Other names of Stevia: Sweet leaf, sugar leaf

Useful Parts of the Plant: Leaves

Stevia is considered a replacement for sugar because it is extremely sweet. The herb is extensively grown and harvested in order to be used as a substitute for sugar. To maintain the sweetness of the herb, there is careful selective cultivation of the herb. The sweetness of the herb stems from the chemical known as stevioside. Stevioside is about 300 times sweeter tasting than sugar. This chemical is extracted from the leaves of the plant and has chemical properties similar to those of sucrose. Due to its sweetness, stevia is used in a lot of everyday products such as confectionery, soft drinks, and table sugar. This is an excellent alternative for diabetics, who can consume small quantities of stevia, without raising the glucose levels in their blood.

Nutritional Information and Properties

Nutritionally, there is not much to be said about stevia. However, there are several documented properties of the sweet tasting herb. While stevia can be used as a substitute of sugar, it is also used for its anti-microbial properties. Stevia also has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties. Apart from that, it is also anti-inflammatory, and it can be used both internally as well as externally for the treatment of inflammation. Stevia can also be used for its anti-yeast properties. Apart from this, stevia is also hypoglycemic and has diuretic properties. It is also a vasodilator, a tonic, a cardio tonic and is hypotensive. Since it contains no calories and has chemical properties much different than glucose, stevia is an ideal replacement for sugar for diabetics.

Health Benefits and Therapeutic Uses

  • For centuries, the stevia plant has been used in preparation of various sweet dishes. Since the leaves are sweet, they have been used for making herbal and therapeutic teas by various tribal cultures, especially the Native Americans.
  • Stevia is also used for improving hair health and reducing dandruff. You can use stevia concentrates for dryness and itching in the scalp. It can also be used to improve dry, dull and thin hair. Using the concentrate regularly can help you improve your hair texture and make them stronger. Stevia tea can be used as a conditioner to improve both scalp and hair health. It can also help you retain the color of your hair for longer.
  • The most well-known use of stevia is its use as an alternative to refined sugar. Researches have shown that stevia can help you metabolize sugar and therefore, stabilize sugar levels in your blood. It can also help improve insulin resistance, therefore helping diabetics regulate their symptoms and manage their condition.
  • Stevia leaves and concentrate can be used for the treatment of gingivitis. Its antibacterial properties can help keep the gums healthy by eliminating bacteria from your mouth, teeth and gums. Stevia concentrate can also help you inhibit growth of plaque on your teeth. Toothpastes with stevia additives can help you take care of the health of your teeth.
  • Stevia tea, made from steeping the leaves of the herb, can be used to soothe indigestion and an upset stomach. It can also help prevent other gastrointestinal conditions.
  • Stevia concentrates can also be used for the treatment of hypertension and high blood pressure. Long-term use of stevia can help prevent and control hypertension. Though it helps lower elevated blood pressure levels only slightly, studies have shown that it does help in controlling the condition.
  • Stevia may also have some beneficial effects in the treatment of osteoporosis. Though there is no evidence from human studies, studies performed on poultry animals have shown that the herb can help improve bone formation and reduce bone degeneration.

Other Uses

Medical research has shown that you can use stevia for weight loss. Replacing sugar with stevia can help metabolize glucose in the body and aid weight loss efforts.