Also known as ‘sweet leaf’, ‘sugar leaf’ and by some indigenous tribes as ‘honey leaf’, Stevia is a species of herb in the sunflower family native to Central and South America, where it is cultivated for its sweet leaves.
Stevioside, isolated and purified from the leaves of the Stevia plant, is a high-intensity sweetener up to 300 times sweeter than sucrose.
However, although used for centuries by the indigenous peoples of Central and South America, in particular the Guarani peoples of Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil, neither Stevia nor Stevioside has yet been granted a licence for human consumption in the UK.
In other parts of the world, though, it’s a different story. In Japan, China, Korea, Thailand and Malaysia, as well as in most South American countries, Stevia is used widely as a sweetener.
It is also permitted in Israel and in the United States as a food supplement.
Traditionally Stevia has been used for both nutritional and medicinal purposes. In some South American countries, for example, it has been used to treat diabetes and hypoglycaemia, as well as Candida and thrush in women.
It has also been used in the treatment of high blood pressure (hypertension), oral health, heartburn, as a general digestive aid and as a tonic to boost energy levels.
Externally, Stevia can be used in the treatment of a number of skin complaints, including eczema, acne, dermatitis and seborrhoea.
Stevia concentrates can also be applied as a face mask to soften and tighten the skin.
NOTE: Research is ongoing in the proposed use of Stevia both as a prevention for diabetes and as part of a treatment for those already suffering from the disease.
For further information on the properties and benefits of Stevia we suggest you consult a qualified herbal, nutritional or medical practitioner.