name = "Stevia"

image_width = 240px
image_caption = "Stevia rebaudiana" flowers.
regnum = Plantae
divisio = Magnoliophyta
classis = Magnoliopsida
ordo = Asterales
familia = Asteraceae
tribus = Eupatorieae
genus = "Stevia"
genus_authority = Cav.
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision =About 150 species, including: "Stevia eupatoria" "Stevia ovata" "Stevia plummerae" "Stevia rebaudiana" "Stevia salicifolia" "Stevia serrata"

"Stevia" is a genus of about 240 species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), native to subtropical and tropical South America and Central America. The species "Stevia rebaudiana" Bertoni, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sugar substitute, stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.

With its extracts having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, stevia has garnered attention with the rise in demand for low-carbohydrate, low-sugar food alternatives. Stevia also has shown promise in medical research for treating such conditions as obesity [ [ PubMed research articles related to treatments of obesity] ] and high blood pressure. [ [ PubMed research articles on stevia's effects on blood pressure] ] [ [ PubMed articles on stevia's use in treating hypertension] ] Stevia has a negligible effect on blood glucose, even enhancing glucose tolerance; [cite journal |author=Curi R, Alvarez M, Bazotte RB, Botion LM, Godoy JL, Bracht A |title=Effect of Stevia rebaudiana on glucose tolerance in normal adult humans |journal=Braz. J. Med. Biol. Res. |volume=19 |issue=6 |pages=771–4 |year=1986 |pmid=3651629 |doi= |url=] therefore, it is attractive as a natural sweetener to diabetics and others on carbohydrate-controlled diets. [cite journal
author=Gregersen S, Jeppesen PB, Holst JJ, Hermansen K |title=Antihyperglycemic effects of stevioside in type 2 diabetic subjects |journal=Metab. Clin. Exp. |volume=53 |issue=1 |pages=73–6 |year=2004 |month=Jan |pmid=14681845 |doi= |url=
] However, health and political controversies have limited stevia's availability in many countries; for example, the United States banned it in the early 1990s unless labeled as a supplement. Stevia is widely used as a sweetener in Japan, and it is now available in the US and Canada as a dietary supplement, although not as a food additive. Rebiana is the trade name for a stevia-derived sweetener being developed jointly by The Coca-Cola Company and Cargill with the intent of marketing in several countries and gaining regulatory approval in the US and EU. Truvia is Cargill's consumer brand of Rebiana-based sweetener.

History and use

The genus "Stevia" consists of 240cite web | url = | title = Stevia | work = Flora of North America] species of plants native to South America, Central America, and Mexico, with several species found as far north as Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.cite web | url = | title = Stevia Cav. | work = USDA PLANTS ] Human use of the sweet species originated in South America. For centuries, the Guaraní tribes of Paraguay and Brazil used "Stevia" species, primarily "S. rebaudiana" which they called ka'a he'ê ("sweet herb"), as a sweetener in yerba mate and medicinal teas for treating heartburn and other ailments. The leaves of the stevia plant have 30–45 times the sweetness of sucrose (ordinary table sugar). [ cite press release | title=Opnion on Stevia Rebaudiana plants and leaves | publisher=European Commission Scientific Committee on Food | date=1999-06-17 | url= | format=PDF | accessdate=2008-01-27]

The Swiss botanist Moisés Santiago Bertoni first described the plant and the sweet taste in detail. [cite journal
last = Bertoni
first = Moisés Santiago
authorlink = Moisés Santiago Bertoni
coauthors =
title = .
journal = Revista de Agronomia de l’Assomption
volume = 1
issue =
pages = 35
publisher =
year= 1899
url =
doi =
id =
] But only limited research was conducted on the topic, until in 1931, two French chemists isolated the glycosides that give stevia its sweet taste. [cite journal
last = Bridel
first = M.
authorlink =
coauthors = Lavielle, R.
title = Sur le principe sucre des feuilles de kaa-he-e (stevia rebaundiana B)
journal = Academie des Sciences Paris Comptes Rendus
volume =
issue = Parts 192
pages = 1123–5
publisher =
year= 1931
url =
doi =
id =
] These compounds were named stevioside and rebaudioside, and are 250–300 times sweeter than sucrose, heat stable, pH stable, and non-fermentable. [cite web
last = Brandle
first = Jim
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = FAQ - Stevia, Nature's Natural Low Calorie Sweetener
work =
publisher = Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
date= 2004-08-19
url =
format = HTML
doi =
accessdate = 2006-11-08

The exact structure of the aglycone and the glycoside were published in 1955.

