Five years ago I was introduced to Stevia and have been using it exclusively to sweeten my drinks. I just recently learned about the other virtues of this herb which comes from the Sunflower Family(Asteraceae) – growing wild as a small shrub in parts of Paraquay and Brazil. The glycosides in its leaves, including up to 10% Stevioside, accounts for its incredible sweetness, making it unique among 240 species of Stevia plants growing around the world.
Stevia Rebaudiana is an herb, which has been used for centuries by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay both as a sweetener and a medicine.
In 1887 Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni, the director of the College of Agriculture in Asuncion, Paraguay who was exploring the Jungles of Paraquay first heard of this herb and in 1903 he encountered a live plant for the first time. He later said, “the sweetening power of kaa-he-e (the native name for Stevia) is so superior to sugar that there is no need to wait for the results of analyses and cultures to affirm its economic advantage…the simplest test proves it.
In 1908 the first Stevia crop was harvested, and plantations began to spring up. In the 1920’s in a memo written by American Trade Commissioner George S. Brady, which said he was “ desirous of seeing it placed before any American companies liable to be interested, as it is very probable that it will be of great commercial importance” So, why didn’t it catch on?
A 1913 memo from the official public scientific laboratory in Hamburg, Germany may hold a clue where it states, “ specimens received are of the well known plant which alarmed sugar producers some years ago.
In the 1960, in Japan there was a popular movement against adding chemicals, i.e., artificial sweeteners, such as, saccharin and cyclamate, which were suspected carcinogens, to food. Manufacturers there were on the lookout for a natural alternative to sugar, and Stevia was introduced to the Japanese market in 1970. It is currently used in many products there (including soft drinks, Coca Cola, desserts, food products and for table use).
Stevia is about 300 times sweeter than sugar in its natural state, and much more so, when processed. Its medicinal uses include regulating blood sugar, preventing hypertension, treatment of skin disorders and prevention of tooth decay. Other studies show that it is a natural antibacterial and antiviral agent as well.. In addition, it is calorie and carbohydrate free. It also registers 0 on the Glycemic Index, which makes it a very valuable addition in our dietary program.
So, why does Aspartame corner over 65% of the market and Stevia only 1%? It is all related to established businesses who don’t want to lose their markets. Many people are unaware that Aspartame has 92 deadly side effects…Google Aspartame Side Effects. It is difficult to conceive why the FDA would permit this product to exist. There have been thousands of complaints registered pertaining to it.. Yet, here is Stevia a product, which is safe and beneficial; being restricted by our FDA.
In the 1980’s an “anonymous firm” lodged a “trade complaint” with the FDA about Stevia when it started to surface in the United States. One company using Stevia was Celestial Seasonings herbal tea company. They were ordered by the FDA to stop producing tea “adulterated” with Stevia. Traditional Medicinals, another tea company, had their inventory of Stevia teas confiscated during an unexpected FDA raid and were told the tea would be burned.
Why did the government treat Stevia like a controlled substance? FDA documents call Stevia a “dangerous food additive” even though the safety of Stevia has been widely tested for many years by scientists in Japan.
The FDA will not reveal who made the “trade complaint” (despite the Freedom of Information Act) though many suspect that it was the makers of the artificial sweetener Aspartame (aka “Nutrasweet”) trying to fend off competition. Was our government protecting our health or that of big business?
If this harassment wasn’t strange enough, the FDA also ordered a Texas-based distributor of Stevia supplements to destroy three books on the subject. They were told that an inspector would be coming to oversee the destruction of these materials! This triggered outrage from the media, the ACLU, and members of the public who heard about the attempted censorship and the FDA decided not to go through with it. The FDA was willing to violate the First Amendment (with their book-burning) to halt the promotion of Stevia.
An interesting situation: while no one in Japan has complained about any Stevia related health problems in the last thirty years, over 75% of food additive related complaints in the U.S. are about Aspartame, which is supposedly safe.
In 1995 the FDA reversed their decision to ban Stevia, but only half way. Stevia can now be sold as a “nutritional supplement”. but not as a sweetener in the United States. This is also the case in the European Union, and the World Health Organization is pressuring others to follow suit. Essentially, this means you can find Stevia at many stores in the vitamin department, but the label can’t tell you what the product is for’ As absurd as this is, the good news is that Stevia is available for those who know about it.
Stevia is available in several forms, including concentrated powders and liquid extracts. I have been using Kal Liquid and powder; and Trader Joe’s Organic Powder. I don’t detect any kind of an after taste in these.
If you have tried Stevia and encountered an after taste try one of those. The Kal Liquid Stevia I use has no alcohol in it, but always read the label…just to make sure what is in any product.
Stevia is beneficial on so many levels, not the least of which is helping you control your weight by eliminating carbs and calories, while allowing you to enjoy the sweetness you crave. It is a healthy supplement & it is totally guilt-free!