Stevia consists of an estimated 240 individual plant species native to South America, Central America, and Mexico but with a few species found as far north as Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Also known as sweet leaf or sweet herb, this family of plants was first researched by Spanish botanist Petrus Stevus, whose surname was Latinized as the name of the genus.
Very limited research was conducted into stevia until 1931 when French chemists first isolated its two most important compounds stevioside and rebaudioside. These substances were heat-stable, pH stable, non-fermentable and 250 times sweeter than sucrose!
By the early 1970s, the Japanese were growing and harvesting stevia on a large scale and marketing it as an alternative to artificial sweeteners then on the market. Since then, it has been used in commercial products marketed by the largest soft drink companies in the world. In the United States, only certain stevia preparations can be used as food additives. Most stevia products are sold as dietary supplements.
Japan still consumes more stevia than any other country, but the plant is also cultivated in Korea, Thailand, parts of South America, China, Israel, and other countries. Some stevia species are found in the wild.
The leaves can be eaten fresh, or put in teas and foods.
- Stevia has been used around the world for centuries.
- Stevia tastes great, has zero calories and is natural.
- Stevia naturally contains diterpene glycosides, stevioside and rebaudioside.
- Stevia is commonly known as sweet leaf or sweet herb.
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