History of stevia

In Blogs
July 5, 2021
5 min read

The Stevia rebaudiana plant is native to Paraguay, a South American country. Stevia is also known as sweet herb among the indigenous people, kaa he-he. Stevia is still used as a medicine and sweetener by both the Guarani and Mato Grosso Indians. But where did stevia come from, who invested it, this is the most asked question. So, in this article we will see the history of stevia.

History of Stevia

Moisés Giacomo Santiago Bertoni discovered Stevia.

While exploring Paraguay’s eastern jungles in 1887, Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni, head of the College of Agriculture in Asuncion, discovered “this exceedingly odd plant” from Indian guides. This wasn’t the herb’s natural ‘growing place.’ As a result, Bertoni was originally “unable to find it,” according to his own words. It took another 12 years before he received solid proof in the form of a packet of stevia shards and broken leaves from a buddy who had obtained them from the northeastern mate plantations. In a botanical magazine published in Asuncion, he later announced his finding of the “new species.”

Bertoni called the Stevia genus’s “new” variation after a Paraguayan scientist named Rebaudi, who was the first to extract the plant’s sweet ingredient. “One is amazed at the peculiar and extraordinary sweetness contained inside when placing the smallest particle of any piece of the leaf or twig in the mouth,” Bertoni wrote. A few little leaves are enough to sweeten a strong cup of coffee or tea; a piece of the leaf only a few square millimeters in size suffices to keep the tongue sweet for an hour.”

Bertoni did not uncover the living plant, which was a gift from the parish priest of Villa San Pedro, until 1903. According to him, “the blooming of the first blooms permitted me to make a thorough study” the following year, which he published in December 1905, after a break caused by a civil conflict. “The sweetening capacity of kaa he-e is so superior to sugar that there is no need to wait for the results of studies and cultures to validate its economic advantage…the simplest test demonstrates it,” he said.

Bertoni’s initial view of what became known as Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni had changed by 1913. He had earlier described the plant as “rare” and “little-known,” but it had now become “renowned” and “well-known.” The Herb Research Foundation compares the botanist’s original misunderstanding to that of a foreigner looking for wild ginseng in the United States and incorrectly concluding that it is a rare plant while, in fact, it is commonly available if you know where to look. The difficulties of traveling within Paraguay in the late 1800s, which required “an upriver journey of many days by steamship,” further complicated the situation.

The distribution of Stevia

Stevia has been popular in Japan since 1950 and now accounts for a considerable portion of the sweetener market. Stevia is now commonly utilized throughout Asia.

In contrast to the rest of the globe, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a long time to approve steviol glycosides in 2008. Steviol glycosides have now been granted the GRAS designation (GRAS = generally recognized as safe) and are considered to be relatively safe in the United States. In 2009, France approved Rebaudioside A 97, and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) eventually approved steviol glycosides in December 2011. As a result, the sweetener stevia is now virtually universally accepted.


Stevia Customs and Naturopathy

Stevia has been used to sweeten the popular mate tea in South America for millennia. The natives sweeten their food using whole Stevia leaves or ground green Stevia leaf powder. Stevia is still used as a medicine and sweetener by both the Guarani and Mato Grosso Indian tribes. Physical weakness, blood pressure, stomach, intestinal disorders, skin, and fungal diseases were all treated with liquid Stevia.

In Latin America, stevia-based treatments for asthma, diabetes, and influenza are increasingly available, particularly in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Paraguay. In South America, natural food stores and traditional marketplaces provide a plethora of Stevia tea blends with natural herbs for allergies and obesity. Many Stevia products can already be found in supermarkets and pharmacies.


What is the history of stevia’s discovery?

Stevia’s discovery dates back centuries to the indigenous communities of South America, who used the sweet leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant for centuries before it gained global recognition. Its use as a natural sweetener has a rich history deeply rooted in traditional medicine and folklore.

Who first identified the stevia plant?

The stevia plant, Stevia rebaudiana, was first identified by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. They encountered the indigenous Guarani people of Paraguay, who had been using the sweet leaves of the stevia plant for sweetening beverages and medicinal purposes.

When was stevia first used, and by whom?

Indigenous communities in South America, particularly the Guarani people, were the first to use stevia leaves for sweetening beverages and herbal remedies. They had been using stevia for centuries before it became known to the Western world.

Were there any cultural or historical uses of stevia as a sweetener?

Yes, stevia has a long history of being used as a natural sweetener in various traditional beverages, such as mate tea, by indigenous communities in South America. Its sweet leaves were prized for their intense sweetness without the added calories of sugar.

Were there any historical misconceptions or myths surrounding stevia?

Yes, there were historical misconceptions and myths surrounding stevia, particularly related to its safety as a sweetener. Some early studies raised concerns about potential adverse effects, but further research has debunked these myths and demonstrated the safety of stevia for most people.

What role did scientific research play in uncovering stevia’s properties throughout history?

Scientific research played a crucial role in uncovering stevia’s properties, understanding its sweet compounds, and addressing safety concerns. As research advanced, it contributed to the acceptance of stevia as a safe and natural sweetener.

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