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Health Benefits of Stevia Herbal Sweetener

Updated on June 10, 2014
Chuck Bluestein profile image

At age 16 I was a volunteer at a hospital bacteriology lab. I became a chemist for U.S. government. Then I studied health & related fields.

Stevia Plant or Herb

This is a stevia plant or herb.
This is a stevia plant or herb. | Source
A stevia plantation in Peru.
A stevia plantation in Peru. | Source

Stevia Health Benefits

This was written November 3, 2013. I have been buying stevia in the U.S. and consuming it for over 2 decades. Some articles say that stevia was approved of as a food additive in 2008. This does not apply to the stevia leaf or a crude stevia extract. The FDA says:

FDA has not permitted the use of whole-leaf Stevia or crude Stevia extracts because these substances have not been approved for use as a food additive.

At this writing, FDA has not objected to the use of these highly refined Stevia preparations in food products. Refer to the following Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) notices:

  • Sweet Green Fields1
  • Blue California2
  • McNeil Nutritionals3
  • Cargill4
  • Whole Earth Sweetner/Merisant5

But, these products are not Stevia. In general, Rebaudioside A differs from Stevia in that it is a highly purified product. Products marketed as "Stevia" are whole leaf Stevia or Stevia extracts of which Rebaudioside A is a component.

Stevia is sold as a dietary supplement like many herbs on the market. Stevia was approved of as a food additive in the EU (European Union) in 2011. Cargill sells Truvia that was developed with The Coca-Cola company. Whole Earth Sweetener sells PureVia that is Pepsi-Co's brand of rebaudioside A sweetener that comes from the stevia plant.

With the above, this stops companies from adding stevia to a food but you can still buy stevia as a dietary supplement and use it as a sweetener for your personal use and add it to any food. Heat does not destroy its sweetness.

Wikipedia says about stevia:

Stevia leaves have been used for centuries in South America, spanning multiple generations in ethnomedical tradition as a treatment for diabetes mellitus type 2. Millions of Japanese have been using stevia for over thirty years with no reported or known harmful effects.

Steviol glycosides were first commercialized as a sweetener in 1971 by the Japanese firm Morita Kagaku Kogyo Co., Ltd., a leading stevia extract producer in Japan.

Actually Japan has been using stevia for over 40 years. For 4 decades, they have used it to sweeten their soft drinks. Japan has the longest living people. There are many reasons for this but the main one is that in America you have some health enthusiasts but in Japan the majority of people are health enthusiasts. See Why Are the Japanese the Longest Living People. [webpage down] says:

Stevia is used as a weight loss aid; for treating diabetes, high blood pressure and heartburn; for lowering uric acid levels; for preventing pregnancy; and for increasing the strength of the muscle contractions that pump blood from the heart.

Stevia is most well known for helping the body to keep blood sugar levels stable. Usually a food additive can be sold as a dietary supplement and a dietary supplement can be sold as a food additive. But since stevia was a healthy herbal sweetener it presented a financial danger to giant soft drink companies.

They were aware of this danger since it had been doing so well in Japan for decades. The Japanese had figured out how to get rid of the licorice aftertaste. It does require some specific knowledge since if you cut up the leaves and put them in a liquid they do not dissolve just like tea leaves do not dissolve in hot water.

The company that I was buying it from was a billion dollar American company selling Chinese herbal products. The owner was from Taiwan and had a huge knowledge of Chinese herbs. He used to work in the labs of the herbal company know as Nature's Way.

He then started his own company selling Chinese herbal combinations but he took the time to learn how to process the stevia. They have the stevia with the aftertaste for full herbal benefits and also have it without the aftertaste. I always buy the one with the aftertaste.

Many people were buying the stevia as a dietary supplement and using it as a sweetener so what the U.S. FDA did was they made it illegal for internal uses. So what this billion dollar company did was they sold the stevia liquid with a small container of clay and when they were mixed you had a facial mask. It said on it "NOT FOR INTERNAL USE."

So these people using it as a sweetener kept buying it and would just throw away the clay. Many people in this company got many health benefits from stevia like better sleep. Now this is not mentioned as a health benefit by WebMD but this may have been a side effect of having a better balance of blood sugar.

Here is an ABC News article called Goodbye Tobacco, Hello Stevia, Say Tobacco Growers. It tells about tobacco growers growing less tobacco and more stevia. It says:

Proponents call stevia the "holy grail" of sweeteners, perfect for people looking to slim down but not wanting to resort to artificial sweeteners. Its effect on blood sugar is negligible, they say, making it well suited to people on a carbohydrate-restricted diet.

Stevia First says that according to a World Health Organization projection, stevia could eventually replace 20 percent to 30 percent of all dietary sweeteners now in use. The size of that market in 2010 was estimated by the WHO to be more than $58 billion.

Now many Americans have many concerns about stevia since it is so new here. But if they went to Japan and expressed them, the Japanese would look at the Americans as being very backward. It would be like people who lived in the jungle and came to America and had many concerns about using modern plumbing and electricity.

The WebMD article did not mention the antibacterial properties of stevia and as far as using it as a facial mask, stevia is good for the skin. Even though the company with Chinese herbal combinations has been selling it since 1980, another company with Amazon rainforest herbal combinations has been selling stevia since 1990.

It is probably because of this antibacterial effect that it helps to prevent tooth decay and cavities according to the dentists in Japan. So stevia has many health benefits.

This latter company has an anti-aging product that has 4 different herbs in it and it is taken as a capsule so the taste does not matter. Stevia is one of these 4 herbs so it helps with anti-aging. Although one of the effects of aging is for the blood sugar regulation to not be as good as you get older. High blood sugar has many bad effects on the body also.

Ray Sahelian M.D. has been using stevia for the last 15 years with no problems. He says this on the video below.

Stevia sweetener, liquid, powder, packets, safety, benefit and side effects by Dr. Ray Sahelian (M.D.)

What is Stevia?


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