Stevia - low-priced organic and additive-free
Stevia is a South American plant native to Paraguay that traditionally has been used to sweeten beverages and make tea.
Our products - 4 types of stevia
We have different products and sizes of Stevia: whole leaf, fine green powder, white powder, clear drops, alcohol-free concentrated extract, from 60ml droppers to liter sizes.
All our Stevia comes from Paraquay as country of origin.
All our Stevia products are organic.
Our Stevia Powder and Alcohol-Free Liquid has been rated best medicinal sweetener* for all kinds of sugar related illnesses ranging from acne and diabetes to skin disease and vaginal thrush.
For your safety only buy your medicinal Stevia from a medical herbalist (it is illegal to buy or sell Stevia for commercial use in UK and Europe).
* see Alan's published article about Stevia vs Ginseng
Stevia is used for:
- Sugar Addiction
- Blood Sugar Highs and Lows
- Weight Loss
- ME and FMS
- As a preventative against cancer
Alan Hopking says: "Due to our hugely popular natural green Stevia Powder and Stevia-ACT (whole Stevia leaf liquid) during 2007 we can now greatly cut our prices. This makes us very pleased indeed as it will make Stevia even more widely available for the fight against sugar-related illnesses, including act as a preventative against cancer. It brings the possiblity of no sugar or any artificial sweetener at home with consequential improved health ever closer."
We'd like you to enjoy a sweeter temperament with the balancing action of Stevia on your blood sugar.
No more highs and lows... Lose weight... Reduce the number of visits to the dentist..
Be healthier by cutting sugar from your diet and replacing it with our whole, very sweet, healthy, glucose free Stevia.
Try it, you've got nothing to lose and a lot to gain...
We have many FREE offers to encourage you go sugar-free with Stevia;
time to wake up to Stevia's health gifts! Hence our FREE GIFTS!
2007 was StevYear! Make 2017 your year of using our CUT PRICE Stevia even more!
Remember to order whole leaf Stevia powder or extract (or try our white Stevia which is processed steviosides with no other additives which are usually found in supermarket versions. White stevia is 300 times as sweet as sugar and it also regulates pancreatic insulin to improve your blood sugar levels and prevent sugar highs and lows. Read more about steviosides here)
Stevia is usually taken for helping to improve the action of the pancreas and regulate the correct ratio of blood sugar in your system. We sell this ancient herbal medicine as a medicine for your health. It has been safely used for thousands of years. For medicinal purposes it can be taken as a natural sweetener for your specific needs.
The health benefits are assured when taking Stevia as a medicine in this whole herb form within the context of your unique body condition and following our consultation process (free via email or telephone).
You will love its sweet taste. You will use it for all your sugar needs. It's healthy and satisfies all your sweet cravings. Watch your weight drop. Buy both the alcohol-free liquid and the powder. Both are needed in the kitchen. They can be used interchangably according to your preference, Same day mailing: order today - we send it today.
Herbactive's 2007 WAS Stevia Year! BUT OUR 2017 STEVIA PRICES ARE STILL ALMOST AS LOW AS 2007!
Hi Alan, the stevia arrived, safe and sound. It's lovely and I'm happy to have it.
Thanks so much.
I will certainly be using you to get Stevia particularly as you are recommended by Leslie Kenton. Thank you.
See more testimonials on the Stevia Testimonials page
A 2011 review study concluded that Stevia sweeteners would likely benefit diabetic patients. - Goyal, SK.; Samsher, RK.; Goyal, . (Feb 2010). "Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) a bio-sweetener: a review". Int J Food Sci Nutr 61 (1): 1–10.
WHO Stevia Research: benefits health, non toxic, non cancerous
In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) performed a thorough evaluation of recent experimental studies of stevia extracts conducted on animals and humans, and concluded that “stevioside and rebaudioside A are not genotoxic in vitro or in vivo and that the genotoxicity of steviol and some of its oxidative derivatives in vitro is not expressed in vivo.” The report also found no evidence of carcinogenic activity. The report also suggested the possibility of health benefits, in that “stevioside has shown some evidence of pharmacological effects in patients with hypertension or with type-2 diabetes”.
