An Independent Queensland Regional & Rural
The stevia plant,
first cultivated in Paraguay, has been used as an herbal sweetener for centuries
in South America.
Indians of Paraguay have used stevia leaves
from this small, herbaceous, semi-bushy, perennial shrub to sweeten their bitter
drinks, and the dried leaves and twigs of the plant are commonly sold in
local markets and pharmacies.
in the South American wild, it could be found growing in semi-arid habitats
ranging from grassland to scrub forest to mountain terrain. The plant made its
way to Pacific Rim countries, where in recent decades it became cultivated
domestically, used in its raw leaf form and now is commercially processed into
Also called sweet leaf or sweet herb, an extract is made of the leaves and flowers. Stevia contains a very sweet component called stevioside, with a sweetening effect similar to cane sugar. In Japan, where the government approved the herb in 1970, stevia and its extracts make up 40 percent of the sweetener market, and it is used by companies such as Coca-Cola to sweeten various products such as Diet Coke; Zero and most other Diet drinks.
plant belongs to the Compositae (sunflower family of plants).
transplanted annual plant, stevia tends to grow well on a variety of soil types
ranging from course-textured sands to well drained loams but not clay or poorly
drained sites. During the growing season, it seems to thrive in a temperature
range of 15 °C to 30 °C provided all input resources and good management
practices are incorporated. Similar cultivation practices to that of other
transplanted horticultural crops are required for stevia.
leaves of stevia (S. rebaudiana), stevioside, sweet crystalline diterpene
glycosides are extracted. Stevioside is non-caloric, however, measured to be
200-300 times sweeter than that of sucrose. An attribute of this natural,
high-intensity sweetener includes non-fermentable, non-discolouring, maintains
heat stability at 95 °C and features a lengthy shelf life. The product can be
added to cooked/baked goods or processed foods and beverages.
Pacific Rim countries, China, Korea and Japan, stevia is regularly used in
preparation of food and pharmaceutical products. In Japan alone, an estimated 50
tons of stevioside is used annually with sales valued in excess of $250 million.
Australian market opportunity appears great.
Statistics indicate that in some countries up to 30% of their needed sugar is replaced by chemical-based (synthetic) stevioside-like sweetness products.
stevia phenomenon is primarily due to it being the only well-known natural (as
opposed to artificial or chemically synthesized) substitute to sugar with high
intensity sweetness (200-300 times sweeter than sugar) and virtually zero
calories. Apart from being caloric free, stevia is very heat stable making it
just as versatile as sugar for everyday use
Only a few drops
will sweeten a cup of tea; it is also delicious in yogurt, cereal, and baked
goods. Stevia's sweet flavour is not affected by heat, thus it can be used in
teas and other beverages, in canning fruits, and when baking all kinds of
Tests have shown
the sweetening agent, the glycoside stevioside, is thirty times sweeter than
granulated table sugar. Because it is a whole herbal food, stevia contains other
properties that nicely complement its sweetness. A report from the Hiroshima
University School of Dentistry indicates that stevia actually suppresses dental
bacterial growth rather than feeding it as other sugars do.
Japanese and Latin American scientists have discovered other attributes as well, including its use as a tonic, diuretic, to combat mental and physical fatigue, to harmonize digestion, regulate blood pressure, and assist in weight loss.
Written and Authorised by Selwyn Johnston, Cairns FNQ 4870