Perhaps nothing better exemplifies what we mean by “Herbal Advantage” than one of our most popular products – the herb Stevia, a plant whose sweetness far exceeds that of sugar (despite having no calories) with a traditional medicinal reputation to boot. In an age when consumers are advised to beware of the caloric and glycemic drawbacks of sugar and other “natural” sweeteners, and when synthetic substitutes such as aspartame have become associated with a variety of health complaints, many are now rediscovering the advantages of Stevia, an herb prized for centuries by the native culture of Paraguay .Europeans first learned of Stevia when the Spanish conquistadors of the 16th Century sent word to Spain that the natives of South America had used the plant to sweeten herbal tea since “ancient times”.
The saga of American interest in Stevia began around the turn of the 20th Century when researchers in Brazil started hearing about “a plant with leaves so sweet that a part of one would sweeten a whole gourd full of mate.” Dr. M.S. Bertoni wrote some of the earliest articles on the plant in 1905 and 1918. In the latter article he noted “The principal importance of Ka he’e (Stevia) is due to the possibility of substituting it for saccharine,” over which he noted that Stevia had several advantages. These included the fact that it was “a sweetening agent of great power,” was not only nontoxic, but healthful, could be used “directly in its natural state (pulverized leaves),” and was “much cheaper than saccharine.”
This last point, unfortunately, has actually proven an impediment to Stevia’s acceptance here in the U.S. where both sugar and synthetic non-caloric substitutes are big business. It is small wonder that these powerful sweetener interests did not want the public to become familiar with this natural and inexpensive sweet herb. In much of the world Stevia (short for Stevia Rebuadiana Bertoni) has become immensely popular as a sweetener. In Japan , for example, dozens of well-designed studies of its safety, chemistry and stability for use in different food products confirmed that it posed no health problems or adverse reactions. After the Japanese government approved the plant for use in the 1970s, food manufacturers there began using Stevia extracts to sweeten everything from sweet soy sauce and pickles to Diet Coke. Stevia and its extracts have since captured more than 40 percent of the Japanese sweetener market.
Stevia is now grown commercially and used throughout much of the world, from its native South America to the Far East, including such countries as Brazil , China , Israel and South Korea . Stevia extracts have also been widely used to sweeten various food items marketed in these countries by such well-known corporations as Coca-Cola and Beatrice Foods. In the U.S. the story has been somewhat different. During the 1980s, just as Stevia was on the verge of being utilized in various products, the Food and Drug Administration sought to discourage its consumption by means of an “import alert”. This was not in response to any health-related complaints, but apparently due to a “trade complaint” filed by a large unidentified company. Since the passage of the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Education Act, however, Stevia has been available here as a dietary supplement – only without any direct reference permitted on the label to its use as a sweetener. But that’s something that many consumers have since been able to discover for themselves, with a little help from the Internet and a number of informative publications offering a wealth of information on the herb’s role as a safe and beneficial sweetening agent.What many of Stevia’s users may not have known, however, are the various health benefits long attributed to it, which are finally beginning to get the attention they deserve. Recent studies, for instance, suggest that Stevia may help fight infections, has a regulating effect on the pancreas and may help to stabilize blood sugar levels, which would make it ideally suited for diabetics and those suffering from hypoglycemia, as well as candidiasis. Traditionally, it has also been used as a tonic for the heart, as a means of lowering hypertension and uric acid levels, and to alleviate acidity and excess gas. Many users, in fact, have come to regard it as something that helps them to maintain a “perfect health balance”. According to a recent report on Stevia, authored by two Japanese researchers, the herb possesses, among other health-enhancing attributes, “extremely strong anti-oxidizing power” and “is reported to have the power to dissolve and detoxify dioxin, nicotine, and histamine,” a cause of allergies.
In addition, Stevia is a major source of superoxide dismutase (SOD), one of three enzymes known to generate significant anti-oxidant activity, making it an important anti-cancer factor. In fact, research on cancerous cells have shown them to be either deficient or totally lacking in SOD, which is also present in wheat grass. Anti-oxidants such as SOD have the ability to mop up free radicals and thus to reduce or avoid cell mutation, which is part of the first stage of cancer formation.
What this all means is that by supplementing your diet with either Stevia or wheat grass; you’ll almost certainly be helping to prevent or alleviate the conditions that can lead to the formation of cancerous growths. In essence, Stevia may be the natural solution to the many health problems — especially the current prevalence of obesity and diabetes — that have been associated with excessive sugar consumption and artificial sweeteners. It’s a solution that was there all along, with none of the added health concerns that have been created by the development of artificial sweeteners.
The advantage of Herbal Advantage over other brands of Stevia
While Stevia is intensely sweet (necessitating the use of only small amounts), it is often known to leave a slight aftertaste. This is due to the presence of high amounts of stevioside, one of the glycosides contained in the Stevia leaf. At Herbal Advantage, we not only grow our own Stevia, but have spent eight years in developing an exclusive variety, using cross-pollination and selection techniques, that have both lower stevioside content and a higher amount of rebaudioside, another of its sweet glycosides. The result is Stevia that’s one-and-a-half times as sweet as that grown in South America and China – and with little or none of the aftertaste. We have also recently increased our production of our “Super-Sweet Stevia” to meet a growing customer demand.At Herbal Advantage, our Stevia products include white Stevia extract powder (1 lb. = about 300 lb. sugar) and green Stevia leaf (1 lb. = about 100 lb. sugar). The green Stevia leaf is available in whole, cut, or powder forms. The white powder, which dissolves completely in hot or cold liquid, makes an ideal tabletop sweetener. The leaf forms are best for cooking or baking, and retain all the medicinal benefits of the Stevia plant. The cut variety is also highly recommended as a sweetener when brewing teas.
The added advantages of dealing with Herbal Advantage
Having been in the business of growing herbs for decades and at our present location for more than ten years, we take pride in our specialized knowledge and the lengths to which we go to accommodate our patrons. As a result, Herbal Advantage is where you’re offered the advantages of superior products and fast, effective personal service at a reasonable price. Our operating philosophy is – If our customers aren’t happy, than neither are we.If you’ve had enough of answering machines and impersonal, faceless computer transactions, you’ll find dealing with Herbal Advantage a most refreshing change. If you’re unable to find what you’re looking for, you’re welcome to phone or e-mail us – we promise you’ll get a personal response. We also welcome your suggestions and comments. And if you’re ever out this way, please feel free to stop by and visit us. After all, we’re from Missouri – which means we not only want to be shown, but want to show you what we’re all about!