- Benford, D.J.; DiNovi, M., Schlatter, J. (2006). "Safety Evaluation of Certain Food Additives: Steviol Glycosides" (PDF – 18 MB). WHO Food Additives Series (World Health Organization Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)) 54: 140.
About the percentage of rebaudioside in Stevia
People are getting confused by claims about the high percentage of rebaudioside in Stevia. So I'd like to put this question to bed once and for all.
The sweet compounds of Stevia represent an average of about 14 per cent constituents of dried leaves. They are diterpene glycosides. These mainly comprise of stevioside; steviobioside; rebaudioside A, B, D, E; dulcoside A; and dulcoside B. The most abundant glycoside is stevioside (5-10%) followed by rebaudioside (2-4%). The rest of the sweet components are present in much smaller amounts. The non-sweet constituents mainly are labdane diterpenes, triterpenes, sterols and flavonoids. Therefore, rebaudiosides comprise about 5-7% of the whole leaf powder.
Over 100 phytochemicals have been discovered in stevia. It is rich in terpenes and flavonoids. The constituents responsible for stevia's sweetness were documented in 1931, when eight novel plant chemicals called glycosides were discovered and named. Of these eight glycosides, one called stevioside is considered the sweetest - and has been tested to be approximately 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevioside, comprising 6-18% of the stevia leaf, is also the most prevalent glycoside in the leaf. Other sweet constituents include steviolbioside, rebaudiosides A-E, and dulcoside A.
The main plant nutrients in stevia include: apigenin, austroinulin, avicularin, beta-sitosterol, caffeic acid, campesterol, caryophyllene, centaureidin, chlorogenic acid, chlorophyll, cosmosiin, cynaroside, daucosterol, diterpene glycosides, dulcosides A-B, foeniculin, formic acid, gibberellic acid, gibberellin, indole-3-acetonitrile, isoquercitrin, isosteviol, jhanol, kaempferol, kaurene, lupeol, luteolin, polystachoside, quercetin, quercitrin, rebaudioside A-F, scopoletin, sterebin A-H, steviol, steviolbioside, steviolmonoside, stevioside, stevioside a-3, stigmasterol, umbelliferone, and xanthophylls.
The stevioside molecule consists of stevioside, rebaudioside, and glycoside and a portion of other materials (water for instance). So when you see a company bragging about a super high percentage of rebaudioside, don't be fooled by their games. They are only trying to confuse you. They can do it because you are looking for high quality, and you have questions. They are talking about the white stevioside not the healthier green stevia and dark liquid stevia-ACE. If someone claims to have 40% rebaudioside it really does not mean much. It means that the percentage of the stevioside molecule allegedly has 40% rebaudioside. So if you are getting a stevioside claiming to be 96% with 40% rebaudioside you would be getting 40% of 96%. But this is the white, industrialised isolated chemical that has very few health benefits. White chemicalised “stevia”, it is not stevia leaf and should not be called stevia. It consists of just 2-4 of the over 100 nutrients that comprise the green Stevia leaf.
The whole leaf stevia powder is in its natural, unprocessed state - green. It is just the leaves of the Stevia plant ground into fine powder, therefore it retains the natural green colour. The strong liquid extract made from the whole leaf stevia is always black and is never clear as is the white drops called “clear stevia”. The clear liquid “stevia” has some health value; it is just very sweet, there's no taste and that's what many people like. The concentrated black liquid is packed full of health-benefiting constituents and is about 70 times as sweet as sugar. This you will come to love both for its natural sweetness and stevia leaf taste, as for its huge health benefits.
The stevioside has gone through an extraction process to isolate the sweet glycosides of the leaves thereby making it a much sweeter product. This extraction process removes the naturally occurring chlorophyll and leaves the white glycosides behind. This has some health value (it regulates blood sugar via the pancreas and is helpful to diabetics, unlike white sugar and without the toxic glucose of sugar).
