From ‘Sweet Herb’ to Stevia: A Concise History

Welcome to the shortened version of the long history of stevia. The world is just now tapping into the wonders that this plant has to offer...
 
Paraguay, 1500 years ago: the Guaraní people taste a plant that has unbelievable sweetness and it immediately becomes a useful part of the Guaraní diet, particularly to balance out the bitterness of yerba mate leaves, another major component of their diet. They fittingly refer to this plant as ka'a he'ê, meaning "sweet herb." As the Guaraní continued to use ka'a he'ê, they found other healing benefits of this leaf for both skin and digestive health.
 
Late 1800s: Mosè Giacomo Bertoni, a botanist, is provided with a sample of ka'a he'ê leaves, and subsequently presents his positive findings in a botanical journal. The plant is called, Stevia rebaudiana, named after Bertoni's friend who performed the first chemical analysis of stevia.
 
Early 1900s: Stevia is harvested and becomes the subject of various research studies. French chemists isolate components called glycosides. One in particular, stevioside, is discovered to be the sweetest compound and conveniently, the most prevalent.
 
Mid to Late 1900s: After World War II, which prevented a lot of trade and movement of products, stevia begins its journey into the commercial market. Japan becomes the leading consumer of stevia. In fact, in 2006, stevia was responsible for 40% of Japanese sweetener use.
Present: Stevia's entrance into the United States is pretty recent considering the length of time the world has known about stevia. In 1994, the FDA permitted stevia to be used as a dietary supplement, but not a food additive and it wasn't until 2008 that the FDA approved certain stevia products. A tremendous amount of research has been conducted on stevia, many of which focus on stevia's health benefits.
 
And there you go! A brief history on the stevia plant you can discuss at your next dinner party. We bet you'll have quite an audience, especially if you offer samples of our Stevien-sweetened cotton candy.
Welcome to the shortened version of the long history of stevia. The world is just now tapping into the wonders that this plant has to offer...
 
Paraguay, 1500 years ago: the Guaraní people taste a plant that has unbelievable sweetness and it immediately becomes a useful part of the Guaraní diet, particularly to balance out the bitterness of yerba mate leaves, another major component of their diet. They fittingly refer to this plant as ka'a he'ê, meaning "sweet herb." As the Guaraní continued to use ka'a he'ê, they found other healing benefits of this leaf for both skin and digestive health.
 
Late 1800s: Mosè Giacomo Bertoni, a botanist, is provided with a sample of ka'a he'ê leaves, and subsequently presents his positive findings in a botanical journal. The plant is called, Stevia rebaudiana, named after Bertoni's friend who performed the first chemical analysis of stevia.
 
Early 1900s: Stevia is harvested and becomes the subject of various research studies. French chemists isolate components called glycosides. One in particular, stevioside, is discovered to be the sweetest compound and conveniently, the most prevalent.
 
Mid to Late 1900s: After World War II, which prevented a lot of trade and movement of products, stevia begins its journey into the commercial market. Japan becomes the leading consumer of stevia. In fact, in 2006, stevia was responsible for 40% of Japanese sweetener use.
Present: Stevia's entrance into the United States is pretty recent considering the length of time the world has known about stevia. In 1994, the FDA permitted stevia to be used as a dietary supplement, but not a food additive and it wasn't until 2008 that the FDA approved certain stevia products. A tremendous amount of research has been conducted on stevia, many of which focus on stevia's health benefits.
 
And there you go! A brief history on the stevia plant you can discuss at your next dinner party. We bet you'll have quite an audience, especially if you offer samples of our Stevien-sweetened cotton candy.

2 comments

  • Dear Erin, thank you so much for your comment. I got beyond exited to read it. I am Patricia Quesada, CEO of the corporation. I met your father personally 8 or 9 years ago at a conference in Frankfurt Germany when I was doing my preliminary research to launch this company. His speech at that conference was key for my decision taking. The purity of his product, the water extraction, the flavor… We met several times since, in Atlanta, Arizona etc. Years later he became our stevia provider! I also met your mom, and I dare to say we became to like and love each other very much. In a way my company is a homage to the previous work of your parents, they made me believe in stevia. Our line of products at Stevien is different than the one by SweetLeaf Stevia, but it intends to keep the same quality standards that your father launched in the market. I will always remember him with respect and love for what he started! Please find us and engage with us at our social media, and try our products which have a little something of your father´s creation in my heart and within all the formulations!
    Our products will be available on this web page in about a week and kickstarter and amazon in about a month, hopefully one day soon we can meet and toast for your father´s legacy together and who knows, maybe journey on new projects together.
    You can reach me at patricia@zukara.com
    With respect and love
    Patricia

    Patricia Quesada
  • Thank you for the timeline. My Dad, James May, was the first to bring stevia leaves into the U. S. Back in 1982. The FDA told him they new all about stevia and that it was safe. My understanding is just as he was getting some liquid stevia concentrate in stores, G.D Searle, the manufacturer of aspartame got the FDA to tell my Dad not to market it, but I he could still include it his herbal teas.
    When DHSHEA passed in the 90s, I understand his stevia could finally be sold as a supplement. In March 2008, my Dad’s brand, SweetLeaf Stevia, became the first to achieve GRAS status (Generally Recognized As Safe). My Father is known as “The Father of Stevia,” and I miss him so much.
    Again, thank you for this article.
    (Employed by Wisdom Natural Brands, SweetLeaf Stevia)

    Erin

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