The herb, ‘Stevia’, better known as the honey plant, is a native of Paraguay, and has the potential to develop as a major source of bio-sweetener in the market, but, despite the potential of the herb, it is yet to be exploited for commercial use. Since ages, Stevia leaves have been used by Guarani Indians in Paraguay as a soothing tonic for stomach ailments and as a healing concentrate when cooked in water.
Stevia is cultivated in several parts of Karnataka including, Bangalore, Chitradurga, Kolar, Tumkur, Chikmagalur, Dharwad, Davanagere, and Bellary, due to favorable climatic conditions in these places.
Being a good sugar substitute, Stevia is good for those on a diet-plan. It is a zero-calorie sweetener and is carbohydrate-free regulates blood sugar levels, and hence is considered ideal for diabetics. Apart from this, it stimulates the release of insulin and regulates the response to glucose, particularly, in cases of type 2 diabetes and hence, is considered to be a far healthier option than other artificial sweeteners.
Studies have revealed that Stevia is a natural, anti-bacterial and anti-viral agent. It has also shown promising results in tackling high blood pressure. Steviosides, the intensely sweet glycosides, produced within the leaves make the extract of this herb is about 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. Research has indicated that as the body does not digest or metabolize these intensely sweet glycosides, they are not converted into glucose in the body and hence have a glycemic index of zero. Therefore, Stevia is a valuable sweetening source for patients with sugar restrictions and hypoglycemia.
Other health benefits of Stevia:
Stevia is believed to be of immense help in treating obesity, as it contains zero calories, and reduces craving for sweet and fatty food. Preliminary research says that stevia can reset the hunger mechanism in people, as it has the ability to clear the communication pathway between stomach and brain, thereby reducing huger sensations faster.
Stevia curbs growth of oral bacteria and such other infectious organisms. Regular use of Stevia as a mouthwash helps improve problem of bleeding gums. As stevia has the potential to inhibit growth of oral bacteria, there are generally lower cases of colds and flu among stevia users.
On topical application, Stevia extracts have therapeutic effect on acne, dermatitis, eczema and seborrhea. When placed directly on cuts and wounds, it has shown rapid healing without scarring.