We supply the whole leaf stevia powder (which is naturally green); and the whole leaf liquid extract (alcohol-free) which is black; we also have the white stevia powder and the clear stevia liquid made from the white stevioside and rebA. They are all health promoting, very sweet, glucose free, cholesterol free, with zero calories - zero sugar.
I know that after all these years supplying stevia for health and wellness that you too will love our Stevia. We give a 100% money-back guarantee for the quality of our Stevia.
I hope this explains the confusing claims about Stevia. - your gentle, health-loving, herbalist, Alan Hopking.
More about our Stevia
ALL OUR STEVIA COMES FROM PARAQUAY AS THE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
Our liquid whole-leaf Stevia alcohol-free extract is made using organic vegetable food-grade glycerine is a natural herbal sweetener, with little or no calories; over 70 times sweeter than sugar, and healthy for you to take. Our glycerine is derived entirely from vegetable oil and pure, it is hypoallergenic and completely safe for use in food and drinks. Glycerine is often used in low "net carb" products to retain moisture and sweetness. Although glycerine is a carbohydrate, it has a different metabolic effect on the body. Unlike typical carbohydrates, glycerine has minimal impact on blood sugar levels. You should still count the calories (about 2-3 calories per gram) you are consuming from this product, since even a low carbohydrate diet needs some calorie control, but you do not need to worry about disrupting ketosis because there is no evidence that glycerine affects either insulin or blood sugar, which is the way that normal carbohydrates disrupt ketosis.
Our liquid Stevia is so versatile. Simply add it to drinks; put it in milk then pour it on your cereal, muesli, or porridge; add it to yoghurt or smoothie; use it in your baking, cooking gravies, etc., etc., (ie wherever you used sugar, honey or syrup). In this way to overcome the problems of sugar addiction. Stevia is a healthy herbal medicine and you must take time to get to like it. Just love the sweet stevia taste!
Reduces your sugar intake healthily, without loss of sweetness; safe and recommended for diabetics. Stevia is not a sugar and it is not glucose based; its sweetness is a safe, natural chemical called stevioside - a glycoside not a sucrose or a fructose molecule (safe when used in the whole leaf form and the white powder or clear liquid). Herbactive Stevia is additive free - just plain Stevia (green, dark, clear and white).
For medicinal purposes, Stevia can be used in place of sugar in your cereal or porridge for breakfast, in your tea or coffee and other beverages, in jam making, cake and biscuit baking, on puddings as an alternative syrup, etc. It's healthy, safe... you like sweetness? Don't be miserable - Stevia is your answer - it even tastes better than sugar.
Stevia may be beneficial for treatment of diabetes (especially Type 2), blood sugar irregularities, sugar intolerance, sugar addiction (chocoholics, sweet bingers), energy highs and lows (blood sugar irregularity), skin diseases and acne, eczema, rashes, candida, chronic fatigue syndrome (ME), fibromyalgia (FM), allergies, ulcers, hyperactivity, weight loss programmes, and act as a preventative against cancer (NB cancer loves sucrose; Stevia is zero sucrose).
The safety of Stevia is assured. Stevia has been legally used in many, many countries including Paraguay: more than 500 years, Japan: more than 25 years, South-Korea: 16 years, Brazil: 13 years, China: 12 years, the USA: since 1995 admitted as a dietary supplement. It is surmised that only the sugar industry and the artificial sweetener manufacturers object to the use of Stevia in commercial products (like soft drinks, cakes and puddings and sweets); their lobbying it appears has confused the Brussels legislators.
Latest information about the use of Stevia (October 2009):
The Road to National Legalisation of Stevia Leaf in UK as a Safe and Healthy Sweet Alternative to Sugar 2011
Russia allows stevia in food
Since 2008, the Russian Federation has allowed stevioside as a food additive "in the minimal dosage required".
New Zealand and Australia approve stevia in food
From June 2008 Stevia is approved as a sweetener for food and beverages.
