Origin and history of Stevia

The origin of the Stevia rebaudiana plant lies in the South American state of Paraguay. Among the native population, Stevia is also known as sweet herb, Caa-hee or yerba dulce. Not only the Guarani Indians, but also the Mato Grosso Indians still use stevia as a remedy and sweetener.

The discovery of Stevia by Moisés Giacomo Santiago Bertoni

In 1884, the Swiss naturalist Moisés Giacomo Santiago Bertoni settled on the banks of the Paraná River in Paraguay in the border region with Brazil, where he discovered the honey leaf, also known as Caa-hee.

In 1905 the stevia plant was renamed Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni in honor of the discoverers Moisés Giacomo Santiago Bertoni and the chemist Ovidio Rebaudi. Rebaudi was the first to isolate and name the sweet ingredients from the leaves of the stevia plant. The description of the steviosides in their present form goes back to the French chemists M. Bridel and R. Laveille in 1931.

The distribution of Stevia

In Japan, the sweetener stevia has been popular since 1950 and today has a significant share of the sweetener market. Today Stevia is widely used in the Asian region.

In contrast to the Western world, it took a long time for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve steviol glycosides in 2008. Steviol glycosides have now received the GRAS certificate (GRAS = generally regarded as safe) and are classified as basically safe in the USA. This was followed by France with the approval of Rebaudioside A 97 in 2009, and in December 2011 steviol glycosides were finally approved by the EFSA in the EU.  This means that the sweetener stevia is now approved almost worldwide.

Stevia customs and naturopathy

For centuries, the popular mate tea in South America has been sweetened with stevia. The native inhabitants use the whole Stevia leaves or the ground green Stevia leaf powder for sweetening. Not only the Guarani Indians, but also the Mato Grosso Indian tribes still use stevia as a remedy and sweetener. They used liquid Stevia for physical weakness, blood pressure, stomach, intestinal problems, skin and fungal problems.

In Latin America, medicines containing stevia are now available for asthma, diabetes and influenza, particularly in Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Paraguay. An abundance of Stevia tea blends with natural herbs for allergies and obesity can be found in natural food stores or traditional markets in South America. Many Stevia products are already available in supermarkets and drugstores.