Origins of Stevia

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Stevia Rebaudiana is a small tender perennial native to Central America, in particular in Brazil and Paraguay area. It is a shrub that grows in sandy places and it reaches 80cm in height in full maturation. It has elongated green leaves with a serrated edge, its flowers are small and white.
Its properties were already known by South American natives. They used it as a sweetener due to the intense sweet taste of the leaves and they benefited also from relaxing and antihypertensive effects. Bertoni, a Paraguayan botanist, was the first scientist who described Stevia properties in 1887:

  • - hypotension but energizing effects
  • - hypoglycaemic effects and regulator of carbohydrate homeostasis
  • - digestive effects
  • - rebalancing effects on skin and mucosa (useful also to preventing dental decay)

Up until now, Stevia is considered one of the best existing medicinal plants. From the leaves of this plant, which are calorie-free but 30 times sweeter than sugar, you can obtain a very sweet concentrated juice. From this juice, you can extract a very sweet white powder (300 times sweeter than sugar). Both juice and minced leaves have a sweet taste with an aromatic aftertaste that remembers liquorice and anise flavors.

In the early 80s, cultivation of Stevia was extended in China to supply Japanese market. Today, we can find plantations in all the south tropical areas with wet weather (15-36°C). At the moment, it is cultivated in 16 countries in 3 continents (Africa, South America and South-East Asia)

This article is translated and taken from the Dr. Dora Dragoni's article "Stevia e Reward Pathway" on www.neuroscienze.net

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