In the early 1970s, Japan began cultivating stevia as an alternative to artificial sweeteners such as cyclamate and saccharin, which are suspected carcinogens. The plant's leaves, the aqueous extract of the leaves, and purified steviosides are used as sweeteners. Since the Japanese firm Morita Kagaku Kogyo Co., Ltd. produced the first commercial stevia sweetener in Japan in 1971, [cite web
title = Stevia
publisher = Morita Kagaku Kogyuo Co., Ltd.
year= 2004
url =
format = HTML
accessdate = 2007-11-06
] the Japanese have been using stevia in food products, soft drinks (including Coca Cola), [cite book
last = [ Taylor]
first = Leslie
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = The Healing Power of Natural Herbs
publisher = Square One Publishers, Inc.
year= 2005
location = Garden City Park, NY
pages = (excerpted at weblink)
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 0-7570-0144-0
] and for table use. Japan currently consumes more stevia than any other country, with stevia accounting for 40% of the sweetener market.cite web
last = Jones
first = Georgia
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Stevia
work =
publisher = NebGuide: University of Nebraska–Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources
month= September | year= 2006
url =
format = HTML
doi =
accessdate = 2007-05-04

Today, stevia is cultivated and used in food elsewhere in east Asia, including in China (since 1984), Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Malaysia. It can also be found in Saint Kitts and Nevis, in parts of South America (Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, and Uruguay) and in Israel. China is the world's largest exporter of stevioside.

Stevia species are found in the wild in semi-arid habitats ranging from grassland to mountain terrain. Stevia does produce seeds, but only a small percentage of them germinate. Planting cloned stevia is a more effective method of reproduction.


Stevia has been grown on an experimental basis in Ontario, Canada since 1987 for the purpose of determining the feasibility of growing the crop commercially. In the United States, it is legal to import, grow, sell, and consume stevia products if contained within or labeled for use as a dietary supplement, but not as a food additive. Stevia has also been approved as a dietary supplement in Australia, New Zealandcite journal
last = Hawke
first = Jenny
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = The Bittersweet Story of the Stevia Herb
journal = Nexus magazine
volume = 10
issue = 2
pages =
publisher =
date= February-March 2003
url =
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2008-07-09
] and Canada. In Japan and South American countries, stevia may also be used as a food additive. Stevia is currently banned for use in food in the European Union.European Commission Scientific Committee on Food (June 1999). [ Opinion on Stevioside as a Sweetener] ] It is also banned in Singapore and Hong Kong.Simon LI (Legislative Council Secretariat Research and Library Services Division) (27 March 2002). [ Fact Sheet: Stevioside] ]

Rebiana is the trade name for a patent-pending, calorie-free, food and beverage sweetener derived from stevia and developed jointly by The Coca-Cola Company and Cargill. In May 2007, Coca-Cola announced plans to obtain approval for its use as a food additive within the United States by 2009. Coca-Cola has also announced plans to market rebiana-sweetened products in 12 countries that allow stevia's use as a food additive. The two companies are conducting their own studies in an effort to gain regulatory approval in the United States and the European Union. [cite news |title=Coke and Cargill teaming on new drink sweetener |author=Stanford, Duane D. |publisher=Atlanta Journal-Constitution |date=2007-05-31 |accessdate=2007-05-31 |url=] [cite news |title=Coke, Cargill Aim For a Shake-Up In Sweeteners |author=Etter, Lauren and McKay, Betsy |publisher=Wall Street Journal|date=2007-05-31 |accessdate=2007-06-01 |url=] In May 2008, Cargill announced the availability of Truvia, a consumer brand of Rebiana.. [cite web | url= | title=Truvia information | accessdate=2008-05-15]

The U.S. ingredient firm Blue California claims to have developed an economical industrial production process for isolating Rebaudioside A, a sweet compound derived from stevia, using a "more economical and proprietary process". The company expects to go into industrial scale production in 2008. The isolation process for Rebaudioside A results in a product that delivers the desired sweetness without a bitter aftertaste. [cite news |title=US firm claims cheap, industrial stevia production |author=Lorraine Heller |publisher=Food Navigator USA|date=2007-11-15 |accessdate=2007-11-01 |url=]


