What is Stevia?
Stevia is one of the most health restoring plants on earth. What whole leaf Stevia does both inside the body and on the skin is incredible. Native to Paraguay, it is a small green plant bearing leaves which have a delicious and refreshing taste that can be 30 times sweeter than sugar. Besides the intensely sweet glycosides (Steviosides, Rebaudiosides and a Dulcoside), various studies have found the leaf to contain proteins, fiber, carbohydrates, iron, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, zinc, rutin (a flavonoid), true vitamin A, Vitamin C and an oil which contains 53 other constituents. Quality Stevia leaves and whole leaf concentrate are nutritious, natural dietary supplements offering numerous health benefits.
Stevia as a Sweetener
Stevia is the sweetener of the future. Because the human body does not metabolize the sweet glycosides (they pass right through the normal elimination channels) from the leaf or any of its processed forms, the body obtains no calories from Stevia. Processed forms of pure Stevia can be 70-400 times sweeter than sugar. Whether these products are called Stevia, Stevioside, Rebaudioside, Stevia Extract, or Stevia Concentrate, if they are in their pure unadulterated form they do not adversely affect blood glucose levels and may be used freely by both diabetics and hypoglycemics. For people with blood sugar, blood pressure or weight problems Stevia is the most desirable sweetener.
In all of its current forms Stevia has a taste unique to itself. Along with its sweetness there is also a bitter component. The poorer the quality of the leaf the more bitterness is evident in the taste. In good consumer products, however, this bitter flavor disappears as does the slight licorice taste of whole-leaf products when appropriately diluted for consumption. Unlike artificial sweeteners, the sweet glycosides do not break down in heat which makes Stevia an excellent sweetener for cooking and baking.
Stevia as a Dietary Supplement
The vast majority of reported health benefits, both from the research laboratory and consumer experience, comes from daily use of a water based whole leaf Stevia concentrate. Scientific research has indicated that Stevia effectively regulates blood sugar and brings it toward a normal balance. It is sold in some South American countries as an aid to people with diabetes and hypoglycemia. Since its introduction into the US, numerous people have reported that taking 20-30 drops with each meal brought their blood glucose levels to normal or near normal within a short time period. Obviously each individual's condition is different and such experimentation should be done under the supervision of a qualified physician. An important benefit for hypo-glycemics is Stevia's tonic action which enhances increased energy levels and mental acuity.
Studies have also indicated that Stevia tends to lower elevated blood pressure but does not seem to affect normal blood pressure. It also inhibits the growth and reproduction of some bacteria and other infectious organisms, including the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. This may help explain why users of Stevia enhanced products report a lower incidence of colds and flu and why it has such exceptional qualities when used as a mouthwash or added to toothpaste. Many people report significant improvement in oral health after adding Stevia concentrate to their toothpaste and using it, diluted in water, as a daily mouthwash.