Stevia rebaudiana contains a series of glycosides that are up to 200 times as sweet as sucrose (table sugar). Despite the intensity of the sweet flavour, stevia is considered a "non-caloric sweetener". This means that the sweetening effects of stevia do not evoke an insulin response in the body.
In the developed world, overconsumption of sweeteners and carbohydrates has lead to widespread diabetes and metabolic disorders all over the world. If insulin spikes too many times each day for a number of years, the body will begin to become resistant to its effects. This is the pathophysiology of type II diabetes. Food is eaten, and sugar goes into circulation, but the insulin can no longer drive the sugar into the cells to be used as energy. As a result blood sugar levels rise, and the cells begin to starve for energy leaving us fatigued and at risk for much more serious health effects like cardiovascular disease or renal failure.
Stevia offers a multifaceted and unique approach to combatting these effects, and is a popular treatment for diabetics and prophylactic for prediabeteics or those at risk of developing the disease. The sweet glycosides can be used to replace sugar, eliminating much of the sugar and insulin spikes that follow a meal. Stevia also directly improves insulin sensitivity within the cells to ammeliorate the effects of insulin resistance.
In a world ravaged by diabetes, stevia is likely to become a staple herb in every household.
Main Herbal Actions:
- Non-caloric sweetener
- Food additive
Stevia is mainly used as a non-caloric sweetener for diabetics. The glycosides contianed in the plant are up to 160 times sweeter than sucrose. These glycosides are also useful for regulating blood sugar on their own, and can be used as a prophylaxis treatment for those at risk for diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
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Constituents of Interest
- Sweet herb
- Sweet leaf
- Kaa jhee
- Yaa Waan
- Honey yerba
- Candy leaf
Stevia is a member of the Asteraceae family of plants. This is one of the largest family of flowering plants in the world, only smaller in diversity than Orchidaceae.
There are another 200 species of Stevia, however, stevia rebaudiana is the only species with the sweet glycoside that has made this plant so useful.
Level Of Research:
Clinical Applications Of Stevia:
Stevia has shown reliability in treating both Type I and type II diabetes through a series of mechanisms. Initially through replacing sugar with a non-caloric, and non-insulin stimulating flavour, as well as through a directly insulin-sensitising, and glucose uptake modulation. It is useful for both prevention and treatment of metabolic conditions like diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
The antinflammatory effects of stevia make it useful for systemic inflammation, especially in relation to TNF-a and NF-kB.
Stevia is also useful for hypertension and cardiovascular disease through calcium antagonism in the smooth muscle of the vascular system.
Those with low blood sugar should use caution when using stevia due to its hypotensive effects.