Stevia Rebaudiana was first introduced to the world by Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni. He happened upon the sweet shrub while traveling through Paraguay in 1887. Of course, the natives knew the plant all too well and had been using it for a variety of purposes for hundreds of years. The Guarani Indians of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina sweetened their drink of choice, bitter yerba-mate, with the sweet leaves of the shrub. They also added it to poultices and other medicinal potions or simply chewed the leaves for the fresh sweet taste. Today, as the top Stevia supplier, China and other cultivators of the plant are seeing a myriad of uses for the sweet leaves.
Originally, it was only available as a dietary supplement in the United States, which meant it was not FDA-approved. In December 2008, it was FDA-approved as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) and can now be used as an additive in food and drink products. This is attractive to many companies because it is a no-calorie alternative to sugar. For a Stevia supplier, this opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
But, there are other uses for the sweet leaves, concentrates and extracts besides sweetening drinks. Cooking and baking is sweetened with this product. Since it doesn't react to heat it remains stable for delicious low-calorie recipes. The leaves can be steeped into a tea or as a flavoring for tea or lemonade.
A Stevia supplier may provide the product as a dietary supplement to complement other ingredients. Sweet extracts have found their way into toothpastes, mouthwashes, skin care products like facial masks and body and hair washes.
Whether in whole leaf form, dried leaf, liquid concentrate or extract, as more and more information and research is conducted, there is no telling what else this fabulously sweet all-natural substance will be used for.