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Stevia rebaudiana

Botanical Name : Stevia rebaudiana
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Eupatorieae
Genus: Stevia
Species:S. rebaudiana
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom:Plantae
Order: Asterales

Synonyms : Eupatorium rebaudianum.

Common Names:Stevia, Candyleaf, Sweetleaf, Sweet leaf, or Sugarleaf

Habitat:Stevia rebaudiana is native to South AmericaBrazil, Paraguay. It grows on infertile, sandy acid soils with shallow water tables. This is normally in areas like the edge of mashes and grassland communities.

Description:
Stevia Rebaudiana is a sub-tropical plant and prefers a climate where the mean temperature is 75° F. and is always semi-humid. It thrives where it rains approximately 55″ each year. S. Rebaudiana is a herbaceous perennial shrub native to the highlands of Paraguay and sections of Argentina and Brazil that are situated along the 25th Degree Line, South Latitude.

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In the wild, Stevia grows to 2 feet in height while cultivated varieties grow to three feet. A spindly, many-branched plant with an interesting root system. Fine roots spread out on the surface of the soil, while a thicker part of the root grows deep into the soil. The stems are hairy, wand-like and covered with leaves. Leaves are opposite and toothed, fibrous and dark green. Flowers are white, tubular and bisexual. While the plant itself is not aromatic, the leaves are sweet to the taste and dry leaves are sweeter.

It is frost tender. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

Stevia was discovered in 1887 by the South American Natural Scientist, Antonio Bertoni. There are approximately 80 wild species in North America and another 200 species are native to South America. However, only Stevia Rebaudiana (and another species, now extinct) possesses the natural sweetness we look for. Some of the other species, while still very sweet, have a taste reminiscent of a well-known artificial sweetener.
Cultivation:
Prefers a sandy soil, requiring a warm sunny position. It is a short day plant, growing up to 0.6 meters in the wild and flowering from January to March in the southern hemisphere. Flowering under short day conditions should occur 54-104 days following transplanting, depending on the daylength sensitivity of the cultivar. The natural climate is semi-humid subtropical with temperature extremes from 21 to 43 C, averaging 24 C. Stevia grows in areas with up to 1375mm of rain a year. Plants are not very frost resistant, but can be grown as half-hardy annuals in Britain, starting them off in a greenhouse and planting them out after the last expected frosts.

Propagation:
Seed – sow spring in a warm greenhouse and only just cover the seed. Make sure the compost does not dry out. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots and grow them on fast, planting them out after the last expected frosts. It could be worthwhile giving them some protection such as a cloche or cold frame for a few weeks after planting them out until they are growing away well.
Edible Uses:
Used primarily as a sweetener in teas and coffee and contains little, if any, calories. In maney countries, it is used commercially to sweeten sodas and other beverages for the calorie conscious public. Stevia does not break down when heated, so it can be used in baking or cooking without problems. However, it does not crystallize or caramelize like sugar; so meringues and flans are not in the Stevia cooking list. Stevia products currently on the market include: Stevia leaves – whole leaves. Stevia, Cut and Sifted – the leaves are cut into smaller pieces and sifted to ensure that twigs and extraneous matter are not included.

Leaves are eaten -raw or cooked. A very sweet liquorice-like flavour. The leaves contain ‘stevioside’, a substance that is 300 times sweeter than sucrose. Other reports say that they contain ‘estevin’ a substance that, weight for weight, is 150 times sweeter than sugar. The dried leaves can be ground and used as a sweetener or soaked in water and the liquid used in making preserves. The powdered leaves are also added to herb teas. The leaves are sometimes chewed by those wishing to reduce their sugar intake. The leaves can also be cooked and eaten as a vegetable.

Medicinal Uses:
Stevia has been used by the native South Americans to treat diabetes, because of its ability to lower the blood sugar level. They also use it to treat high blood pressure.  Paraguayan Matto Grosso Indian tribes use stevia as an oral contraceptive.  The women drink a daily decoction in water of powdered leaves and stems to achieve this purpose.  This activity of the plant remains a controversial issue.  The suggestion is that the antifertility effect is due to certain flavonoids and their monoglycosides, and not to stevioside.

