Stevia rebaudiana

by Glen Swartwout

Stevia, sweet leaf of Paraguay, gives more sweetness, and less sugar. Stevia is a sweet choice for those who want to eat less sugar and are becoming aware of the bitter health effects of both refined sugar and its artificial substitutes. Refined sugars damage the pancreas and cardiovascular system. The escalating American habit of eating over a half pound of refined sugar daily depletes Chromium, a trace mineral crucial for health and longevity. Reduced tissue Chromium levels cut 5 years off life expectancy. Refined sugar also contributes to adult onset diabetes, hypoglycemia, depleting cellular energy and impairing mental performance. One study showed that students’ performance dropped several grade levels after drinking soda pop, which contains several teaspoons of sugar per serving. Like the sugar in carbonated beverages, which now outstrip water as the #1 American drink, most of the sugar consumed is hidden in processed and refined foods. Refining of whole foods, such as grains, also removes our dietary source of Chromium needed to process sugar in the body without doing damage.

Most species, other than humans and guinea pigs, can actually make Vitamin C out of blood sugar, and are thus able to maintain levels of Vitamin C equivalent to supplementing nearly 10 grams a day for the average person. Some health researchers hypothesize that this is why humans are so susceptible to atherosclerosis and heart disease compared to other species. When an animal eats sugar, some of it is converted to Vitamin C, protecting and repairing any sugar-induced damage to the artery wall. Humans cannot do this. To add insult to injury, we humans process whole foods, often removing protective vitamins and minerals including the methyl donors which include vitamins B6, B12, folic acid, TMG and SAMe. Methyl donors can help protect arteries from damage by homocysteine, a toxic amino acid much more strongly linked to cardiovascular disease than is cholesterol.

The sugar substitute industry is spooning out massive quantities of one synthetic product after another in an attempt to provide sweeteners without the detrimental effects of sugar. First came saccharine, which was later found to increase cancer risk. After that, saccharine was quickly removed from the market. Then came the aspartame-based products like Equal and Nutrasweet. The FDA now receives more letters complaining of symtpoms caused by aspartame than any other drug. Aspartame can break down with warmth and moisture, either on the shelf or in the body, forming methanol, which is highly toxic to the liver and brain and can cause blindness. A large percentage of the complaints from aspartame-users include effects on vision.

Stevia is indigenous to the rain forests of Brazil and Paraguay and has been used by the native people there as a sweetener. That practice was later adopted by Portuguese and Spanish colonists, and through them Stevia’s sweetness became well known throughout the world. During World War II Stevia was cultivated in England as a sugar substitute. Today, Stevia is being grown in Japan, Korea, Thailand and China. Stevia is now most widely used in Japan, where it accounts for more than one-third of the sweetener market (Blumenthal M. FDA rejects AHPA stevia petition, Whole Foods Apr 1994:61-64). At nearly 300 times sweeter than sugar, Stevia tastes very sweet, and this sweetness comes without any of white sugar’s side effects (Paul Barney, MD, Doctors Guide to Natural Medicine p.90 1998 Woodland Publishing Pleasant Grove UT).

As a nutritional supplement, however, Stevia, goes way beyond its taste. Stevia is a source of chromium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and selenium as well as vitamin C, beta-carotene and thiamin. Independent of its usefulness in decreasing sugar intake, Stevia has been reported to have direct anti-hyperglycemic properties (Curi R, Alvarez, Bazotte RB, et al. Effect of Stevia rebaudiana and the chrysanthemum flower in the management of hyperglycemia. Diabetes Care 1994; 17:940) and has been used since pre-Columbian times in South America to treat diabetes.

Other studies have shown Stevia to dilate blood vessels in animals, enhancing circulation and reducing high blood pressure (Melis MS. A crude extract of Stevia rebaudiana increases the renal plasma flow of normal and rats suffering hypertension in doses higher than normally used as a sweetener. (Braz J Med Biol Res 1996; 29(5): 669-75) In contrast to artificial sweeteners, Stevia has been found by extensive reviews of human and animal data to be a safe dietetic supplement even in cases of severe sugar imbalance (Paul Barney, MD, Doctors Guide to Natural Medicine p.90 1998 Woodland Publishing Pleasant Grove UT).

