Origin and history of Stevia

Origin and history of Stevia

The origin of the Stevia rebaudiana plant lies in the South American state of Paraguay. Among the local population Stevia is also called 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 honour of the discoverers Moisés Giacomo Santiago Bertoni and the chemist Ovidio Rebaudi. Rebaudi was the first to isolate and name the sweet stevia ingredients of the leaves of the stevia plant. The description of steviosides in its present form goes back to the French chemists M. Bridel and R. Laveille in 1931.

The spread of stevia

In Japan, the sweetener stevia has been popular since 1950 and today has a significant market share in the sweetener market. Today, stevia is widespread in Asia.

Unlike 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. France followed with the approval of Rebaudioside A 97 in 2009. In December 2011, steviol glycosides were finally approved in the EU by EFSA.  As a result, the sweetener stevia is approved almost worldwide.

Stevia traditions and naturopathy

For centuries, the popular mate tea has been sweetened with stevia in South America. The local people use the whole stevia leaves or the ground green stevia leaf powder to sweeten the tea. Not only the Guarani Indians, but also the Indian tribes of Mato Grosso still use Stevia as a remedy and sweetener. They used liquid stevia in cases of physical weakness, complaints of blood pressure, stomach, intestines as well as skin and fungal problems.

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