Stevia History Part I

Stevia “Discovered” by the Spanish Conquistadors

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.

Stevia Described Botanically

In 1899 Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni was first botanically described by the botanist M.S.
Bertoni. In 1908 Rasenack reported the presence of various sweeteners in Stevia and in 1931 Briedel and Lavieille began to crystallize Stevioside an extract of the stevia leaf.

1970’s Japan Approves Stevioside 
for food use instead of artificial sweeteners over health concerns

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.

Japan’s Transition to Stevia Extract (white powder) Stevioside

Stevioside has been approved and widely used in Japan for over 25 years. It is also approved and used in Brazil, Paraguay, Korea, Thailand, and China among others. It is used in modern industrial countries as a table top sweetener, in soft drinks, baked goods, pickles, fruit juices, tobacco products, confectionery uses, jams and jellies, candies, yogurts, pastries, chewing gum, sherbets, toothpaste, etc.

In fact Stevia and its extract Stevioside have reportedly captured over 50% of the Japanese market. In China it has captured from 15%-75% of various food stuffs such as baked goods, canned foods, pickles, beverages, alcohol, fish, meat, gum, and more. Major multinational food companies convinced of its safety, use Stevia extracts to

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