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Selwyn Johnston



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Nature's Sweetener



STEVIA - Introduction

Stevia Chrysanta

Stevia - Cultivation

Stevia - PureSweet

Artificial Sweeteners vs Natural Alternatives


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The stevia plant, first cultivated in Paraguay, has been used as an herbal sweetener for centuries in South America. 

The Guarani 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. 

Originating 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 sweetener. 

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.

The stevia plant belongs to the Compositae (sunflower family of plants).  

As a 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. 

From the 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.  

In the 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. 

The 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.

The 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 desserts. 


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.



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Written and Authorised by Selwyn Johnston, Cairns FNQ 4870