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Stevia - Stevia rebaudianaStevia leaves are said to be from 30 to 300 times sweeter than sugar though the amount of sweetness varies from leaf to leaf and plant to plant.
To date, chemical analysis and studies show that the leaf adds no calories, has no harmful side effects and is more palatable with less aftertaste than any artificial, chemical sweetener to date. Stevia has been in wide use in South America for centuries, and in Japan since the government banned the use of artificial sweeteners. To date, no harmful side effects have come to light, making stevia one of the most promising sugar alternatives available.
This herb has been called a super-sweetener, and are the source of stevioside, a widely available tabletop sweetener in many Asian countries. With no calories and very little bitter aftertaste, stevia is an excellent alternative sweetener to sugar for teas and other recipes that call for sugar.
Most commercial Stevia which is a white crystalline color is actually the dried powdered extract of Stevia and is not the whole leaf.
For centuries, the Guarani tribes of Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil used stevia, which they called ka'a he'e ("sweet herb"), as a sweetener in yerba mate and medicinal teas for treating heartburn and other ailments. More recent medical research has shown promise in treating obesity and hypertension. Stevia has a negligible effect on blood glucose, even enhancing glucose tolerance; therefore, it is attractive as a natural sweetener to diabetics and others on carbohydrate-controlled diets.
Stevia is a genus of about 240 species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), native to subtropical and tropical regions from western North America to South America. The species Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sweetener and sugar substitute, stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.