Stevia Herbal Medicine

Stevia Health Benefits, Side Effects and Uses

What is Stevia is a natural sweetener, sweeter than sugar without the calories. It is considered as food flavoring with health benefits....(more)
Stevia Leaf

What is Stevia

Scientific Name : Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni

Other Names:  candy leaf, sweet honey leaf, sweet leaf,  Yerba dulce (Spanish), Tian ju ye (China)

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni ) is a plant best known as a natural source of sweeteners. Stevia has long been used by the natives of South America to sweeten their food and as herbal medicine. Stevia has since found its way all throughout America and Europe as a natural alternative to sugar.  Early in the 20th Century, Stevia has gone through a lot of controversy. Some studies suggest that Stevia can cause side effects that include cancer. However, Stevia lately gained popularity when the United States FDA has approved its commercial use in 2008 that begun its wide use as food additive in many food products.

What is Stevia?

Stevia is considered many times sweeter than sugar but without calories. Because of this characteristic Stevia is preferred by health buffs who are watching sugar and calories intake. Stevia became a popular flavour enhancer with healthy benefits for those who want to lose weight, those suffering from diabetes, hypertension, and heart problems. Crude stevia leaves is about 10 to 15 times sweeter than sugar, while the stevia extract is about 200 to 300 times sweeter. Stevia tends to leave a licorice-like after taste.

Plant Description:

Stevia is an annual perennial shrub that grows about .5 m tall and has leaves 2-3 cm long. Stevia flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects. Stevia belongs to the sunflower family (Asteraceae), which is indigenous to South America. Stevia has since been commercially cultivated in Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico, Israel, Thailand, China and regions throughout the world.

Stevia Folkloric Health Benefits

Although Stevia has long been used by the natives of South America as food sweetener, flavour enhancer for sour tasting medicine as well as herbal medicine.

Traditioinal Health Benefits of Stevia

  • Stevia is as used as herbal medicine to treat hypertension, diabetes, hypoglycaemia, heart burn and heart problems.
  • Stevia is used as diuretic and to lower uric acid levels
  • Other health benefits from Stevia herbal medicine include prevention of tooth cavities and treatment of skin wounds.
  • Stevia herbal mediicne is also used to provide health benefits to people suffering from depression, fatigue, obesity, sweet craving and infections.

Potential Health Benefits of Stevia based on Research

Potential Anti-hypertensive Health Benefits of Stevia

The Division of Cadiovascular Medicine in Taipei Wan Fang Hospital studied the effects of intravenous stevioside (compound found in stevia) on the blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Results have shown that the hypotensive effect on both systolic and diastolic blood pressure was dose-dependent for intravenous doses of 50, 100 and 200 mg/kg. The maximum reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure were 31.4 +/- 4.2% and 40.8 +/- 5.6% (mean +/- SEM) respectively and the hypotensive effect lasted for more than 60 min with a dose of 200 mg/kg. The study suggests that stevioside given intravenously to conscious SHR was effective in blood pressure reduction. (Source: Life Sciences, 1998)

Antioxidant, Anti-diabetic and Renal Protective Health Benefits of Stevia rebaudiana.

The Defence Food Research Laboratory, Mysore, India, studied the effects of stevia leaves and its extracted polyphenols and fibers on streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Results have shown a reduction of blood glucose, ALT and AST, and increment of insulin level in the stevia whole leaves powder and extracted polyphenols fed rats compared to control diabetic group. Stevia also reduced the MDA concentration in liver and improved its antioxidant status through antioxidant enzymes. Glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity were likewise improved. Kidney damage due streptozotocin was also alleviated. The study further suggests that stevia leaves do have a significant role in alleviating liver and kidney damage in the STZ-diabetic rats besides its hypoglycemic effect. (Source: Journal of Diabetes and its Complications. March 2013)

Potential Anti-cancer Health Benefits of Stevioside Against Human Breast Cancer Cells

The Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Kalyani, India, conducted an experiment to determine if stevioside (compound found in stevia) has anti-cancer activity. The cytotoxicity, induction of apotosis, and putative pathways of its action was investigated in human breast cancer cells. Results have shown that stevioside was a potent inducer of apoptosis and it conveyed the apoptotic signal via intracellular ROS generation. This study showed that stevioside has promising effects on stress-related transcription factors like NF-E2-related factor-2 which suggests further investigation.  (Source: Journal of Nutrition and Cancer, 2012)

