Stevia - Alternative sweetner. Some very interesting info...

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by PatPalmer, May 1, 2003.

  1. PatPalmer

    PatPalmer New Member

    I have cut out the majority of this article. Too long otherwise.
    I had not heard of Stevia until I joined this board.

    The sweet stevia herb has had a long, safe history of use as a food and medicine in South America and Asia, but in many Western countries it is illegal as a food or food additive but legal as a dietary supplement.

    It's easy to grow, wonderful as a sweetener, contains medicinal properties, is non-caloric, safe to cook with, and has great potential in agriculture. It's widely used in South America and Asia. So why isn't stevia a household name in the rest of the world?

    Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni is a herb native to Paraguay. It is also known as "honey yerba" and "honeyleaf" and by other variations of these names. The mature plant stands from around 65 centimetres (26 inches) to as tall as 180 cm (72 in) when cultivated or growing naturally in fertile soil. Historical records show that the leaves have been used for hundreds of years by the Guarani Indians, who named the plant caá-êhê. The main use was as a sweetener, particularly in their green tea, known as maté. It was also used in medicine or as a snack. Stevia's leaf is estimated to be 150 to 300 times sweeter than refined sugar.

    M. S. Bertoni, in the late 1800s, was the first European to document stevia. In 1931, French chemists extracted stevioside from the herb in the form of an intensely sweet, white crystalline compound. The herb was then considered for use as a sweetener during the food shortages experienced by Britain during World War II. However, interest waned when sugar again became available.

    Since this time, stevia has been used extensively in many Asian and South American countries, but the USA, Canada, Australia and Europe have not embraced the herb as a sweetener, opting either for sugar from readily available sugar cane or sugar beet, or for aspartame-based and other artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute.

    A Success Record in Asia

    Stevia is widely used throughout the Asian region. It has been considered safe for use in food for many years. In fact, the situation is quite the reverse of that in the USA, Canada, Europe and Australia. Many artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are illegal in Asian countries because of safety concerns. Companies using substances like aspartame in the USA, etc., are using stevia in Asia.

    In Japan, companies like Sunkist and Nestlé use stevia as a sweetener. Coca-Cola uses stevia in Japan for its Diet Coke, as the herb is non-caloric. A combined Australian university/government report states that "Japan is by far the most advanced country in the use and understanding of Stevia in its application in the food and pharmaceutical industries". At present, the stevia industry in Japan is endeavouring to obtain Codex Alimentarius approval of steviosides. Interestingly, there have been no unfavourable health reports regarding stevia in Japan in the past 30 years.

    China has been using stevia since 1985. Shanghai City's Director of the Health Supervisory Institute was quoted in the Shanghai Star as saying, "over the past 17 years there hasn't been any documented case of the sweetener causing ill effects".

    Stevia's Positive Health Effects

    Studies have found some positive effects and possible medical uses of stevia. A University of Illinois, College of Dentistry paper, published in 1992, found that stevioside, though an intense natural sweetener, is not cariogenic, according to their data. A Japanese study from Nihon University, published in late 2002, revealed that the use of stevioside on skin tumours in mice inhibited the promoting effect of chemically induced inflammation.

    Taiwanese studies showed the possibility of stevia's use for blood pressure regulation. A study undertaken on rats at Taipei Medical University, and published in 2002, showed that stevioside lowered blood pressure. The other study, published in 2000, was undertaken on humans by Taipei Medical College and concluded that "oral stevioside is a well-tolerated and effective modality that may be considered as an alternative or supplementary therapy for patients with hypertension".

    Natural therapists have been using stevia for many years to regulate blood sugar levels. The herb can be taken in droplet form with meals, bringing blood glucose levels to "near normal".

    Users of stevia have also reported lower incidence of colds and flu. The herb can aid in weight loss by reducing appetite and can be used to suppress tobacco and alcohol cravings. Stevia leaf also contains various vitamins and minerals including vitamins A and C, zinc, rutin, magnesium and iron.

    Stevia has been used in South America for years as a treatment for diabetes. It has also been suggested that it can aid people to get off insulin. It has been used topically on skin cancers and to treat candidiasis.

    It can be applied to enhance the skin's appearance or to heal acne and other blemishes and skin disorders including dermatitis, eczema and seborrhoea. Stevia can be used to heal cuts and scratches quickly and without scarring.

