Stevia, a plant that not only diabetics should know about

stevia

Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni (Asteraceae) is a dioecious plant native to the mountains of Amambay, Paraguay and in Misiones, Argentina. Has a perennial character, with a  alternate, lanceolate or elliptic, toothed leaves. The roots are almost entirely superficial and lacking in stevioside. Prefers sandy, less fertile and slightly acidophilic ground. At the beginning of spring develop a panicle inflorescences with several small tubular white flowers. In nature, its pollinator are bees of the genus Megachile. Its seeds are achenes with pappus. It is harvested before it flowers.

The Swiss naturalist Moises Bertoni, Paraguayan chemist Rebaudi Ovid (1900) and French chemists Marc Bridel and R. Lavieille (1931) studed and isolated sweetening agents (“stevioside” and “rebaudioside“). In 1968 the Japanese botanist Tetsuya Sumida introduced in Japan. Today is the replacement of cyclamate and saccharin, representing 40% of sales in the Japanese sweetener market.

In one hand, it has been claimed about their adverse effects has been discussed to reduce fertility and possible carcinogenic effects. These tests have been disputed, since among other arguments would require ingesting huge quantities.

In the other hand, exist wide bibliography about its beneficial effects have been cited in many applications. Pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications: cellulitis, oral hygiene and skin. Medical applications: has an antioxidant effect, lowers blood glucose levels in diabetic non-insulin dependent, it is a mild diuretic, helps normalize uric acid levels, it acts against hypertension and reduces mortality in hatcheries and rearing influences, helps gastrointestinal functions and stimulates appetite, strengthens the immune system fighting fatigue and depression. Human alimentation: powerful sweetener, improves the taste of meat and eggs. Agricultural and environmental applications: promotes plant growth, prevents fruit drop, improves taste and prolongs the conservation and increases the resistance of plants, reduces the concentration of nitrates, dioxins, pesticides and fertilizers in the soil in a few years.

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