The stevia plant is a medicinal herb native to Paraguay. Its sweet leaves have been used for centuries by the Guarani Indians as a flavor enhancer. Today, China is the major grower and processor of the stevia plant, but it has been adapted by many other cultures for a variety of uses.
The stevia plant was called "kaa he-he" by the Guarani Indians, which means "sweet herb."
The stevia plant has been grown in climates as diverse as southern Canada and Florida. The dried leaves have been used by many to sweeten tea. Liquid from soaking the leaves can be used to make preserves. The stevia plant can also be eaten as a vegetable.
The adaptability and safety of the stevia plant was proven by the Japanese through extensive scientific testing. They discovered the plant would be an ideal replacement for sugar and its synthetic substitutes, which they had banned from their diet in the early 1960s.
Stevia is about 300 times sweeter than sugar, has no calories and does not affect blood sugar levels.
Stevia has been known to effectively regulate blood sugar in individuals with diabetes and hypoglycemia. It has also been added to many oral products to prevent the growth and reproduction of oral bacteria.
The FDA has not yet approved stevia as a food source; it can only be distributed as a dietary supplement.
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About this Author
Loraine Degraff has been a writer and educator since 1999. She recently began focusing on topics pertaining to health and environmental issues. She is published in "Healthy Life Place" and "Humdinger" and also writes for various websites. Degraff holds a master's degree in communications design from Pratt Institute.