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What is Stevia? - a Natural Herbal Alternative to Saccharine and Aspartamine

Updated on July 8, 2018
Diana Grant profile image

I am interested in the world around me, human rights, current affairs, psychology, law, justice, and philosophical and ethical questions

About Stevia, a Herbal Product

After finding out that Stevia is a natural product, derived from a herb, I thought I would do a little more research, and then share my knowledge with you.

If you want all the scientific detail about Stevia, you will find it on the internet, and this is just a simplified version to inform you without boring you with technicalities.

This is What a Spoonful of Commercial Stevia Looks Like:

It looks like sugar, but more powdery
It looks like sugar, but more powdery | Source

Much of the information in this resume about Stevia derives from a much more complex article in Wikipedia and various research papers linked to that article. I am not an expert, but I am good at summarising what I have read.

I hope you'll find it helpful.

Have You Come Across the New Kid on the Block Yet?

To be precise, I'm referring to the new sweetener - Stevia:

I noticed Stevia on the supermarket shelves in London for the first time in 2012, and recently bought a packet - My particular product is called Pure Via.

This is What a Box of Pure Via Stevia Looks Like

What Does Stevia Taste Like?

I tried it and thought the taste was a bit strong, so I mixed it with sugar, half-and-half. But recently I have used Stevia on its own, and, although it tastes “different”, I persevered, in order to become accustomed to its flavour, just as I have been used to the flavour of Hermesetas which I have been using for most of my life.

Stevia and a Bowl of Sugar - I Sometimes Combine the Two

Stevia is more powdery than sugar
Stevia is more powdery than sugar | Source

Useful But Not Very Tasty

Eventually I did give up using Stevia on its own, as I couldn't get used to the taste - I just didn't like it.

But I've now been using the half-and-half sugar combined with Stevia mixture for well over two years, and I don't think twice about it now.

So that's cut down my sugar consumption by over half, and it seems to be fine in cooking.

But I Still Use Hermesetas in Herbal Tea - the Flavour I've Known for Sixty Years

I have always used Hermesetas
I have always used Hermesetas | Source

My Own Opinion About Stevia?

Stevia is not as nice as sugar, and although it has a sweetish flavor, the sweetness is somehow different from sugar. But if, like me, you have a sweet tooth, not to mention Type 2 Diabetes, it's well worth foregoing sugar at least to some extent, in order to have a healthier diet.

My diabetes is entirely diet-controlled, and my blood sugar levels have much improved since I was first diagnosed two or three years ago. I haven't cut sweet things out of my life completely, but I have cut down considerably, and I am very careful to see that I have enough of the other things which help the condition. I've noticed since I have stopped eating so much sweet stuff that when I do overdo it, I suffer from that very unpleasant tingling in my feet and legs known as restless leg syndrome. I've lost about 10 lbs. in weight, and haven't had restless leg syndrome for a few weeks now, which I can categorically put down to eating less sugar.


Stevia Rebaudiana, Cultivated Under Glass

Source

There are About 240 Species of the Plant Called Stevia

The herb Stevia Rebaudiana originates from South America. The leaves of stevia rebaudiana are much sweeter than normal sugar and can be used to sweeten tea and food.

Stevia is named after a Spanish botanist and physician,Pedro Jaime Esteve, who first researched its use in the 16th Century. Stevia has been used in South America by the indigenous population for over 1,500 years, for medicinal purposes and as a sweetener.


Sugar - the Bitter Truth - This YouTube Video Has Been Watched Over 3 Million Times And Has Over 26,000 Likes

Stevia - Background and Timeline

About forty years ago, it was suspected that artificial sweeteners such as saccharin and cyclamate might be carcinogenic, so Japan began to grow stevia instead, using purified steviosides extracted from the leaves, and the first commercial stevia sweetener was developed commercially in 1971. They used it to sweeten food and soft drinks.

Stevia was approved by the U.S. FDA (the Food and Drug Administration) to be Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in 2009 and by the EU (European Union) as fit for use as a food additive in 2011, coming onto the market in 2009 in the USA and only in December 2011 in the UK.

Stevioside and rebaudioside A extracted from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni have traditionally been used in South America to assist in treating diabetes and it has been found that stevioside stimulates insulin secretion and that rebaudioside A may treat type 2 diabetes mellitus.

It is likely that the refined form of stevia can help in the reduction of hypertension and evaluations are still being conducted. And a study in 2009 indicated that “stevioside and related compounds have anti-hyperglycemic, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-diarrheal, diuretic, and immunomodulatory actions”.

Here's Some Good News - I've Just Bought Halva Sweetened With Stevia and it Tasted Fine

I think it's a new product - I  bought it from a Greek shop in North London
I think it's a new product - I bought it from a Greek shop in North London | Source

Take This Poll About Sweetemers

Do you use sweeteners, and, if so, what do you use?

See results

Do Leave a Comment - It's Good to Know People's Opinions

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    • Diana Grant profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      22 months ago from London

      Worth a try

    • profile image

      Candy Dorsey 

      2 years ago

      I don't use any sweeteners at all, but I often wondered what Stevia was all about. Thanks for the article.

    • profile image

      Olivia 

      2 years ago

      I have used Stevia and Hermesetas and I can't get used to the taste of stevia either. I gave up using sweeteners altogether. When I bake, I use sugar and I dont bake often.....

    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      2 years ago from Canada

      I know sugar is a horror on our cells but I admit that I still use it. I don't drink pop or use sugar in my hot beverages so my main consumption of it is in baked goods. I try to reduce the amount that goes in there too.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 

      3 years ago from USA

      I have a stevia plant I have in my garden right now. I like to pick off the fresh leaves and use it in tea. The fresh leaves aren't as potent as the dried ones though. It doesn't seem to have taken off in the US like elsewhere.

    • Diana Grant profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      3 years ago from London

      I never thought of actually growing and using it from your own garden. Intriguing!

    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 

      3 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      I changed over to stevia a few months ago. I have a stevia plant in my little herb garden, and have dried and ground green stevia. It is very, very sweet, but the tiny green pieces float in my coffee. There are some recipes that call for green stevia, so I think I'll save it for those. I have decided to try to learn how to extract the oils from the stevia leaves to make the white powdered or granualar form that will dissolve in coffee and tea. Wish me luck.

    • profile image

      Kayli 

      3 years ago

      You know what, I'm very much inlncied to agree.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      3 years ago from New Zealand

      These was very interesting. I have never heard of Stevia and had no idea until I read it, a sweetener, I would never have guess it. I always use sugar, have no weight problems so I will stay with it for now. Thanks for sharing, next time I see that name I will know what it is.

    • profile image

      Carolyn Marttin 

      3 years ago

      I have been using the Truvia brand of stevia for several years. I love it. I don't find the taste much different from sugar at all. Although I don't add it to anything, I still get some Splenda in products I purchase, and use real sugar in baking.

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 

      4 years ago from London

      Nicely written and informative hub. Been aware of sugar's health damaging effects I came across stevia as a natural alternative. Thanks for sharing this important hub! Voted and shared!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 

      4 years ago from Georgia

      I only recently discovered stevia - it does take some getting used to, but if it's a healthier alternative sweetener, I'm willing to adapt to it. Sugar is my enemy! Voted up and interesting and I will be following you from here on out!

    • Diana Grant profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      5 years ago from London

      Stevia is only just becoming popular in the UK.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 

      5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Stevia is very popular here in Peru. We get our supply from Bolivia. I've also become accustomed to the flavor and enjoy a daily lemonade sweetened with stevia. I enjoyed reading how stevia came into the knowledge of the general public. Thanks for compiling this for us!

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