Health controversy

A 1985 study reported that steviol, a breakdown product from stevioside and rebaudioside (two of the sweet steviol glycosides in the stevia leaf), is a mutagen in the presence of a liver extract of pre-treated rats [cite journal
author=Pezzuto JM, Compadre CM, Swanson SM, Nanayakkara D, Kinghorn AD |title=Metabolically activated steviol, the aglycone of stevioside, is mutagenic |journal=Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. |volume=82 |issue=8 |pages=2478–82 |year=1985 |month=April |pmid=3887402 |pmc=397582 |doi= |url=
] — but this finding was criticized on procedural grounds that the data were mishandled in such a way that even distilled water would appear mutagenic. [cite journal |author=Procinska E, Bridges BA, Hanson JR |title=Interpretation of results with the 8-azaguanine resistance system in Salmonella typhimurium: no evidence for direct acting mutagenesis by 15-oxosteviol, a possible metabolite of steviol |journal=Mutagenesis |volume=6 |issue=2 |pages=165–7 |year=1991 |month=Mar |pmid=2056919 |doi= |url= – article text is reproduced [ here] .] Over the following years bioassay, cell culture, and animal studies have shown mixed results in terms of toxicology and adverse effects of stevia constituents, but in general, they have not been found to be harmful. While reports have emerged finding steviol and stevioside to be weak mutagens,cite journal |author=Matsui M, Matsui K, Kawasaki Y, "et al" |title=Evaluation of the genotoxicity of stevioside and steviol using six in vitro and one in vivo mutagenicity assays |journal=Mutagenesis |volume=11 |issue=6 |pages=573–9 |year=1996 |month=Nov |pmid=8962427 |doi= |url=] cite journal |author=Nunes AP, Ferreira-Machado SC, Nunes RM, Dantas FJ, De Mattos JC, Caldeira-de-Araújo A |title=Analysis of genotoxic potentiality of stevioside by comet assay |journal= Food Chem Toxicol |volume=45 |issue=4 |pages=662-6 |year=2007 |pmid=17187912 |doi=10.1016/j.fct.2006.10.015] the bulk of studies show an absence of harmful effects.cite journal |author=Geuns JM|title=Stevioside |journal= Phytochemistry |volume=64 |issue=5 |pages=913-21|year=2003 |pmid=14561506 |doi=10.1016/S0031-9422(03)00426-6] cite journal |author=Brusick DJ |title=A critical review of the genetic toxicity of steviol and steviol glycosides |journal= Food Chem Toxicol |volume=46 |issue=7 |pages=S83-S91 |year=2008 |pmid=18556105 |doi=10.1016/j.fct.2008.05.002] In a 2008 review, 14 of 16 studies cited showed no genotoxic activity for stevioside, 11 of 15 studies showed genotoxic activity for steviol, and no studies showed genotoxicity for Rebaudioside A. Nevertheless, even if a chemical can cause DNA damage in the controlled conditions of a bioassay (e.g., in bacteria, in mammalian cell cultures) it is a fundamentally different question whether it causes cancer in intact organisms (e.g., rodents, humans) or is teratogenic (i.e., causes birth defects). No evidence for stevia constitutents causing cancer or birth defects has been found.cite journal |author=Geuns JM|title=Stevioside |journal= Phytochemistry |volume=64 |issue=5 |pages=913-21|year=2003 |pmid=14561506 |doi=10.1016/S0031-9422(03)00426-6] cite journal |author=Brusick DJ |title=A critical review of the genetic toxicity of steviol and steviol glycosides |journal= Food Chem Toxicol |volume=46 |issue=7 |pages=S83-S91 |year=2008 |pmid=18556105 |doi=10.1016/j.fct.2008.05.002]

