Stevia Rebaudiana: Antidiabetic Natural Sweetener
Stevia Rebaudiana is an incredibly sweet herb, obtained by a natural selective breeding process of the sweetest Stevia parent plants. The sweetener, stevioside, extracted from the plants, is 300 times sweeter than sugar. The fresh leaves have a nice liquorice taste. What makes the Stevia plant so special is that it can be used to replace sugar (sucrose). Many different uses of Stevia are already well known: as table sugar, in soft drinks, pastry, pickles, tobacco products, candy, jam, yogurt, chewing gum, sorbets. The dried leaves of Stevia are about 40 times sweeter than sugar. The documented properties of Stevia are antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-yeast, cardiotonic, diuretic, hypoglycemic and hence a boon to diabetic people, hypotensive, tonic, and vasodilator. Indeed, the leaves contain diterpene glucosides with a sweet taste but are not metabolised and contain no calories.
The biggest part of sweet glucosides consists of the stevioside molecule. Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni (Bertoni) is a perennial herbaceous plant and is part of the Asteraceae family. This family includes well-known plants such as dandelion, sunflower and chicory. The history of the culture of Stevia mainly stems from Paraguay and Brazil. Originally Stevia only grew in the northern regions of South America but its cultivation has become popular worldwide. The plant has been known for centuries by the native Guaranay Indians for the sweet taste of its leaves. They use it, amongst other things, to make “mate” herbal tea. Stevia is often referred to as the “sweetest plant of the world”. Jeevan Herbs & Agro Farm is one of the pioneer cultivators of Stevia in the country and is dedicated to high quality, organic cultivation of Stevia along with other medicinal plants. Its leaves are about 5 cm long and 2 cm wide and are planted crosswise, facing each other. In the wild, the height of the plant varies from 40 to 80 cm but when cultivated, the Stevia can become 1 metre high. Stevia can be grown on relatively poor soil. The plants can be used for commercial production for 6 years, during which five times a year a harvest takes place of the part of the plant that is above the ground. The roots remain in place and so the plant regenerates again. Plants, which are 1 metre high, have a dry weight of 70 g on average. The dry weight of the leaves can vary from 15 to 35 g per plant.