Potential Antituberculosis Health Benefits of Stevia Rebaudiana

Synthesized derivatives of compound found in stevia rebaudiana were investigated if it has antitubercular activity. Results have shown that the compounds and their synthetic derivatives inhibit the growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (H37Rv in vitro). The antitubercular activity of synthesized stevia compound is higher than Pyrizanamide, a known antitubercolis drug but lower than the activity of antitubercular drug Isoniazid. (Source: Bioorganicheskaia Khimiia. July 2011)

Antibacterial Health Benefits from Stevia triflora

The Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Los Andes in Venezuela. Investigated the antimicrobial activity of aerial parts of stevia triflora against several strains of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and the yeast Candida albicans, using the agar diffusion method. Results have shown that it exhibited moderated activity against Corynebacterium diphtheria, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Candida albicans. To a lesser degree, octaacetylombuoside and retusine showed activity against the Gram-positive bacteria C. diphtheria and S. aureus, but proved to be inactive against Gram-negative bacteria and Candida albicans. (Source: Annales Pharmaceutiques Francaises, 1997)

Evaluation of the cariogenic potential of the intense natural sweeteners stevioside and rebaudioside A.

The Department of Pediatric Dentistry,  University of Illinois, Chicago studied the the compounds stevioside and rebaudioside A, found in Stevia rebaudiana,  for cariogenicity in albino Sprague-Dawley rats. Four groups of rats were given different dosage of stevia compounds and were sacrificed after 5 weeks of treatment. Results were evaluated using S. sobrinus counts and caries scores were evaluated according to Keyes' technique. There were no differences in food and water intake and weight gains between the four groups. There were significant differences in sulcal caries scores (p < 0.02) and S. sobrinus counts (p < 0.05) between group 1 and the other three groups. There were no significant differences between the stevioside, rebaudioside A and no-addition groups. It was concluded that neither stevioside nor rebaudioside A is cariogenic under the conditions of this study.(Source: Caries Research, 1992)

Side Effects of Stevia, Warnings and Cotraindications

The USFDA rated Stevia as (GRAS) generally recognized as safe food additive.

Some people may feel the following side effects upon intake of stevia or stevioside: bloating, nausea, dizziness, numbness and muscle pain.

Another side effect of Stevia is that it may cause allergic reaction to people sensitive to the Asteraceae family of plants. This family includes ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds and daisies.

High dosage of Stevia leaf (more than sweetening purposes) may have hypoglycemic side effect. Stevia can lower blood glucose level when taken at large amount. Caution is advised to those taking antidiabetic medications.

High dosage of Stevia leaf (more than sweetening purposes) may have hypotensive side effect. Stevia can lower blood pressure level when taken at large amount. Caution is advised to those taking antihypertensive medications.

In a study done in College of Pharmacy, Nihon University, Japanese scientists observed that one specific Stevia compound, stevioside was transformed to another molecule by a bacteria present in lab rats' stomachs. This new compound exhibited mutagenic side effects that can cause cancer. However, results were inconclusive and it is unclear how these findings extrapolate to humans.

Side Effects during Pregnancy and Breast Feeding

Not enough is known about the use of stevia during pregnancy and breast-feeding. It is wise to avoid using stevia during pregnancy and breast feeding.

Stevia Preparation and Availability

How to prepare crude stevia powder?

  1. Gather fresh leaves and wash with water
  2. Let it dry in a clean, dark and dry area
  3. Grind the dried leaves to powder
  4. Keep in dry, well sealed container
  5. Generally, powdered stevia is 10 to 15 times sweeter than table sugar
  6. One grounded Stevia leaf is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of white sugar.
  7. One teaspoon of stevia is equivalent to 1 cup of sugar.

Stevia powder

How to prepare fresh Stevia tea or decoction?

  1. Gather fresh leaves of stevia and wash with water
  2. Make a tea ball and let it boil in a liter of water.
  3. Can be mixed with food for flavoring.
  4. Decoction made from Stevia leaves  taken 1 cup, three times a day for diabetes, obesity and hypertension treatment.

How do I use Stevia?

While the raw or crude stevia leaves and powder may be about 10 to 15 times sweeter than sugar. Take note that the purified extract form of stevia is more potent, about 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar depending on the extraction process. Try in small amounts first to determine the right ratio.

Where can I buy Stevia?

Stevia are usually available in most grocery stores in the natural food section, it can be bought in bulk or in processed form.

Stevia liquid extrract and powder are also available in most herbal and health stores.

Look for standardized extracts or concentrated extracts to help insure sufficient activity. If you are in US, Canada or UK, where health shops selling Stevia may not be available. provides an alternative. look for products that have favorable customers reviews such as Kal Pure Stevia Extract and Spoonable Stevia. Take time to read the reviews and you will find many helpful suggestions.

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