The ancient Guarani people of Paraguay are responsible for one of the most effective nutritional discoveries. 1500 years ago, the Guarani people discovered a native plant that had delicious green leaves and incredible sweetening power. When they added crushed, dried leaves to a bitter-tea like drink they used to drink, the leaves of this plant sweetened the drink. In other words, it acted as the modern-day sugar.
After several years of using this sweet plant, which they called Kaa he-he, which loosely translates to mean "sweet herb," they found out that this plant had other uses besides making their bitter tea-like drink sweeter.
Here are other native uses this sweet plant was used for;
After many years, usage of this sweet plant spread to other areas and with time, scientists began to research about it, and they named it Stevia.
Stevia is a shrub that resembles a perennial plant belonging to the sunflower family (Asteraceae family). This herb is also known as sweetleaf, honey leaf, sweet herb, and sugarleaf in native Paraguay.
What makes this plant nutritiously beneficial are its leaves, which are a source of natural sweetener that has zero calories. It is considered sweeter than sucrose (sugar). These leaves have been used in many parts of the world, including Japan, South, and Central America, and many other parts of the world. It is mostly used as a sugar substitute and also in the treatment of different ailments for many years.
In the past, the leaves of Stevia were consumed wholly in fresh or dried form, but over time, scientists were able to isolate two elements that make stevia leaves have a sweet taste. The elements include rebaudioside and stevioside. These elements are now sold as supplements to be used for different purposes.
Stevia also contains trace elements, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and volatile oils that give it medicinal and nutritional value.
After scientists proved beyond doubt that Stevia offered great medicinal and nutritional value, the Food and Drug Administration or FDA approved the two sweeteners derived from Stevia safe for use in beverages and foods.
The glycosides, one of the elements derived from Stevia leaves, are used in herbal supplements, beverages, and foods and also added in syrups and powders as a sweetening element.
Unlike other synthetic or plant-based sweeteners, Stevia can be used in cooking and baking, and only a small amount is needed to sweeten your meal.
Different studies have shown that Stevia has both nutritional and medicinal properties that help it heal different conditions. Stevia has antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-hypertensive, and anti-glycemic properties that may help with high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, upset stomach, diabetes, cavities, tooth decay, hair loss and dandruff, candidiasis, skin conditions, and many other health conditions.
It may also strengthen the immune system, improve energy levels, boost mental health and clarity, and also help in withdrawal from alcohol and tobacco addiction.
Let’s discuss these benefits and uses of Stevia tea in greater depth.
Studies have shown that Stevia has medicinal properties that help it stabilize the blood sugar levels and also increase insulin sensitivity (1). Besides, it helps in promoting pancreatic health which helps increase insulin production in the body, discourage excess glucose absorption in the blood and, and also prevent candidiasis, which is a yeast infection that spreads and excels when blood is overly sugary.
Being a low carb, low calorie, and low sucrose herb, Stevie can be a great sugar alternative, and the best thing is that Steviol glycosides are not fully metabolized by the body. This means they get excreted in the urine, and thus not converted to glucose to be used or accumulated in the body.
Stevia also helps to inhibit cravings for fatty foods and sweet foods. By drinking Stevia tea made from raw Stevia leaves in the morning, or tea prepared from its extracts two or three times a day, you will not only be keeping sugary cravings at bay but also helping with hyperglycemia.
To prepare Stevia tea, boil a cup of water and put in a tea bag or a teaspoon of its leaves. Allow it to steep for 5-7 minutes to allow all the elements to dissolve in water. After that, you can either drink it hot or allow it to cool down. If you are using extracts, you can add 3-4 drops of Stevia Extract to a cup of cold or warm water.
In other words, you can use Stevia as a natural alternative to sugar or any other artificial sweetener. This way, you will not only be keeping diabetes at bay, but also preventing the conversion of excess glucose to fat in the body. Besides, by promoting pancreas health, Stevia helps to increase insulin production, which helps to convert more glucose to energy to prevent it from being stored as fat. All this helps to prevent diabetes and also helps people suffering from diabetes to manage their symptoms.