The Guarani Tribe of Paraguay, the Mestizos and other natives refer to Stevia as Caa-he-e and they have used the herb to sweeten their bitter beverages (mate´ for example) since pre-Columbian times.

Known Hazards : May cause dizziness, headache, flatulence, nausea & muscle pain. Caution with diabetic patients. May increase blood pressure lowering effects of allopathic medicine.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevia_rebaudiana

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Stevia+rebaudiana

http://www.n8ture.com/herbs-stevia.html

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_RST.htm

 

 

 

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The Miracle Berry

Imagine an extract from a berry that would make sour things taste sweet and help you lose weight. Then imagine not being allowed to take it.

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The berry makes sour things taste sweet

The world is getting fatter. One billion people are overweight, and 300 million of those are clinically obese.

The search is always on for replacements for those things that, eaten in excess, make us obese – fatty and sugary foods. There is no miracle pill that can replace either. Nearly four decades ago one man came close to providing a tablet that could reduce our love of sugar. In the 1960s, Robert Harvey, a biomedical postgraduate student, encountered the miracle berry, an African fruit which turns sour tastes to sweet.

“You can eat a berry and then bite into a lemon,” says Harvey. “It becomes not only sweeter, but it will be the best lemon you’ve tasted in your life.”

FIND OUT MORE…
The Miracle Berry, presented by Tom Mangold, is on Radio 4 at 2100 BST on 28 April
Or listen again on the BBC iPlayer

More importantly, this “miracle” can be used to manufacture sweet tasting foods without sugar or sweeteners, which have always been plagued by an after-taste.

Spotting the potential health benefits, and the healthy profits, that the miracle berry promised, Harvey founded the Miralin Company to grow the berry in Jamaica and Puerto Rico, extract its active ingredient in laboratories in Hudson, Massachusetts, and market it across the United States. At first, Harvey aimed his products at diabetics.

“In market testing, diabetics thought our product, as the name implies, was a miracle.”

But Harvey’s sweet dream of making the world healthier came to an abrupt end. On the eve of the launch in 1974, the US Food and Drugs Administration unexpectedly turned against the product.

Legal advice and contact with the FDA had led Harvey to believe that the extract from the berry would be allowed under the classification “generally recognised as safe”. Having been eaten for centuries in Africa, without anecdotal reports of problems, it could be assumed not to be harmful.

But the FDA decided it would be considered as an additive which required several years more testing. In the poor economic climate of 1974, this could not be funded and the company folded.

“I was in shock,” says Harvey. “We were on very good terms with the FDA and enjoyed their full support. There was no sign of any problem. Without any opportunity to know what the concern was and who raised it, and to respond to it – they just banned the product.”

He remembers a number of strange events leading up to the FDA’s decision, beginning immediately after one particular market research test.

His investors, including Reynolds Metals, Barclays and Prudential, had put up big money. They were looking for big returns.

“From the beginning my interest was in the diabetic market but my backers wanted to put double zeros after the numbers we were projecting.”

So, in the summer of 1974, miracle berry ice lollies, in four different flavours, were compared to similar, sugar-sweetened versions by schoolchildren in Boston. The berry won every time.

Don Emery, then vice president of the Miralin company, recalls the excitement.

“If we had got beyond the diabetic market we could have been a multi-billion dollar company. We’d have displaced maybe millions of tons of sugar and lots of artificial sweeteners as well.”

A few weeks later, things turned sour. A car was spotted driving back and forwards past Miralin’s offices, slowing down as someone took photographs of the building. Then, late one night, Harvey was followed as he drove home.

“I sped up, then he sped up. I pulled into this dirt access road and turned off my lights and the other car went past the end of the road at a very high speed. Clearly I was being monitored.”

Sugar denial:  Finally, at the end of that summer, Harvey and Emery arrived back at the office after dinner to find they were being burgled. The burglars escaped and were never found, but the main FDA file was left lying open on the floor.

A few weeks later the FDA, which had previously been very supportive, wrote to Miralin, effectively banning its product. No co-incidence, according to Don Emery.

Obesity is a massive problem in the West  :  “I honestly believe that we were done in by some industrial interest that did not want to see us survive because we were a threat. Somebody influenced somebody in the FDA to cause the regulatory action that was taken against us.”

