History of the stevia
Origins of stevia
Modern scientific interest in the Stevia plant dates to the early 1900’s. It was "discovered" by Spanish Conquistadors in South America in the sixteenth century. They learned about stevia from the local Guarani and Mato Grosso Indians who used stevia leaves to sweeten their medicines and teas. They called the plant CAA-HEE (Honey Leaf).
The early European settlers used stevia leaves to sweeten their teas, foods and drinks. They called it Yerba Dulce (Sweet Herb). Later the Gauchos of the region used Stevia leaves to sweeten their Mate/ tea.
Discovery of the properties of stevia
Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni, director of the College of Agriculture in Asuncion, first learned of what he described as "this very strange plant" from Indian guides while exploring Paraguay's eastern forests in 1887. This area was not the herb's native 'growing ground.' Consequently, Bertoni, by his own account, was initially "unable to find it." It was 12 years before he was presented with tangible evidence -- a packet of stevia fragments and broken leaves received from a friend who had gotten them from the mate plantations in the northeast. He subsequently announced his discovery of the "new species" in a botanical journal published in Asuncion.
Bertoni named the "new" variety of the Stevia genus in honor of a Paraguayan chemist named Rebaudi who subsequently became the first to extract the plant's sweet constituent. "In placing in the mouth the smallest particle of any portion of the leaf or twig," Bertoni wrote, "one is surprised at the strange and extreme sweetness contained therein. A fragment of the leaf only a few square millimeters in size suffices to keep the mouth sweet for an hour; a few small leaves are sufficient to sweeten a strong cup of coffee or tea."
It wasn't until 1903, however, that Bertoni discovered the live plant, a gift from the parish priest of Villa San Pedro. The following year, as he recounted, "the appearance of the first flowers enabled me to make a complete study" -- the publication of which appeared in December 1905, after an interruption caused by a civil war. What he found was enough to convince him that "the sweetening power of kaa he-e is so superior to sugar that there is no need to wait for the results of analyses and cultures to affirm its economic advantage...the simplest test proves it."
By 1913, Bertoni's earlier impression of what had now been dubbed Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni had undergone a change. What he had previously referred to as a "rare" and "little-known" plant had now become "famous" and "well-known."
The botanist's initial misperception is explained by the Herb Research Foundation as being akin to that of a foreigner trying to find wild ginseng in the U.S., and coming to the erroneous conclusion that it is a rare plant when, in fact, it is widely prevalent -- provided you know where to look. Further complicating the picture was the difficulty of traveling within Paraguay during the late 1800s, entailing "an upriver journey of many days by steamship."
Around 1970 Japan began to prohibit the use of artificial laboratory made chemical sweeteners, due to health concerns. Convinced of the safety of Stevia and Stevioside it approved Stevia and Stevioside as sweeteners and flavor enhancers for food use in Japan. This move intensified the already ongoing Japanese studies of Stevioside for commercial production and use. By 1977 the Maruzen Kasei Co., Ltd. started extracting Stevioside on a commercial basis in Japan.
There are no products matching the selection.