes) - Studies have used 1,000 mg of stevioside taken with the meals to help bring blood sugar levels down faster.
You can buy this supplement from various manufacturers. They can be found as a dried leaves, powdered, powder packets, liquid extract, pills or capsules.
Stevia Plus by SweetLeaf
Nu Stevia by NuNaturals,Inc.
The following two products that are highly purified and contain rebaudioside A.
Truvia by The Truvia Company LLC
PureVia by PureCircle
Selected References for Stevia &Image of stevia leaf by Ethel Aardvark
Revised:September 26, 2009