UK AND EU: Stevia is legal for use in food and in commerce in the European Union.
USA: In the United States, Rebiana is generally recognized as safe as of December 2008, and stevia is also recognized as a dietary supplement. NB: note that the FDA has not actually permitted the stevia plant itself to be used as a food additive, but only the Reb A extract.
AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND: Since June 2008 it is approved as a sweetener for food and beverages.
CANADA: Stevia has also been approved as a dietary supplement.
JAPAN AND SOUTH AMERICA: In Japan and South American countries, stevia may also be used as a food additive.
HONG KONG: Legal for use in foods since 2010.
SINGAPORE: Legal for use in some foods since 2010.
USA: In 2007, The Coca-Cola Company announced plans to obtain approval for rebiana for use as a food additive within the United States by 2009, as well as plans to market rebiana-sweetened products in 12 countries that allow stevia's use as a food additive. In May 2008, Coke and Cargill announced the availability of Truvia, a consumer brand stevia sweetener containing erythritol and Rebiana, which the FDA permitted as a food additive in December 2008.Coca-Cola announced intentions to release stevia-sweetened beverages in late December 2008.
USA: Shortly afterward, PepsiCo and Pure Circle announced PureVia, their brand of stevia-based sweetener, but withheld release of beverages sweetened with reb-A until receipt of FDA confirmation. Since the FDA permitted Truvia and PureVia, both Coca Cola and PepsiCo have announced products that will contain their new sweetener.
Steviol glycosides were first commercialized as a sweetener in 1971 by the Japanese firm Morita Kagaku Kogyo Co., Ltd., a leading stevia extract producer in Japan.
Stevia has been grown on an experimental basis in Ontario, Canada since 1987 for the purpose of determining the feasibility of growing the crop commercially.
(Acknowledgements: Wikipedia Oct 27 2009)
A 1985 study reported that steviol, a breakdown product from stevioside and rebaudioside (two of the sweet steviol glycosides in the stevia leaf), is a mutagen in the presence of a liver extract of pre-treated rats — but this finding was criticized on procedural grounds that the data were mishandled in such a way that even distilled water would appear mutagenic. Over the following years bioassay, cell culture, and animal studies have shown mixed results in terms of toxicology and adverse effects of stevia constituents, but in general, they have not been found to be harmful. While reports emerged that found steviol and stevioside to be weak mutagens,the bulk of studies show an absence of harmful effects. In a 2008 review, 14 of 16 studies cited showed no genotoxic activity for stevioside, 11 of 15 studies showed genotoxic activity for steviol, and no studies showed genotoxicity for Rebaudioside A. Nevertheless, even if a chemical can cause DNA damage in the controlled conditions of a bioassay (e.g., in bacteria, in mammalian cell cultures) it is a fundamentally different question whether it causes cancer in intact organisms (e.g., rodents, humans) or is teratogenic (i.e., causes birth defects). No evidence for stevia constituents causing cancer or birth defects has been found.
Other studies have shown stevia to improve insulin sensitivity in rats and possibly even to promote additional insulin production, helping to reverse diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Preliminary human studies suggest that stevia can help reduce hypertension although another study has shown it to have no effect on hypertension. Indeed, millions of Japanese have been using stevia for over thirty years with no reported or known harmful effects. Similarly, stevia leaves have been used for centuries in South America spanning multiple generations in ethnomedical tradition as a treatment for type II diabetes.
In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) performed a thorough evaluation of recent experimental studies of stevioside and steviols conducted on animals and humans, and concluded that "stevioside and rebaudioside A are not genotoxic in vitro or in vivo and that the genotoxicity of steviol and some of its oxidative derivatives in vitro is not expressed in vivo." The report also found no evidence of carcinogenic activity. Furthermore, the report noted that "stevioside has shown some evidence of pharmacological effects in patients with hypertension or with type-2 diabetes" but concluded that further study was required to determine proper dosage.
