Stevia is a small shrub in the chrysanthemum family native to portions of Northeastern Paraguay and adjacent sections of Brazil for over 1500 years used by the Guarani Natives, they called it ka'a he'e (sweet herbs), as a sweetener in yerba mate and medicinal teas for testing such conditions as obesity, high blood pressure, and heart burn. It flourishes in the sandy soil of this elevated terrain and may grow to a height of 80cm = 32" and a width of 45 - 60cm = 18 - 24" when it is fully mature. The whole leaf contains numerous phytonutrients and trace minerals.
It is between 250 - 300times sweeter than then ordinary, refined "poisonous" table sugar and does not contain the negative side effects reported by using artificial sweetener such as aspartame, neotame, sold commercially under the names of NutraSweet and Canderel, sucralose, commercially sold as splenda. Other artificial sweeteners on the market are saccharin, cyclamate and acesulframe-k. There is not a single sweetener on the market that can claim, beyond reasonable doubt, to be safe for human consumption. In Japan aspartame has been banned.
The Benefits of Stevia are Numerous
1) helps minimize hunger sensations and cravings for sweets or fatty foods
2) aids digestion, decreases hypertension without effecting normal blood pressure
3) stabilizes blood glucose levels, shortens recovery from cold and flu
4) helps with addictions to tobacco and alcohol
5) sweetens any drink with no calories, no carbohydrates, no tooth decay
6) safe to use by diabetics
7) nourishes the pancreas since it does not raise blood glucose levels
8) use in toothpaste prevents cavities and gum disease due to its antibacterial properties.
9) Stable temperature and can be used in baking and cooking and is an excellent weight loss aid
More then 500 different studies have been done on stevia's effectiveness and safety and it has been used for over thirty years in Japan and Japanese manufacturers have added it on in cola, pickling products, chewing gum, ice cream and a wide variety of other foods. Stevia's sweet taste has a lower onset and longer duration than sugar. Currently people in Japan consume more stevia then any other country and it accounts for 40% of their sweetener market. Unlike sugar, which damages teeth and gums, stevia has been found to be very beneficial. Researchers at the Hiroshima University School of Dentistry and the Purdue University Research team have discovered that stevia retards plaque on teeth and suppresses antibacterial growth.
Because this high intensity sweetener is non-fermentable, non-discolouring, maintains heat stability at 95 degree C and features a lengthy shelf life, it is valued by the food processing industry. Major multinational food companies like Coca Cola and Beatrice foods use stevia extract to sweeten foods for sale in Japan, Brazil, and other countries where it is approved. It is cultivated and used in foods in East Asia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Israel and China which is also the largest exporter of stevia extract and powder.
However, in North America, stevia can be only sold as a dietary supplement. The US government especially seems to be protecting the powerful sugar industry against its widespread use.
In the early 1990's the FDA, Food and Drug Administration banned stevia, citing a preliminary mutagenicity study. Later, a follow-up study found flaws in the first study and seriously questioned its result. In 1995, the FDA gave stevia the label of "dietary supplement" which means that is safe enough to be consumed in a capsule and as liquid, but not in food. Proponents feel this partial "about face-saving" was an attempt to strike a compromise between the giant sugar industry and the growing natural food industry. Since then, stevia's popularity has grown dramatically, as has its safety record and tests. But still the FDA and Health Canada (supposed to be protectors of the consumer, but who protects us from the protectors?) refuse to allow it to be called sweetener for food or a food additive.
Interesting enough, Agriculture and Agri-Food has a large research effort aimed at developing an agricultural production system in place for stevia, as it did years ago with industrial hemp. Similar soil and climatic conditions exist in Southern Ontario as that found where stevia originated. The Federal Government research site is located in Delhi, Ontario. The Ontario Ministry of Agricultures, Food and Rural Affairs says stevia could potentially become a viable crop instead of tobacco? for Southern Ontario farmers. It is difficult growing stevia from seeds, however, potted stevia seedlings are readily available from mailorder nurseries. Organic gardeners will appreciate stevia's insect repellent abilities. The plant's sweetness seems to provide a kind of natural defense against aphids, grasshoppers and other bugs.
Words of Wisdom
Sugar is an addiction far stronger than what we see with heroin. It is the basic additive substance from which all other addictions flow. Refined sugar and all refined foods such as polished rice, white flour and the like, are nothing than legalized poisons.