Other studies have shown stevia improves insulin sensitivity in rats [cite journal |author=Lailerd N, Saengsirisuwan V, Sloniger JA, Toskulkao C, Henriksen EJ |title=Effects of stevioside on glucose transport activity in insulin-sensitive and insulin-resistant rat skeletal muscle |journal=Metab. Clin. Exp. |volume=53 |issue=1 |pages=101–7 |year=2004 |month=Jan |pmid=14681850 |doi=10.1016/j.metabol.2003.07.014 |url= ] and may even promote additional insulin production, [cite journal |author=Jeppesen PB, Gregersen S, Rolfsen SE, "et al" |title=Antihyperglycemic and blood pressure-reducing effects of stevioside in the diabetic Goto-Kakizaki rat |journal=Metab. Clin. Exp. |volume=52 |issue=3 |pages=372–8 |year=2003 |month=Mar |pmid=12647278 |doi=10.1053/meta.2003.50058 |url= ] helping to reverse diabetes and metabolic syndrome. [cite journal |author=Dyrskog SE, Jeppesen PB, Colombo M, Abudula R, Hermansen K |title=Preventive effects of a soy-based diet supplemented with stevioside on the development of the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in Zucker diabetic fatty rats |journal=Metab. Clin. Exp. |volume=54 |issue=9 |pages=1181–8 |year=2005 |month=Sep |pmid=16125530 |doi=10.1016/j.metabol.2005.03.026 |url= ] Preliminary human studies show stevia can help reduce hypertension [cite journal |author=Hsieh MH, Chan P, Sue YM, "et al" |title=Efficacy and tolerability of oral stevioside in patients with mild essential hypertension: a two-year, randomized, placebo-controlled study |journal=Clin Ther |volume=25 |issue=11 |pages=2797–808 |year=2003 |month=Nov |pmid=14693305 |doi=10.1016/S0149-2918(03)80334-X |url= ] although another study has shown it has no effect on hypertension. [cite journal |author=Ferri LA, Alves-Do-Prado W, Yamada SS, Gazola S, Batista MR, Bazotte RB |title=Investigation of the antihypertensive effect of oral crude stevioside in patients with mild essential hypertension |journal=Phytother Res |volume=20 |issue=9 |pages=732–6 |year=2006 |month=Sep |pmid=16775813 |doi=10.1002/ptr.1944 |url= ] Indeed, millions of Japanese have been using stevia for over thirty years with no reported or known harmful effects. [cite web
last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Products and Markets - Stevia | work = | publisher = Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - Forestry Department | date = | url = | format = [HTML] | accessdate = 2007-05-04
] Similarly, stevia leaves have been used for centuries in South America spanning multiple generations in ethnomedical tradition as a treatment of type II diabetes. [cite journal |author=Abudula R, Jeppesen PB, Rolfsen SE, Xiao J, Hermansen K |title=Rebaudioside A potently stimulates insulin secretion from isolated mouse islets: studies on the dose-, glucose-, and calcium-dependency |journal=Metab. Clin. Exp. |volume=53 |issue=10 |pages=1378–81 |year=2004 |month=Oct |pmid=15375798 |doi=10.1016/j.metabol.2004.04.014 |url= ]

In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) performed a thorough evaluation of recent experimental studies of stevioside and steviols conducted on animals and humans, and concluded that "stevioside and rebaudioside A are not genotoxic "in vitro" or "in vivo" and that the genotoxicity of steviol and some of its oxidative derivatives "in vitro" is not expressed "in vivo"."cite journal
last = Benford
first = D.J.
coauthors = DiNovi, M., Schlatter, J.
title = Safety Evaluation of Certain Food Additives: Steviol Glycosides
journal = WHO Food Additives Series
volume = 54
issue =
pages = 140
publisher = World Health Organization Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)
year= 2006
url =
format = PDF – 18 MB
] The report also found no evidence of carcinogenic activity. Furthermore, the report noted that "stevioside has shown some evidence of pharmacological effects in patients with hypertension or with type-2 diabetes" but concluded that further study was required to determine proper dosage.

Whole foods proponents draw a distinction between consuming (and safety testing) only parts, such as stevia extracts and isolated compounds like stevioside, versus the whole herb. ["Obtain only the green or brown [whole] stevia extracts or powders; avoid the clear extracts and white powders, which, highly refined and lacking essential phyto-nutrients, cause imbalance". cite book
last = Pitchford
first = Paul
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition (3rd ed.)
publisher = North Atlantic Books
year= 2002
location = Berkeley, CA
pages =
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 1-55643-430-8
] However, professionals in pharmacognosy, as well as physicians and science journalists disagree that whole foods are necessarily beneficial over extracted components, and may even be harmful. [cite web | author=Tyler, Varro E | title=False Tenets of Paraherbalism | publisher=Quackwatch, Inc. | date=1999-08-31 | url= | format = HTML
] [cite web | author=Goldacre, Ben | title=The problem with herbalists | publisher=Guardian News and Media Limited | date=2007-10-06 | url=
format=HTML | accessdate = 2008-09-30

Political controversy

In 1991, at the request of an anonymous complaint, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeled stevia as an "unsafe food additive" and restricted its import. The FDA's stated reason was "toxicological information on stevia is inadequate to demonstrate its safety." [Food and Drug Administration (1995, rev 1996, 2005). [ Import Alert #45-06] : "Automatic Detention of Stevia Leaves, Extract of Stevia Leaves, and Food Containing Stevia"] This ruling was controversial, as stevia proponents pointed out that this designation violated the FDA's own guidelines under which any natural substance used prior to 1958 with no reported adverse effects should be generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

Stevia occurs naturally, requiring no patent to produce it. As a consequence, since the import ban in 1991, marketers and consumers of stevia have shared a belief that the FDA acted in response to industry pressure. Arizona congressman Jon Kyl, for example, called the FDA action against stevia "a restraint of trade to benefit the artificial sweetener industry." [Kyl, John (R-Arizona) (1993). Letter to former FDA Commissioner David Aaron Kessler about the 1991 stevia import ban, quoted at [] .] Citing privacy issues, the FDA has not revealed the source of the original complaint in its responses to requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act.

