Stevia is derived from the leaves of a South American shrub, a member of the daisy family. Used as a nonnutritive sweetener in South American countries and Japan as a food additive, stevia is not yet approved as a food additive in the US or Canada. In the US, stevia may only be sold as a dietary supplement, and is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as tightly as are pharmaceuticals and food products. However, most people use stevia as a sweetener.
Stevia's Health Benefits
Many who hesitate to consume artificial food additives may prefer stevia because it is all-natural. Stevia is calorie-free, and therefore does not impact blood sugar levels, unlike sucrose (refined sugar). Stevia, when used in place of sugar, may also reduce the incidence of tooth decay.
Use as directed. Consult your physician before use of stevia if you have health issues.
Side-effects and Cautions:
May include dizziness, headache, muscle tenderness and gastrointestinal discomfort. Stevia may interact with diabetes and high blood pressure medications. It is not proven safe for use in pregnant/nursing women or children.