Stevia a bio-sweetener plant

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Stevia (Stevia rebudiana) is a natural, non-calorie and nutrient rich sweetest plant. It is commonly called a candy leaf plant of Asteraceae family. Due to its medicinal and commercial importance it is being used all over the world. It was originated from Paraguay and is also famous as “Sweet herb of Paraguay”. It was reported that there are 150 species within the stevia family, but rebudiana has the highest sweetest level among all species. Stevia is also renowned as sweet leaf, honey leaf, sweet herb, honey yerba and candy leaf.

Stevia is a semi-tropical plant that can be easily raised in gardens alike other crops. Well drained sandy loam soil is good for the farming of stevia. It requires a pH in a range of 6.5-7.5. Sandy soils should be avoided for stevia cultivation. The requirement of natural sweetener has driven many farmers of different countries to cultivate stevia on a large scale. Now it has been cultivated in Brazil, China, Korea, Japan, India and many other countries.

Stevia belongs to perennial shrubs that grow up to 65 cm to 180 cm in fertile soils. Stevia requires short day length and in southern hemisphere its flowering is from January to March. It has been found that Stevia’s leaf is 150 to 300 times sweeter than refined sugar. The main component of sweet present in the leaves of Stevia rebudiana “Stevioside” has taste about 300 times sweeter than sucrose. Stevia leaves contain zero-calorie Diterpene glycosides, a group of natural sweetener. The leaves of wild Stevia contain 0.6% rebaudioside C, 0.3% dulcoside, 3.8% rebaudioside A and 9.1% Stevioside.

Not only stevia used as a sweetener but also its extract have been used for many years in many parts of South America, Korea as well as in Japan. In Japan stevia is used as a sweetener in various products such as candies and soft drinks. The extreme sugar intake has become a major health concern all over the world. Due to its commercial value Stevia and its metabolites has been used as a sugar substitute in foods and beverages. Researchers need  to  work  more  on Stevia for  clinical  indications  and demonstration  of  metabolic  pathways  regarding  benefits to explore its full potential.

Due to its medicinal property it has also been used as a natural control of diabetes. It is the first natural non-calorie sweetener which is used for treating heart burn and other disorders. Obesity is one of the common dietary disorders; it is a state of accumulation of fats in the body. Now it has been found that stevia helps in weight control in obese person. Stevia has also been found as antioxidant and it gives relieve from blood pressure and hypertension. Stevioside and other related compounds have been found as anti-inflammatory, anticancer and can be used as anti-diarrheal therapeutics. Potential effect of Stevioside such as skin inflammation has also been found. It can also be used as tonic for heart to stabilize blood pressure levels and to control heartbeat. In humans it also has been found that leaf extract of stevia is being used to lower the systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

After all stevia’s sweet taste and all natural origins makes it a best substitute of white sugar. Stevia in large quantity may be harmful but it is safe to say that when it is consumed in reasonable amount, stevia may be an extraordinary natural sweet plant.

  1. Yousaf Nadeem1, M. Abubakar Saif1, M. Umer Chattha1, Imran Khan1, M.Safeer1 and Wajid Umar2

1Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture Faisalabad.

2Institute of Soil and Enviornmental Sciences, University of Agriculture Faisalabad.


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