Whole foods proponents draw a distinction between consuming (and safety testing) only parts, such as stevia extracts and isolated compounds like stevioside, versus the whole herb. However, professionals in pharmacognosy, as well as physicians and science journalists disagree that whole foods are beneficial over extracted components, and may even be harmful. (Acknowledgements: Wikipedia Oct 27 2009)
Here is the full medicinal profile for Stevia:
Medicinal Uses: there are many very legitimate reasons for using stevia as a medicinal food. In spite of the prominence stevia has obtained as a flavour enhancer, it contains a variety of constituents besides the steviosides and rebaudiosides, including the nutrients specified above and a good deal of sterols, triterpenes, flavonoids, tannins, and an extremely rich volatile oil comprising rich proportions of aromatics, aldehyde, monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes. These and other, as yet unidentified constituents, probably have some impact on human physiology and may help explain some of the reported beneficial therapeutic uses of stevia.
Blood-Sugar Normalizer: It is probably the presence of the steviosides themselves that has produced dozens of empirical and semi-controlled reports of antihypoglycemic action. Paraguayans say that stevia is helpful for hypoglycemia and diabetes because it nourishes the pancreas and thereby helps to restore normal pancreatic function. In semi-controlled clinical reports one also encounters this action. Oviedo, et. al., reported a 35.2% fall in normal blood sugar levels 6-8 hours following the ingestion of a stevia leaf extract.14 Similar trends have been reported in humans and experimental animals by other workers.15-16 These kind of results have led physicians in Paraguay to prescribe stevia leaf tea in the treatment of diabetes; similarly, in Brazil, stevia tea and stevia capsules are officially approved for sale for the treatment of diabetes. However, it is important to note that stevia does not lower blood glucose levels in normal subjects. In one study [NB we at Herbactive Herbalist do not condone animal experimentation], rats were fed crude extracts of stevia leaves for 56 days at a rate of 0.5 to 1.0 gram extract per day. These procedures were replicated by another team of scientists. Neither group observed a hypoglycemic action. Similar negative results have been obtained by other observers. Then there is research in which the findings show trends toward hypoglycemic action, but are inconclusive. In at least one of these studies, alloxan-diabetic rabbits were used. The authors felt the results supported an anti-diabetic action, but the results were transient at best. To date, the experimental research on the effects of stevia on blood sugar levels in human patients with either diabetes or hypoglycemia is sparse. The general feeling in the scientific community is that the mild acting nature of the plant and its total lack of toxic side effects [providing it is used as a whole herb, ie not with additional steviosides included] argues against the need for extensive and expensive research programs. However, many of the anecdotes reporting a definite and significant blood sugar lowering action in diabetics, and a pronounced exhilarating effect in hypoglycemics, are sound enough to justify considerable experimental work in the area. Perhaps, when this missing piece to the puzzle is supplied, we will then have a better understanding of how stevia works - why, for example, many diabetic humans experience a profound lowering of blood sugar levels following the ingestion of several cups of stevia tea during the course of a 24 hour period. In conclusion, from my clinical experience, Stevia shows a normalizing tendency. That is, it rebalanced blood sugar. That is, it brings high blood sugar down, and raises low blood sugar, and persons with normal blood sugar it has no effect (i.e. the blood sugar is not lowered).
Cardiovascular Action: A good deal of experimental work has been done on the effects of stevia and stevioside on cardiovascular functioning in man and animals. Some of this work was simply looking for possible toxicity, while some was investigating possible therapeutic action. In neither case have significant properties been found. When any action at all is observed, it is almost always a slight lowering of arterial blood pressure at low and normal doses, changing to a slight rise in arterial pressure at very high doses. The most curious finding is a dose dependent action on heart beat, with a slight increase appearing at lower doses, changing to a mild decrease at higher doses. In neither instance is the result remarkable, and it is extremely doubtful that humans would experience any effect at normal doses. The long term use of stevia would probably have a cardiotonic action, that is, would produce a mild, beneficial, strengthening of the heart and vascular system.
