Stevia is a plant native to South America. It grows naturally in South America and is now found as far north as the Southwest region of North America.
The stevia plant is a small perennial shrub that is related to the sunflower. Its scientific name is Eupatorium Rebaudianum, but is more colloquially known as sweetleaf, honeyleaf, and sugarleaf.
The leaves were used for centuries as a sweetener and health aide. In the 1930s, two French scientists isolated the ‘sweetness’ glycosides in the Stevia plant, naming them stevioside and rebaudioside. This research made way for the stevia options now available from concentrate, extracts, tea bags, and packets.
Nutritional and Health Benefits
Stevia has a lot of nutrition going for it while being calorie free. Stevia contains calcium, protein, phosphorous, sodium, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.
Stevia is 2-3 times sweeter than cane sugar, so even if it wasn’t calorie free, it would still offer a benefit of using less sweetener per smoothie or cup of tea.
Stevia concentrate, used as a direct additive to your shampoo, has been known to relieve dandruff, dry scalp, and dull, dry, and brittle hair. Simply add 3-4 drops of the concentrate to your shampoo. Or condition your hair with stevia tea, letting it sit for 5 minutes.
Hypertension, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease
The World Health Organization evaluated Stevia in 2006. Their findings indicated that Stevia had a positive effect on people with hypertension by lowering blood pressure and those with Type-2 diabetes by stabilizing blood sugar.
Stevia has no glycemic value making it a useful alternative sweetener for those with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Stevia promotes pancreatic health and inhibits the growth of candidiasis (yeast), which is a symptomatic of diabetes.
Due to Stevia’s ‘no-calorie’ claim to fame, and obvious health benefits, it is the perfect sweetener for dieters. Stevia has been shown to curb cravings for oily or fatty foods and to generally curb hunger. Stevia’s ability to control blood sugar levels assists in maintaining a healthy weight.
Stevia also has a tonic effect by boosting energy levels without the fast and hard crash of cane sugar.
For weight-loss endeavors drink a tea made with Stevia leaves, teas bags, or extract:
Heat one cup of water (do not boil) and steep a stevia tea bag or 1 tsp of leaves or 3-4 drops of extract for 5-7 minutes. Drink 2-3 times a day, preferably 15 minutes before a meal.
Tooth and Mouth Health
Stevia has antibacterial properties that promote a health mouth and teeth. It inhibits gingivitis, cavities, tooth decay, and mouth sores. Stevia inhibits the growth of bacteria that causes these health issues according to the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Illinois.
To promote overall health of your mouth and teeth, rinse with a Stevia mouthwash. To make the mouthwash, add 3 drops of Stevia extract into a ½ cup of lukewarm water. Use daily.
Indigestion and Heartburn
Drink a stevia tea after any meal to relive gas and indigestion and to ease digestion. This use of a stevia tea after meals is a time honored tradition in Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay.
Stevia can assist in the increased metabolism of calcium and improve bone density. This is great news from osteoporosis sufferers. To use stevia to promote bone health the suggested remedy is:
Mix ½ teaspoon alfalfa, vitamin d powder, and stevia in a hot cup of water, allowing it to steep for 5-7 minutes. Drink twice a day.
Eating or Cooking with Stevia
Steve is a delightfully sweet, no-calorie way to enhance a juice or smoothie per your preference.
Cooking with Stevia can, at first, add an interesting challenge. While Stevia doesn’t degrade under heat, it also doesn’t caramelize. Because of Stevia’s intense sweetness, baking with it means you need to add bulk to the recipe that cane sugar used to provide. Add yogurt, a nutmeal, crushed fruit or some other filler that makes sense.