The FDA requires proof of safety before recognizing a food additive as safe. A similar burden of proof is required for the FDA to ban a substance or label it "unsafe". Nevertheless, stevia remained banned until after the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act forced the FDA in 1995 to revise its stance to permit stevia to be used as a dietary supplement, although not as a food additive — a position that stevia proponents regard as contradictory because it simultaneously labels stevia as safe and unsafe, depending on how it is sold. [cite web
last = McCaleb
first = Rob
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Controversial Products in the Natural Foods Market
work =
publisher = Herb Research Foundation
year= 1997
url =
format = HTML
doi =
accessdate = 2006-11-08

Although unresolved questions remain concerning whether metabolic processes can produce a mutagen from stevia in animals, let alone in humans, the early studies nevertheless prompted the European Commission to ban stevia's use in food in the European Union pending further research. Singapore and Hong Kong have banned it also. However, more recent data compiled in the safety evaluation released by the World Health Organization in 2006 suggest that these policies may be obsolete.

Names in other countries

Both the sweetener and the stevia plant "Stevia rebaudiana" Bertoni (also known as "Eupatorium rebaudianum" Bertoni [cite web | url= | title=Asteraceae "Eupatorium rebaudianum" Bertoni | work=International Plant Names Index] ) are known simply as "stevia" (pronEng|ˈstɛviə) in English-speaking countries as well as in France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Israel, Norway and Sweden — although some of these countries also use other terms as shown below. Similar pronunciations occur in Japan ("sutebia" or ステビア in "katakana)", and in Thailand ("satiwia"). In some countries (India, for example) the name translates literally as "sweet leaf." Below are some names for the stevia plant in various regions of the world: [The [ Multilingual Multiscript plant name database] has terms for the Stevia plant in various languages.]

*Afrikaans-speaking countries: "heuningblaar" (honey leaf)
*China: 甜菊 ("tian jü" – sweet chrysanthemum), 甜菊叶 ("tian jü ye" – stevia leaf)
*Dutch-speaking countries: "honingkruid"
*English-speaking countries: candy leaf, sugar leaf, sweetleaf (USA), sweet honey leaf (Australia), sweet herb of Paraguay
*German speaking countries, also Switzerland: "Süßkraut", "Süßblatt", "Honigkraut"
*Hungary: "jázmin pakóca"
*India: "madhu parani" (Marathi), "gurmaar" (Punjabi), "madhu patra" (Sanskrit), "seeni tulsi" (Tamil), "madhu patri" (Telugu)
*Israel: סטיביה ("sṭīviyyāh" in Hebrew)
*Japan: アマハステビア ("amaha sutebia")
*Portuguese-speaking countries: "capim doce" (sweet grass), "erva doce" (sweet herb, also a Portuguese term for fennel), "estévia" (Brazil), "folhas da stévia"
*Spanish-speaking countries: "hierba / yerba dulce", "estevia", "ka´a he´ê" (Guaraníes, Natives of Paraguay)
*Sweden: "sötflockel"
*Thailand: "satiwia", หญ้าหวาน ("ya wan", or "sweet grass" in Bangkok)

ee also

*Sugar substitute
*Steviol glycoside

Notes and references

Further reading

* May, James (2003). "The Miracle of Stevia". New York, NY: Twin Stream Books (ISBN 0-7582-0220-2).
* Kirkland, James (1999). "Sugar-Free Cooking with Stevia". Arlington, TX: Crystal Health Pub. (ISBN 1-928906-11-7).
* Goettomoeller, Jeffrey (1999). "Stevia Sweet Recipes: Sugar-Free-Naturally". Bloomingdale, IL: Vital Health Pub. (ISBN 1-890612-13-8).
* Ray Sahelian (1999). "The Stevia Cookbook". Garden City Park, NY: Avery (ISBN 0-89529-926-7).

External links

* [] : Stevia Research Studies, News, Recipes, and Background Information
* [ Stevia: A Bittersweet Tale] , article from the Center for Science in the Public Interest
* [ Hong Kong Legislative Council Secretariat] (PDF file)
* [ Journal review article on Stevia's safety]
* [ Stevia: Not Ready For Prime Time]
* [ Article by Daniel Mowrey, Ph.D.] in assoc. with Health Freedom Resources (
* [,1048,4813.html Diabetes Health] , article on Stevia and Diabetes.
* [ European Stevia Association]
* [ The Sweet Secret of Stevia] , article on the controversy around Stevia


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