Antimicrobial Action: The ability of stevia to inhibit the growth and reproduction of bacteria and other infectious organisms is important in at least two respects. First, it may help explain why users of stevia-enhanced products report a lower incidence of colds and flu, and second, it has fostered the invention of a number of mouthwash and tooth paste products. Research clearly shows that Streptococcus mutans, Pseudomonas aeruginos, Proteus vulgaris and other microbes do not thrive in the presence of the non-nutritive stevia constituents. This fact, combined with the naturally sweet flavor of the herb, makes it a suitable ingredient for mouth washes and for tooth pastes [stevia is included in Herbactive's Herbal Mouthwash]. The patent literature contains many applications for these kinds of stevia-based products. Stevia has even been shown to lower the incidence of dental caries (tooth decay).
Digestive Tonic Action: In the literature of Brazil, stevia ranks high among the list of plants used for centuries by the "gauchos" of the southern plains to flavor the bitter medicinal preparations used by that nomadic culture. For example, it was widely used in their "mate tea" (Ilex paraguayensis), [order Mate Tea from HERBACTIVE]. Through much experimentation, these people learned that stevia made a significant contribution to improved digestion, and that it improved overall gastrointestinal function. Likewise, since its introduction in China, stevia tea, made from either hot or cold water, is used as a low calorie, sweet-tasting tea, as an appetite stimulant, as a digestive aid, as an aid to weight management, and even for staying young.
Effects on the Skin: One of the properties of a liquid extract of stevia that has not yet been investigated experimentally is its apparent ability to help clear up skin problems. The Guarani and other people who have become familiar with stevia report that it is effective when applied to acne, seborrhea, dermatitis, eczema, etc. Placed directly in cuts and wounds, more rapid healing, without scarring, is observed. (This treatment may sting for a few seconds, but this is followed by a significant lowering of pain.) Smoother skin, softer to the touch is claimed to result from the frequent application of stevia poultices and extracts. Current FDA labelling regulations are forcing U.S. suppliers to label their stevia as something other than a sweetener; an appeal to its soothing action on the skin has been the most frequent alternative.
Effects on Reproduction: One effect on reproductive physiology that appears to be valid, but which is in need of further study before definitive conclusions can be drawn, is a healing effect on the processes underlying prostate disease. Just how important this finding is must await further research.
You'll take such a liking to Stevia as your sweet medicine that you'll begin to use it in everything, even to make ice cream! A gentle word of advice: use sparingly as it is very sweet - too much and it'll taste bitter!
In contrast to too much sugar in your system which makes you feel deflated and depressed, with no energy or sparkle or interest in life (to such an extent that too much sugar can even lead to coma in diabetics), so the power and health benefits of Stevia can revitalize you and enhance your mood, taken little and often; it can aid in transforming your life. Stevia alcohol-free extract has an indefinite life - can be used for over two years. It's like a liqueur.
More info about Sweet Leaf (Stevia):
The consumption of sugar throughout the western world is rising at a rate so great as to cause considerable concern in medicinal circles. In spite of the constant protestations of the sugar industry that sugar is a 'natural' product and has no harmful effects other than the encouragement of dental decay, many clinicians are alarmed by the vast amounts of sugar consumed, especially by children. An article in the Food and Drug Administration publication (FDA) Consumer, April 1992, states that in America: According to the US Department of Agriculture data on the amount of caloric sweeteners used in food, there has been an increase of more than 16% on a per person basis over the last two decades and more than half of the increase has occurred in the last five years.
Calorific sweeteners include sugar, high fructose corn syrup, pure honey and edible syrups. Paul Oachance, chairman of the Department of Food Science at Rutgers University in New Jersey, states this in another way. He estimates that, based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, the average American consumes about 300 calories from sugars added to food. That comes to the equivalent of nearly 14 teaspoons of table sugar a day. According to Joan Gussow, professor of nutrition and education at Columbia Teacher's College, Columbia University, New York, 'we have developed a relentless sweet tooth, a severe addiction to sweetness'. Could Stevia be the answer? Is it possible that there is a completely natural sweetener with absolutely no calories, that is safe for diabetics and can be used on food, in your cakes and added to drinks and wont rot your teeth? The answer is yes.