As a botanical remedy, Stevia is reported to be beneficial in:

  • Acne, aging, alcoholism, allergy (anti-histaminic), Alzheimer’s disease, Aluminum toxicity, amblyopia, anemia, angina, anorexia, anxiety, arrhythmia, arteriosclerosis, arthritis, asthma, astringent properties
  • Back-ache, bacterial infection, beri-beri, blind spots, bone formation, breast tenderness
  • Cadmium toxicity, Calcium blocker, canker sores, cancer, candidicide, cardiomyopathy, cardioprotective, carpal-tunnel syndrome, cataract, cirrhosis, coeliac disease, cold prevention, colds, colic, convulsions, coronary artery disease, Crohn’s disease
  • Dandruff, delirium, deodorant effects, depression, dermatitis, detoxification, diabetes, diuretic, dry eye syndrome, dyskinesia, dysmenorrhea, dysphagia
  • Eczema, edema, encephalitis, encephalopathy, epilepsy
  • Fatigue, fever, fistula prevention, fungicidal, furuncle
  • Gastritis, gingivitis, glaucoma, glossitis, glycosuria
  • Hair loss, heart spasms, heartburn, heart protection, heavy metal toxicity, hemorrhage, hepatitis, hepatoprotective, herpes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hyperactivity, hyperglycemia, hyperkeratosis, hypertension, hypotension, hypoglycemia
  • Immune stimulation (higher doses may also lower immune response), impotence, infection, infertility, inflammation, insecticide, insomnia, insulin production, interferon (synergistic)
  • Keratitis, Keshan’s syndrome
  • Laxative effects, leprosy, leukoplakia, Lead toxicity, liver protection, liver toxicity, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, lung tumor, lupus
  • Mastitis, measles, Meniere’s syndrome, menorrhagia, Mercury toxicity, migraine, mucous (mucolytic), muscle pain, muscle relaxant, mutation of DNA, myalgia, myocarditis
  • Nerve pain, neuralgia, neurasthenia, neuritis, neuropathy, neurosis
  • Osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, oxidation (antioxidant),
  • Pain, paraquat toxicity, Parkinson’s disease, pellagra, periodontitis, pesticide, phagocytosis, photophobia, plaque, PMS, pneumonia, poliomyelitis, porphyria, prostaglandin-sparing, prostatitis, psoriasis
  • Red blood cell formation, rheumatism,
  • Scotoma, sedative effects, sepsis, seratonin production, shingles, silicosis, skin ulcers, spasms, sperm production, stomatitis, stone formation, stress, sweetener (210 times sweetness of sucrose)
  • Taenia infestation, testosterone, thymus protection, tics, tinnitis, trichomonas, triglycerides elevated, tumor
  • Ulcer, urinary acidifier, uterine relaxation
  • Vaginitis, vasodilation, vermifuge, vertigo, viral infection, vitamin C deficiency
  • Xerophthalmia

Here’s a sample recipe using Stevia as a dietary supplement in baking:

‘Frosting on Mauna Loa’ Banana Cake

This cake reminds us of a frosting of snow on top of Mauna Loa volcano, which we see after a winter storm. The cake is served warm and fresh from the oven with a chilled frosting on top.

9″ x 11″ greased pan

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl (to allow room for wet ingredients to be added later): 2 1/4 cups organic spelt flour 2 1/4 cups organic rice flour 1 tsp baking powder 1 1/2 tsp aluminum-free baking soda

Mix wet ingredients: 1 cup soft organic cultured butter 30 drops Starfire Stevia 4 free range chicken eggs, beat in one at a time Mix wet ingredients: 2 tsp alcohol-free Vanilla 4-6 cups thawed frozen ripe organic bananas (apple bananas if you are in Hawai’i) 1/2 cup goat yogurt

Add wet ingredients to dry alternating a little of each of the three mixtures above. Pour in greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Mock Whipped Cream Icing, if desired (must be served immediately):

2 packages of drained silken style firm tofu 1/4 cup 100% organic maple syrup (for maple flavor, or substitute 20 drops of Stevia) 2 tsp alcohol-free vanilla 1 cup thawed bananas 1 cup frozen organic raspberries 1 tsp grated organic orange rind (optional) Add Almond milk or Rice milk to achieve desired consistency. Apply cool icing to warm cake and serve immediately.