Stevia - A Natural Herbal Sweetener

Stevia is a natural herbal sweetener, made from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana, a shrub native to Paraguay. It is 10 to 15 times more sweet than sucrose (table sugar) in its natural form, a green powder. Its natural sweeting does not cause an elevation in blood sugar, according to most experts, and some believe it may even reduce blood sugar. Some scientific research indicates that stevia normalizes blood sugar levels. (Consult your doctor if you are diabetic or hypoglycemic, and ask for information on the studies which are the foundation for their opinion.)

Some claim that it helps with digestion, reduces cravings for food, alcohol or tobacco, helps with various skin conditions, promotes healing of wounds, and has an antimicrobal effect.

Stevia can be used in cooking and baking. It is very stable. Powdered and liquid extracts of stevia (usually clear or white) are very concentrated and have a sweetness 100 to 300 times that of table sugar. Natural stevia (a green powder) is about 10 times as sweet as table sugar, so substitute stevia for sugar in recipes accordingly. Note that stevia, whether powder or liquid, does not carmelize as regular sugar does.

Japan is the largest user of stevia - they use more than 1,000 tons of it annually! Extensive testing there has shown stevia to be a safe product for human consumption, with no reports of toxicity.

Stevia has essentially no calories, so it may be useful in weight control or reduction when used to replace ordinary sugars. Since it can be used in cooking and baking, it is more useful artificial sweeteners. Most health conscious people would agree that it is preferable to artificial sweeteners in any food, regardles of whether or not it is to be cooked.

Commercial products vary, so start with a reliable health food store's recommendations or a standardized, well-known and respected health company's product. There are several books and links below for you to find out more about this amazing natural sweetener.

Books on Stevia at Amazon.

Buy Stevia Powder or Liquid Extract:

Stevia is available at Amazon in powder and liquid extract forms, from several manufacturers. My personal favorite is Stevia Powder by KAL.

Related Links:

Stevia - The Natural Sweetener - HealthWorld Online

Stevia - article at Wikipedia - tells you how to make your own stevia extract (scroll way down the page)
They also have some recipes using stevia.