There are a number of reported benefits of stevia. The sweet leafed plant is growing in popularity all around the world because so many have enjoyed stevia benefits in all of its forms.
What Is Stevia?
Stevia is a plant indigenous to South and Central America. Some stevia is also cultivated in Asia and the southwestern part of the United States. It is also known as sweetleaf.
The most well-known of the benefits of stevia is its use as a natural sweetener. Whole stevia leaves are 30 to 40 times sweeter than sugar, and the extract of stevia leaves is 300 times sweeter than sugar. While high concentrations of stevia extract can have a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste, only a small amount is needed to enjoy its sweetening properties.
Stevia as a Sweetener
In Central and South America, stevia has been used for centuries to sweeten herbal teas and Yerba Mate.
During World War II, sugar supplies in England were scarce, and the British people began using stevia as a sweetener. After the end of the war, sugar supplies returned to normal levels and stevia consumption decreased.
Stevia has been used as a sweetener in Japan since the 1950s, and the Coca Cola company uses it as its primary sweetener for its diet drinks in that country. In the United States, stevia can be found in soft drinks including the Zevia brand and Virgil's diet soft drinks.
Benefits of Stevia
Use as a zero-calorie sweetener is only one of the many benefits that stevia is believed to have. A number of benefits are backed up by studies, as well.
Studies on Stevia
- The Pakistan Agricultural Research Council demonstrated stevia's use as a digestive tonic to treat heartburn.
- Medical research has shown that stevia may be beneficial to metabolic health, and could support obesity treatment.
- Further medical research showed that stevia may also have a therapeutic effect on hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Stevia has a negligible effect on blood pressure, which makes it an ideal sweetener for those with diabetes, those pursuing a low carbohydrate lifestyle, or those who try to eat low glycemic index foods as part of their health maintenance regimen. This is in direct opposition to artificial sweeteners, which appear to negatively affect blood sugar.
Other Suggested Benefits
Other benefits come from anecdotal evidence of stevia's use over the centuries. Anecdotal evidence shows that stevia may confer the following benefits:
- It is believed that stevia concentrate has a regulating effect on the pancreas, which can help to stabilize blood sugar levels. This has implications for the treatment of diabetes and hyperglycemia.
- Stevia is included in a number of dental products such as toothpastes and rinses, because it is believed to inhibit the growth of oral bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
- Stevia has been used to treat a number of skin conditions and rashes including seborrhea, dermatitis and eczema.
- It is believed that stevia can help to speed the healing of cuts and scratches.
- A stevia mask applied to the face for 30 to 60 minutes may lead to an increase in overall skin firmness and a decrease in the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
- Stevia concentrate may be found in soaps and shampoos to help eliminate dandruff.
- It is believed that stevia may help hair to retain its natural color and improve shine.
While stevia is generally regarded as safe as a sweetener, you may wish to check with your personal healthcare provider before self-prescribing stevia for any of the treatments outlined above. The FDA has not approved stevia for use in any of the above manners.
If you'd like to stop eating sugar but can't imagine giving up sweet, then stevia might be just the ticket. This all natural leaf could make life just a little sweeter - and improve your health along the way.