STEVIA Overview Information
Stevia is a plant that is native to South America. It is probably best known as a source of natural sweeteners. In fact, native people in South America have used stevia as a sweetener for hundreds of years. But the leaves are also used to make medicine.
Stevia is used as a weight loss aid; for treating diabetes, high blood pressure and heartburn; for lowering uric acid levels; for preventing pregnancy; and for increasing the strength of the muscle contractions that pump blood from the heart.
In foods, stevia is used as a non-caloric sweetener and flavor enhancer. Stevia was originally available as a "dietary supplement" in the U.S. It wasn’t allowed as a “food additive” until 2008. That’s when the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status to rebaudioside A, one of the chemicals in stevia that makes it sweet. Stevia is also available as a sweetener in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Russia, Israel, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina.
How does it work?
Stevia is a plant that contains natural sweeteners that are used in foods. Researchers have also evaluated the effect of chemicals in stevia on blood pressure and blood sugar levels. However, research results have been mixed.
- High blood pressure. Some research suggests that taking 750-1500 mg per day of stevioside, a chemical compound in stevia, reduces systolic blood pressure (the upper number in a blood pressure reading) by 10-14 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) by 6-14 mmHg within one week of starting treatment. However, other research suggests that taking stevioside in doses up to 15 mg per kg per day does not significantly reduce blood pressure in patients with mild high blood pressure.
- Diabetes. Early research suggests that 1000 mg daily of stevioside, a chemical compound in stevia, might reduce blood sugar levels after meals by 18% in people with type 2 diabetes. However, other research suggests that taking 250 mg of stevioside three times daily does not significantly affect blood sugar levels or HbA1c (a measure over blood sugar levels over time) after three months of treatment in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
- Preventing pregnancy.
- Weight loss.
- Water retention.
- Heart problems.
- Other conditions.
STEVIA Side Effects & Safety
Stevia and chemicals contained in stevia, including stevioside and rebaudioside A, are LIKELY SAFE when used as a sweetener in foods. Rebaudioside A has generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status in the U.S. for use as a sweetener for foods. Stevioside has been safely used in research in doses of up to 1500 mg per day for 2 years.
Some people who take stevia or stevioside can experience bloating or nausea. Other people have reported feelings of dizziness, muscle pain, and numbness.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of stevia during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Allergy to ragweed and related plants: Stevia might cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family of plants. This family includes ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many other plants.
Diabetes: Some developing research suggests that some of the chemicals contained in stevia might lower blood sugar levels and could interfere with blood sugar control. However, other research disagrees. If you have diabetes and take stevia or any of the sweeteners it contains, monitor your blood sugar closely and report your findings to your healthcare provider.
Low blood pressure: There is some evidence, though not conclusive, that some of the chemicals in stevia can lower blood pressure. There is a concern that these chemicals might cause blood pressure to drop too low in people who have low blood pressure. Get your healthcare provider’s advice before taking stevia or the sweeteners it contains, if you have low blood pressure.
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Lithium interacts with STEVIA
Stevia might have an effect like a water pill or "diuretic." Taking stevia might decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium. This could increase how much lithium is in the body and result in serious side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider before using this product if you are taking lithium. Your lithium dose might need to be changed.
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with STEVIA
Stevia might decrease blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking stevia along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
- Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs) interacts with STEVIA
Stevia might decrease blood pressure in some people. Taking stevia along with medications used for lowering high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low. However, it's not know if this is a big concern. Do not take too much stevia if you are taking medications for high blood pressure.
Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), Amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.
The appropriate dose of stevia depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for stevia. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.