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      Stevia:  (Stevia rebaudiana)  The stevia plant originally came from the rain forests of Brazil and Paraguay. It is now grown in those areas, as well as in Japan, Korea, Thailand, and China. It is most widely used as a nonsugar sweetener in food and drink, particularly because it does not appear to have any of the side effects of sugar and is not broken down by heat.  The leaf is utilized medicinally. 

The natives of South America used stevia primarily as a sweetener. The indigenous tribes also used stevia to treat diabetes. During World War II, stevia was grown in England as a sugar substitute. The greatest use of stevia today can be found in Japan.   Stevia accounts for nearly 40% of the sweetener market in Japan and is commonly used in various parts of South America.

Stevia contains various glycosides, particularly stevoside, give stevia its sweetness.  Stevoside is somewhere between 100 and 200 times sweeter than sugar. Early reports suggested that stevia might reduce blood sugar (and therefore potentially help with diabetes), although not all reports have confirmed this. Even if stevia did not have direct antidiabetic effects, its use as a sweetener could reduce intake of sugars in such patients. 

Less than 1 gram per day can be used effectively as a sweetener.  Usually, the powdered herb is added directly to tea or to food.  Moderate intake of stevia is not believed to be harmful.

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