Stevia Dried Herb
For hundreds of years, people in Paraguay and Brazil have used this sweet leaf to sweeten bitter herbal teas including Yerba mate. For nearly 20 years, Japanese consumers by the millions have used extracts of the same plant as a safe, natural, non-caloric sweetener.
Stevia is a fairly unassuming perennial shrub of the Compositae family, native to the northern regions of Paraguay. It has now been grown commercially in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Central America, the United States, Israel, Thailand, England, Russia and China. The leaves contain several chemicals called glycosides, which taste sweet, but do not provide calories. The major glycoside is called stevioside, and is one of the major sweeteners in use in Japan and Korea. Stevia and its extracts have captured over 40% of the Japanese market. Major multinational food companies like Coca Cola and Beatrice foods, convinced of its safety, use stevia extracts to sweeten foods for sale in Japan, Brazil, and other countries where it is approved. Europeans first learned of stevia when the Spanish Conquistadors of the Sixteenth Century sent word to Spain that the natives of South America had used the plant to sweeten herbal tea since ancient times.