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Stevia is a genus of about 240 species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family, native to subtropical and tropical regions from western North America to South America. The species Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sweetener and sugar substitute, stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, and some of its extracts may have a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.

The plant Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni whose leaves provide steviol glycosides, the compounds responsible for the sweet taste of the leaves. It sometimes refers to the sweetener component.

Health Benefits of Stevia:

In addition, stevia plant has many sterols and antioxidant compounds like triterpenes, flavonoids, and tannins. Some of flavonoid polyphenolic anti-oxidant phyto-chemicals present in stevia is kaempferol, quercetin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, isoquercitrin, isosteviol…etc. Studies found that kaempferol can reduce risk of pancreatic cancer by 23%  .

Chlorgenic acid reduces enzymatic conversion of glycogen to glucose in addition to decreasing absorption of glucose in the gut. Thus, it helps reduce blood sugar levels. The lab studies also confirm a reduction in blood glucose levels and an increase in the liver concentrations of glucose-6-phosphate and of glycogen.

Certain glycosides in stevia extract have been found to dilate blood vessels, increase sodium excretion, and urine output. In effect, stevia, at slightly higher doses than as sweetener, can help lower blood pressure.

Being a non-carbohydrate sweetener, stevia would not favor the growth of Streptococcus mutans bacteria in the mouth which is attributed to be a causative agent for dental caries and tooth cavities. On the other hand, certain compounds in stevia are rather found to inhibit caries causing bacteria in the mouth.

In addition, being a herb, stevia contain many vitals minerals, vitamins that are selectively absent in the artificial sweeteners.

Stevia extract has been in use by native South Americans (where it is known as caa-he-éé or kaa jheéé) to reduce weight; to treat wound infections, inflammatory conditions, swelling in the legs and as a tonic to treat depression.

Read More at Wikipedia

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