People with dry scalp, thin hair, as well as dandruff, will benefit greatly from Stevia concentrate. When you start applying Stevia concentrate, you will notice your hair grow stronger, softer, and the rate of hair loss will decrease (2).
For greater effectiveness, mix 3-4 drops of the concentrate with your regular shampoo and apply it normally. After rinsing, you can use Stevia tea as a conditioner and rinse your hair after 5 minutes. This will help it retain its moisture, color, and strength.
Recent medical research has shown that Stevia has low carbohydrates, sugar, and caloric level, which is good news to anyone trying to lose weight. By taking foods with low sugar levels, you will be aiding the body to burn more fat. In addition to having low calories and sugar levels, Stevia helps to curb hunger sensation as well as reduce sugar cravings.
In another preliminary research (3), Stevia was found to interfere with the functioning of the hypothalamus, and this was found to aid weight loss by curbing hunger. Hypothalamus is the part of the brain that controls thirst, hunger, and fatigue as well as other many functions.
The anti-glycemic activity of the Stevia tea may control blood glucose levels, which has been proven to be a major cause of weight gain.
Therefore, if you want to lose weight, drink one cup of tea made from Stevia leaves or extracts from Stevia in the morning, and also drink one cup of stevia tea 15 minutes before meals.
In a study done on Chickens (4), adding Stevia leaf powder to chicken feeds was shown to increase metabolism of calcium in chickens, and this translated to 75 percent decreased eggshell breakage.
When applied patently for treatment of Osteoporosis with Stevia, it was found that this herb helped to improve absorption of calcium and also improve the density of bones in the body.
Therefore, if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, or just want to promote your bone health, drinking Stevia tea will help with that course. Also, if you are recovering from a bone injury, Stevia tea can help to promote quicker bone formation and healing.
Stevia has anti-bacterial properties and thus may help with mouth sores, cavities, gingivitis, and tooth decay (5). The antibacterial properties also help to suppress the reproduction and development of bacteria that cause infections in the teeth and gums. This not only inhibits the growth of plaque that is caused by harmful bacteria but also improves overall oral health.
You can use Stevia as a mouth wash to decrease chances of getting gingivitis as well as other mouth infections. By gargling Stevia as a mouthwash and mixing toothpaste with Stevia may be beneficial for your oral health.
To make Stevia mouthwash, steep half a cup of tea with stevia leaves or mix 3-4 drops of its extract with half a cup of lukewarm water and gargle the mixture 3-4 times a day. For best results, gargle in the morning and at night.
To mix with toothpaste, add 2 drops to your regular toothpaste.
Stevia is a great healing agent for many skin disorders thanks to its anti-bacterial, antioxidant, and antiseptic abilities that help with dermatitis, wrinkles, skin blemishes, scarring, itchiness, chapped skin, and acne outbreaks (6).
When you apply a small amount of Stevia concentrate on the affected area on the skin, you can promote its healing process. For wrinkles, apply small amounts of stevia concentrate on your skin before retiring to bed. Apply liquid concentrate or a paste made from crushed stevia leaves all over your face before bedtime. Allow it to seep in the skin for 15-20minutes.
After that wash and dry your face, then apply a few drops of extra-virgin essential oils such as coconut oil and leave it on your face on overnight. The antioxidant effects of stevia extracts will work on your skin and smoothen out wrinkles.
Other benefits of Stevia include;
When taken in moderation, Stevia has no side effects. Its usage has been approved by WHO and FDA, and therefore, extracts from this herb are safe for consumption.
However, if you are taking other medication such as those for controlling high blood pressure or diabetes, you need to seek the advice of your health practitioner as this herb contain anti-hypertensive and anti-glycemic properties. The same applies to breastfeeding mothers.
Stevia tea is one of the most nutritious tea you can take. It offers many health and nutritional benefits. From promoting oral health and helping stabilize blood sugar and high blood pressure to helping improve skin health and improving bone health, stevia tea is definitely good for your health. It is FDA approved and thus safe for human consumption.