    Brian Morley is a natural therapist with a biochemistry background, working in Brisbane, Australia. Morley uses stevia on patients as he says it "assists the liver in controlling blood sugar levels in the body". He says that refined sugar has a negative effect on the liver and can cause chronic fatigue and immune deficiency syndrome. Combined with bilberry, stevia can also aid sugar cravings. Morley uses stevia in a "nectar form" that has been vacuum distilled, nitrogen dried and crystallised so as not to destroy any goodness.

    Stevia's Uses in Food Preparation

    Stevioside is suitable for cooking purposes as it is heat stable, unlike artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. However, it is unsuitable for certain confectionary such as fudge or icing as it lacks bulk.

    Stevioside is not legal in Canada, and the only legal way of obtaining stevia is by purchasing it as a herb. In Australia and New Zealand, the situation according to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is that stevia leaf may be sold as a food. However, extractable components of the plant, such as stevioside, are not legal.

    The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) was set up by the Australian government "to work closely with Australian rural industries on the organisation and funding of their R&D needs". Professor David Midmore and Andrew Rank put together a report for RIRDC in 2002 on the possibility of "A new rural industry--Stevia--to replace imported chemical sweeteners". The study was jointly funded by RIRDC and Central Queensland University.

    The report refers to Canadian researchers' findings that 50 hectares of stevia could produce sweetener equivalent to one million dollars' worth of sugar. This "in Australia would require 240 hectares of cane to grow, i.e., productivity in terms of sweetness equivalent per hectare is high". It notes it will be necessary to "develop production and processing practices that result in acceptable financial returns to growers" yet a competitively priced end-product.

    Environmental considerations are also positive in regard to stevia as an industry in a dry continent like Australia. Primary producers could benefit because the crop would offer "greater diversification opportunity and returns per megalitre of irrigation water". Insects do not appear to be of concern to stevia. There are some possible diseases "which do not appear to be a major problem", according to the report, and "spraying for control is sometimes undertaken".

    David Midmore says that Australia is ready for stevia. "The time is right for large-scale production, provided we can ensure that production practices are suitable (e.g., mechanical harvesting) and that it will be grown in the correct locations (weather-wise)."

    According to the report, it is expected that "consumer demand for natural sweeteners will escalate" as Australians become more health conscious and as "the incidence of diabetes in Australia and abroad" grows. It is also suggested that stevia could be marketed "in conjunction with sugar" to produce low-calorie products.

    A Sweet Future for Stevia

    Stevia has had a long history of use as a natural sweetener and a medicinal aid. It is heat stable, non-caloric and can be used by diabetics.

    However, the US FDA has had a questionable relationship with the herb, and issues have been raised over the safety of the stevioside extract. Yet, no adverse health effects have ever been reported or documented, including in Asia where the herb is used extensively as a sweetener. Stevia shows great potential for the future, in agriculture and as a food.

  2. klutzo

    klutzo New Member

    I hope more people with carbo addictions will take the time to read this. Please keep bumping it up!
    i have used stevia for about ten years now, and without it I would never have been able to keep yeastie-beasties at bay, and stick to high protein/low carb eating,since I have such a sweet tooth.
    I had read that the main reason stevia is not available as a sweetner in the US, but has to be sold as an herb, is because of the powerful aspartame lobby. As consumers, we should all be angry about this.
  3. pam_d

    pam_d New Member

    Stevia WOULD be approved as a sweetener, if not for the mighty aspartame/Monsanto lobby......I love stevia, use it in my tea every day!

  4. scottabir

    scottabir New Member

    I have completely eliminated sugar from my diet and in place I am using Stevia and/or vegetable glycerine. I am starting to feel so much better now that my blood sugar is not going way up and than way down. For the first time in my life my blood sugar is staying consistant. Also, I recently made a Carob cake with carob frosting using stevia and oh my it was good. The best part was not feeling ill an hour later!!

    [This Message was Edited on 06/11/2003]
  5. Plantscaper

    Plantscaper New Member

    Would like to find a cheaper source, though... as I am, now drinking lots of green tea..even found some decaffeinated, today, at the grocery store..I also bought some Xylitol, which has more carbs, but fewer, than sugar and can be used in baking, if one ever gets to eat any baked goods....
  6. Mikie

    Mikie Moderator

    I have used Stevia, but I find it does have an aftertaste and does not taste the same as sugar. I believe it is a very healthy alternative to artificial sweetners and sugar. You can buy it in granular or liquid form at the healthfood store.

