Sugar Leaf (Stevia)
Stevia originates in Paraguay, where is called the "sugar plant" or "the sweet plant of Paraguay" and used as a sweetener. The plant's botanical family is the Asteraceae or Compositae (the same family as chamomile and calendula/marigold) and it is cultivated commercially in Paraguay, Brazil, Japan, Korea, China, and Australia. It has been used by the natives of South America for hundreds of years as a natural sweetener and to disguise the bitter taste of other plants.
Stevia is used as a sugar substitute in:
- Soft drinks
- Dairy products
- Ice cream
- Baked goods
- Chewing gum
- Fruit salads
It is also an important ingredient in skin care products.
The plant's main active ingredient is stevioside, a sweet substance found in nature. It is concentrated in the leaves of the stevia plant and comprises up to 10% of the leaf.
A glycoside is not a sugar, but a secondary metabolite produced from a sugar and a non-sugar component or aglycon, which gives the glycoside its special attributes.
There are cardiac glycosides, which improve the efficiency of the heart muscles, such as the digitalis plant. Anthraquinone glycosides, as are found in the aloe vera plant, have laxative properties. Stevia contains sweet glycosides, which are present in cinnamon and licorice. The effect of stevia can be felt above the tongue, the location of a receptor, which detects its sweet taste and identifies it as something sweet.
The advantages of stevia:
1. No calories.
2. Suitable for diabetics. In fact, the glycosides are not absorbed into the digestive system at all.
3. Reduces the blood sugar level.
4. Prevents the accumulation of dental plaque.
5. Reduces the appetite by diminishing the sensation of hunger.
6. Unaffected by heat and acidity. Unlike artificial sweeteners, it does not lose its structure and composition.
7. Does not promote fermentation or the growth of bacteria.
8. Does not lose its color when heated. In comparison to sugar substitutes and other sweeteners, stevia’s physical and chemical properties are relatively stable.
9. Relieves stomach pain.
10. Helps lower blood pressure.
11. Can be used as an anti-fungal and treatment for candida.
12. Can treat burns and cuts.
13. Can treat mouth sores and aphthous stomatitis.
14. Can treat athlete’s foot.
How to use stevia
- Dried leaves, whole or ground
- Fresh leaves
At The Spice Way, we recommend infusing a tablespoon of stevia in a cup of water for fifteen minutes; strain and then refrigerate. Use a few drops of the resulting green, sweet liquid to sweeten anything you like: infusions, coffee, fruit salads, cakes, cheese dishes, and more. And it's easy to cultivate and prepare stevia on your own. Stevia grows well in the summer; cut it back several times during the winter, and then dry and store the leaves.
Additional Traditionally Knowledge Based Uses:
1. Use stevia externally in compresses for skin problems such as wounds, burns, cuts, acne, seborrhea, skin inflammations and allergies, eczema and fungal infections.
2. Use it as a supplement to toothpaste. Soak the toothbrush in an infusion of stevia before brushing to prevent plaque formation.
3. Use it to treat mouth sores (aphthous stomatitis). Chew fresh stevia leaves or gargle.
Who Should Not Use Stevia:
- 1. In 1991, the FDA prohibited the use of stevia as a food supplement and granted authorization for it to be used and defined solely as a sweetener. The reason for this move was the claim that stevia can lead to infertility. In the US, stevia is authorized solely for household use, and can only be grown and used for local consumption. In South America, Japan, and Australia, there are no restrictions on the use of stevia.
- 2. Pregnant women should not use stevia since it may lead to muscle contractions of the uterus and premature birth.
Properties and General Information:
1. Studies have shown that stevia is suitable for use by people suffering from diabetes. Even after years of stevia consumption in the West, no undesirable effects have been observed. It has become apparent that the plant has no chronic or acute toxicity, and is also suitable for human consumption as a sweetener.
2. A dosage of 250 mg of dried stevia per day is useful for:
- Treating hypertension
- Reducing blood sugar levels
3. Like other sweeteners, stevia has an aftertaste. However, the aftertaste becomes less dominant when it is used in its dried form, or for baked goods and after reheating.
Wishing you the best of health,
Avi Zithershpieler, The Spice Way