The Sugar Association, the trade body representing “Big Sugar” in the US, declined to be interviewed on the subject but flatly denied that the industry had exerted any influence over the FDA.

The Calorie Control Council, which represents artificial sweetener manufacturers in the US, has failed to respond to questions on the issue.

The Food and Drugs Administration also refused to be interviewed and has indicated that a Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation request to look at the relevant FDA files will not be considered for a year. Robert Harvey had requested the same files over 30 years ago.

“We got back the most redacted information I’ve ever seen from FOI. Everything was blacked out. There would have been material in the file that would have embarrassed the FDA, I believe.”

Faced with this silence, it’s virtually impossible to assess what actually happened to prevent the miracle berry’s progress to a sugar-free market.

But one thing is certain, it never got the chance to prove whether it really would have provided a miracle in our ever fattening world. And for Robert Harvey, that’s the biggest shame of all.

“It was a big loss not only for my employees and shareholders but, even more importantly, for diabetics and other people with special dietary needs. It was tragic.”

CLICK TO KNOW MORE ABOUT : MIRACLE BERRY:
*Also known as “miracle fruit” or Synsepalum dulcificum
*Grown in Africa, first documented in 18th Century
*Acts on the sour receptors of the tongue, turning sour tastes sweet
*Effect lasts 30 mins – two hours
*Effect is destroyed in hot foods – eg coffee and baked foods
*Renders an accompanying dry white wine sickly sweet
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Sources: BBC NEWS:28Th. Aptil ’08

Sweeteners Make You Fat

A new study says that artificial sweeteners don’t work. T.V. Jayan reports

In the battle against the bulge, low or no-calorie artificial sweeteners may not have much of a role to play, contrary to what conventional wisdom says. In fact, they might even be counter productive, as the latest research shows.
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Scientists seem to have got the first glimpse of what artificial sweeteners could do to a living organism’s metabolism when they tried out saccharin-laden yogurt on laboratory rats. The researchers   Susan Swithers and Terry Davidson, both psychologists at Purdue University in the US   found that replacing sugar with saccharin in the animals  diet did reduce a few calories (equivalent of that contained in sugar), but the rats ended up hogging more, gained more weight and put on more body fat. More importantly, the animals failed to cut back on subsequent meals accordingly, the researchers say in a paper that’s appearing today in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience.

Swithers and Davidson found that as compared to rats that ate yogurt sweetened with glucose (a sugar with 15 calories per teaspoon    the same as in table sugar), those given yogurt sweetened with zero-calorie saccharin consumed relatively more calories. The rats in all groups were fed yogurt six days a week for five weeks.

In nature, sweetness is normally linked to food that is rich in calories. This association is ingrained in most animals very early in life, the first such experience being that of breast milk. With the growing use of non-calorific sweeteners, millions of people are being exposed to sweet tastes that are not associated with calorific or nutritive values. The scientists suspect this type of exposure may be partly impairing our body’s energy regulation.

By breaking the connection between a sweet sensation and high-calorie food, the use of saccharin changes the body’s ability to regulate intake, the scientists argue. This breakdown of self-regulation may partly be responsible for the ballooning obesity levels, which has coincided with the use of artificial sweeteners.

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Sweet tasting substances are known to be strong elicitors of a number of reactions involving the hormones, body temperature and metabolic activity. The moment one pops a chocolate into the mouth or takes the first sip of a sugar-laden drink, a series of reactions sets in motion inside the body. The first one is what scientists call the cephalic-phase reflex. It ensures that gastric acids (that will eventually digest the incoming food) are released the very moment one begins to chew the food. Cephalic-phase reflexes make the system anticipate and prepare for the arrival of nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract so that it can increase the efficiency of nutrient utilisation and minimise the damage that could be caused to the internal environment by the onrush of high-calorie food. Ingestive and digestive reflexes gear up for that intake but when false sweetness isn’t followed by lots of calories, the system gets confused. This may make people eat more and expend less energy than they would otherwise.