Stevia rebaudiana, is a small shrubby plant of the Compositae family which grows wild throughout Brazil. This perennial shrub loses its leaves during the Brazilian winter. With the first sign of spring, there is an explosion of growth from the woody base of the shrub, which is soon a mass of leaves and flowers. The Indians living close to Brazil's southern border with Paraguay have used Stevia for thousands of years. their name for this extraordinary shrub is Kaa-hee. They used the leaves of the plant to add sweetness to their food and drinks. The great explorer and botanist Beroni was the first western scientist to discover the properties of Stevia and brought its attention to the western world. The Kew Bulletin published in 1901 gave us the first description of this plant and the Indians' use of it.
Stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar (this refers to Stevioside the active constituent of Stevia; Stevia as a whole leaf is approx. 30 times as sweet as sugar - ANH) and the chemical substance which produces this sweetness is stevioside. This is a glycoside molecule comprising glycose and an aglycide known as esteviol. Stevioside is not found in the roots of the plant, there is little in the wood and small quantities are found in the flowers. It is the leaves of the plant which are the real source of this extraordinary sweetness, stevioside accounting for around 10% of the dry weight of the leaves. The traditional way in which Stevia is used is by infusing the dried leaf together with other herbal or Indian teas - just a leaf or two is the pot produces a brew to satisfy the sweetest tooth. Alternatively the leaves can be steeped in boiling water for ten minutes and strained; the liquid is then used as a sweetener. Modern technology allows us to extract the stevioside and dry it into a fine white powder or granules.
There have been many scientific studies of Stevia - at the University of Bankok; Lehman College of Biological Sciences, New York; the Department of Physiology and Medical Sciences, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil; the Department of Odentology, University of Sao Paulo. and other research establishments in Holland, America and Japan. All these studies show Stevia to be safe and without side-effects. One of the experiments even demonstrated a protective effect against tooth decay due to the tannin content of the leaves. Stevia has been found to increase glucose tolerance in normal adult human beings and it significantly reduced the levels of blood glucose during the test and after overnight fasting. This research would appear to support the traditional Brazilian view that Stevia could be helpful in the treatment of diabetes. As recently as the summer of 1992, Herbalgram, the education publication of the American Botanical Council, carried a report about the US FDA ordering companies to stop using Stevia and prohibiting its importation. In his article, Mark Blummentahl reports that the American Herbal Products Association had written to FDA commissioner Dr David Kessler, asking him to agree that Stevia should be recognised as GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe) as a food and that it is not, as the FDA had contended, a food additive.
The AHPA submitted two hundred pages of documentation detailing the history of Stevia as a safe food as well as further scientific safety data on Stevia from a formal safety review carried out by Professor Douglas A. Kinghorn for the Herb Research Foundation. The AHPA filed a formal GRAS petition on 24 April 1992.
Stevia is widely used throughout the world and has been used continuously for hundreds of years in Brazil. Japanese food manufactures use it, as do other Asian and European producers. I am never sure that it is a good practice to encourage the sweet tooth habit, but for those who must have sweetness, Stevia is a natural, no-calorie, no-side-effect, no-after-taste, and no-risk substitute for tooth-rotting, fattening and consequently heart-disease-encouraging sugar.
- from Michael van Straten's book Guarana, published in Great Britain in 1994 by CW Daniel Co Ltd.
FAQs from The European Stevia Centre
1) Is Stevia safe for diabetics?
Yes, Stevia [powder and whole leaf liquid extract] used as a sweetener are absolutely safe (Boeck-Haebisch, 1992). The chronic study by Chan et al. (2000) with human volunteers has demonstrated that blood biochemical parameters were not altered by 250 mg stevioside thrice a day for 1 year.