    Love, Mikie
  7. Chrissy2

    Chrissy2 New Member

    Thanks for the info - I'm going to have to try this =)
  8. debbiem31

    debbiem31 New Member

    I bought the Stevia from a company who claims there's hardly any aftertaste (Sweevia). I spent $16 on it with shipping and ended up giving it to my best friend to use. I absolutely hated it!! I must add, though, that I'm not a fan of any artificial sweetener because of the aftertaste they all have. My friend, however, usually uses Equal, so she's used to the aftertaste. She has no problem with the Stevia. I'm just glad my money didn't get totally wasted!
  9. TaniaF

    TaniaF Member

    Been cutting my recipes and using only brown sugar, or natural sugar vs white granulated sugar. Been thinking about stevia---heard some many plus things about it. How do you bake? Are there recipes to make cake or cookies with it, or is xylitol or just unrefined sugar a better way. I'm not a big sweet eater, but my family does like a dessert, like oatmeal cookies or vanilla cupcakes. Anyone with baking success with stevia and where do you get the recipes for the change?
  10. pinkquartz

    pinkquartz New Member

    i tried to buy stevia last year and was very disappointed to find out we are not allowed to buy it here in the U.K.

    any ideas as to how we might get access to this herb ?

  11. Mikie

    Mikie Moderator

    I have not tried it for this yet, but I have tried it in other things. It is not five times as sweet as sugar, as she claims, but I find it about three times as sweet. The SomerSweet can even be carmelized like sugar.

    There has been some controversy over the length of testing done on this sweetner, but since its FDA approval two years ago, none of the animals in the tests have developed any problems, so it is probably as safe as most things. I find it does have a bit of an aftertaste.

    Splenda is the only thing I have tried which doesn't leave me with an after taste; however, it is made with chlorine which isn't really good for us and some are allergic to it.

    Love, Mikie
  12. debbiem31

    debbiem31 New Member

    SUGAR!!! Yeah, yeah, I know that a lot of people here can't/won't eat sugar, but that IS the only sweetener without an aftertaste...
  13. kalina

    kalina New Member

    I am a recovering sugar addict. :)

    I tried to cut calories by using NutraSweet until I read about the awful things it could do to our bodies.So I switched to Stevia a few months ago. At first, I hated the taste, but as I eased off the sugar, the Stevia started tasting better and better. Now I love it! It tastes great in iced tea (decaf of course).

  14. kar1953

    kar1953 New Member

    I ordered 2 Stevia plants from a company I believe is in CA. I was so excited when they arrived. I planted them in my herb garden, nutrured them & only harvested a little that first year. They were supposed to winter over, well one didn't make it. The other didn't make it through the next winter. I was really dissapointed. When making iced tea, I'd just go out & snip a leaf, bruise it a little & stir it in the pitcher & it was great! Might try again someday. I dried some also, but who wants green crushed things floating in their tea.

    I also got a sample of white stevia. Looks just like sugar, and came in little packets. I also have the liquid form although I think it is REALLY sweet & usually end up using too much & then don't like it.

    The only problem is the aftertaste. Although the fresh leaf had less of an aftertaste. Might try container planting & bring into my sunroom to overwinter.

    Anyway, take care.........Kathi
  15. Dayle

    Dayle New Member

    Good News something that I use is also good for me.
  16. smoke

    smoke New Member

    Can someone post the address or link to where I can check into getting a plant or two so I can give this a try? I have read on this site for 6 months or longer but have only replied once or twice. Keep up the good work, you people are wonderful.

  17. kar1953

    kar1953 New Member

    I keep a gardening file on my herbs so I will try to remember (I just wrote myself a note) to check & see if I still have the shipping info. Sometimes if the company offers a guarantee I keep the shipping invoice. And since I don't clean out my files very often, I may still have it. I'll check tomorrow.

    Take care.......Kathi
  18. kar1953

    kar1953 New Member

    I always knew ignoring my file cabinet would come in handy someday! I found the name & address of the company where you can buy the plants. I thought they were in CA. Boy was I off. They're in CT. I don't know if I'm allowed to put their namen & address on this site, so if anyone wants it, my email is in my profile, just email me & I'll send it to you. Might get a couple more myself & try the container thing.

    Take care........Kathi
  19. Mikie

    Mikie Moderator

    You can mention the company here if you want. It's also OK to give their phone number.

    Love, Mikie
  20. lilwren

    lilwren New Member

    The organic are a little more expensive, but I already have so many toxic issues I don't want to take any chances. Lingles Herbs in in Long Beach, California. You can order on-line at their web site. It's linglesherbs and a dot com. My stevia plant is doing good so far - hope I don't lose it this winter.

    Happy herb growing guys.

    Sharon L
    [This Message was Edited on 05/04/2003]