Benefits, Importance and Side effects of Stevia
Stevia is a small perennial shrub that has been used as a natural sweetener for centuries. It is considered a healthy sugar substitute and is derived from a plant belonging to the Asteraceae family (sunflower, daisy and ragweed). Stevia tastes 200-300 times sweeter than real sugar. It has zero calories because it is natural and does not have any carbohydrates or artificial ingredients.
Stevia is also known as Candyleaf, Sugarleaf, Honeyleaf and Meethi tulsi. Its scientific name is Stevia rebaudiana.
Importance of Stevia
Stevia has hepatoprotective, antioxidant, anti-wrinkle, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory properties which is useful in treating diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol and skin diseases.
Importance of Shallaki in Ayurveda
Shallaki reduces pain (especially joint pain) due to its Vata balancing properties. According to Ayurveda, all kinds of pain caused by aggravated Vata, can be cured using this herb. Shallaki helps to calm Vata and reduces pain associated with swelling.
Stevia contains 8 types of glycosides (compounds that are purified and extracted from plants) namely-
- Rebaudioside A, C, D, E and F
- Dulcoside A
These glycosides are used in the making of Stevia products, the most common glycoside is Rebaudioside A (Reb-A).
Benefits of Stevia
- Treats diabetes-Stevia can help manage diabetes due to its anti-diabetic properties. It reduces glucose absorption, which increases insulin secretion. Thus, lowers blood sugar levels.
- Lowers hypertension (high blood pressure)-Stevia helps in lowering blood pressure due to glycosides present in it. It relaxes constricted blood vessels and increases blood flow and oxygen to the heart.
- Manages heart diseases-Stevia helps treat heart diseases due to the presence of glycosides in it. Glycosides reduce the concentration of low density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. Low levels of LDL helps reduce the risk of heart diseases.
- Helpful in weight loss-Stevia can help you lose weight because it is low in calories. So, replacing regular sweeteners with stevia reduces calorie intake, thereby consuming it, reduces body weight.
- Good for teeth-Stevia might be beneficial for teeth due to its antibacterial properties. It inhibits the growth of bacteria that causes plaque and tooth decay.
- Protects the liver-Stevia is good for the liver due to its anti-hepatotoxic effects. It has antioxidant enzymes that fight free radicals and prevent cell damage.
- Heals wound-Stevia heals cuts and wounds due to its antibacterial and wound healing properties.
Treats skin diseases-
Stevia can be beneficial for the skin due to its antibacterial and antioxidant properties that help fight free radicals. It provides glowing and supple skin. When used topically on the skin, stevia has shown magnificent results to prevent wrinkles, slow down signs of aging, and reduce acne.
Side effects of Stevia
Stevia extracts are free of side effects, while stevia products are very refined and used in moderation, they do not cause side effects, but the same is not true for crude stevia leaves. Some of the side effects of stevia leaves are:
- It may cause damage to the kidneys, reproductive system and cardiovascular system.
- People with low BP are advised to keep away from stevia leaves as it can also lower the blood pressure by reacting with medicines.
- Some people may experience bloating, nausea, dizziness, muscle aches, and tingling.
- Avoid using crude stevia leaves in pregnancy.
It's better to consume stevia products than whole stevia leaves.
Where is it found?
Stevia is native to northeast Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. In India, it is found in Punjab, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra pradesh.