The Purdue University researchers designed three different experiments to check whether saccharin changed the animals    ability to regulate their intake. They used different assessments  calorific intake, weight gain and the animals    ability to cut the flab later. The experiments also measured changes in the core body temperature. Normally when we prepare to eat, the metabolic engine revs up. However, the rats that had been trained to respond using saccharin (which broke the link between sweetness and calories) showed a smaller rise in the core temperature than those eating a sweet-tasting, high-calorie meal. The authors of the study think that this blunted response both led to over-eating and made it harder for the animals to burn off sweet-tasting calories.

The data clearly indicate that consuming food sweetened with no-calorie saccharin can lead to greater weight gain and adiposity than consuming the same food sweetened with a higher-calorie sugar,  they claim.

The study looks very sound, says Anoop Misra, an internal medicine specialist at Fortis Flt Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital in New Delhi.   It certainly goes against the tide.

But Misra thinks there are several caveats here. One, the study was conducted in rats and the response of human beings may be different. Besides, lab animals are not bothered about obesity or the richness of the food they eat, while a human being — in fear of becoming overweight — would probably be conscious of the calories consumed. Thus, automatically, there would be a check on the quality and quality of the food eaten. Three, for someone who is determined to shed those extra pounds, artificial sweeteners are not the only way out. Such individuals may also go for walks or hit the gym, he suggests.

Swithers, too, agrees.   certainly wouldn’t say that artificial sweeteners are completely bad. From our perspective though, such products might actually contribute to weight gain because they interfere with an automatic process,  she told KnowHow. They may be useful for weight loss only if people use more conscious, cognitive methods like calorie counting, she says.

At this point, our data are derived only from animals, so it is difficult to predict how changes in their consumption would affect human obesity,  she adds.

…Spare the sugar, fuel the fat: Psychologists Susan Swithers and Terry Davidson

Moreover, as Misra points out, the study was conducted using saccharin, an artificial sweetener that is rarely in use today. Swithers, however, does not think the results with other artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and acesulfame K would be dramatically different. The good news, she says, is that people can still count the calories to regulate intake and body weight.

But most dieters lament that counting calories requires a more conscious effort than consuming low-calorie foods. Swithers couldn’t agree more.

Click to read->Artificial sweeteners can be fattening

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

So Sweet (Stevia Rebaudiana)

Sugar leaf is not just a great sweetener , it is full of antioxidants too, reports T.V. Jayan

Calcutta researchers have turned a sweet plant even sweeter. Stevia rebaudiana or sugar leaf   as it is locally known in India   has of late become a craze among farmers in different parts of the country. That’s  because powder made from its leaves is a natural sweetener that’s up to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. It is a boon for diabetic patients as it does not spike blood sugar levels. Moreover, being a natural product, it is considered safer than artificial sweeteners such as saccharin and aspartame.
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.Stevia can now graduate from being called a mere sweetener to being known as a nutraceutical or an externally supplied dietary supplement, thanks to a team of scientists at the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB), Calcutta. The IICB team   led by Sharmila Chattopadhyay   has discovered that stevia leaves also contain considerable quantities of antioxidants, compounds that help the body fight ageing-related cell damage and the formation of free radicals implicated in several diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis and diabetes.

Our study shows that an extract of stevia contains as many as six or seven flavanoids, in trace to significant quantities,  Chattopadhyay told KnowHow. The study appeared online recently in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published by the American Chemical Society.

Flavanoids are a class of plant polyphenols that exhibit antioxidant properties. What is most significant about the flavanoid composition of stevia is that it packs in a little of all the major flavanoids that would otherwise be available from eating a broad spectrum of cereals, vegetables and fruits. For instance, antioxidant compounds such as apigenin and luteolin are predominantly found in cereals and aromatic herbs. Similarly, two others such as quercetin and kaempferol    also found in the stevia extract   are more common in vegetables and fruits. However, their percentage could be lower than in the individual vegetables, fruits or cereals, says Chattopadhyay.  Nonetheless, we have been able to establish the health-promoting potential of the plant,    she says.

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Products extracted from stevia are yet to gain popularity in India.   This is because India hasn’t approved its use as a food additive yet,   says Bhupinder Sheth of Herboveda India, a Noida-based firm that supplies stevia powder to pharmaceutical companies in the country.

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Sources:The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)