2) Are the sugar moieties of stevioside safe for diabetics?
Stevioside, the main sweet component of Stevia, is about 300 times sweeter than table sugar. Therefore, only small amounts need to be used for sweetening purposes. It is not taken up by the intestines and is not metabolised by enzymes of the gastro-intestinal tract as the sugar bonds in stevioside are ?-glucosidic bonds. However, it is degraded to steviol and sugar moieties by bacteria of the human colon. To substitute for the total amount of added sugar in the food (± 131g per person per day in Belgium) less than 400mg stevioside are required per day. This means that in the colon only about 240mg of glucose is released from the 40 mg stevioside. It can be estimated that about 1/3 of this glucose is metabolised by the bacteria of the colon, 1/3 is excreted and about 1/3 is taken up (± 80mg) which of course is a negligible amount of glucose. See also FAQ about steviol.
3) Is stevioside carcinogenic?
NO. Stevioside is not taken up by the intestines and is not metabolised by enzymes of the gastro-intestinal tract. However, it is degraded to steviol and sugar moieties by bacteria of the human colon. A weak mutagenic effect of steviol (only 90 % purity) in one sensitive Salmonella typhimurium TM 677 strain has been demonstrated but this does not mean that stevioside used as a sweetener should be carcinogenic in humans, even if the stevioside is transformed to steviol by bacteria in the colon! The activity of steviol in Salmonella typhimurium TM677 was very low and was only about 1/3000 of that of 3,4-benzopyrene, and that of steviol methyl ester 8,13 lactone was 1/24500 of that of furylfuramide (Terai et al., 2002). Although a weak activity of steviol and some of its derivatives was found in the very sensitive S. typhimurium TM677 strain, the authors concluded that the daily use of stevioside as a sweetener is safe. Moreover, the presence in the blood of the chemically synthesised steviol derivatives after feeding stevioside is not proven at all. Very high doses of steviol (90% purity) intubated to hamsters (4 g/kg bw), rats and mice (8 g/kg BW) did not induce micronucleus in bone marrow erythrocytes of both male and female animals. However, these doses showed some cytotoxic effect to the female, but not to the male of all treated animal species (Temcharoen et al., 2000). It is not excluded that the toxicity is due to the 10% impurities present. The safety of oral stevioside in relation to carcinogenic activity is evidenced by the work of Yamada et al. (1985), Xili et al. (1992), Toyoda et al. (1997) and Hagiwara et al. (1984) with rats. Very significant inhibitory effects of stevioside were reported on tumor promotion by 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate in carcinogenesis in mouse skin (Yasukawa et al., 2002). Stevioside exhibited significant inhibitory effects on the two-stage mouse skin carcinogenesis in vivo induced by 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA) and 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA). Stevioside also inhibited mouse skin carcinogenesis initiated by peroxinitrite (Konoshima and Takasaki, 2002). The authors concluded that stevioside might be a valuable natural sweetener as a chemopreventive agent against chemical carcinogenesis. In 1999 the JECFA clearly stated: "Stevioside has a very low acute oral toxicity. Oral administration of stevioside at a dietary concentration of 2.5% to rats for two years, equal to 970 and 1100 mg kg-1 BW per day in males and females, respectively, had no significant effect. Reduced body-weight gain and survival rate were observed at a dietary concentration of 5% stevioside. There was no indication of carcinogenic potential in a long-term study...”(WHO, 1999). Moreover, there have never appeared reports proving that the use of Stevia or stevioside enhances the number of cancers in populations, even after a very long time of use (eg. Paraguay: more than 500 years, Japan: more than 25 years, South-Korea: 16 years, Brazil: 13 years, China: 12 years or the USA: since 1995 admitted as a dietary supplement).
4) How much steviol will be taken up by the colon?
If all of the added sugar (131g/day) is substituted for by stevioside, which is nearly impossible, then about 400mg stevioside is required per day. Degradation in the colon gives about 160mg steviol. About 90% of the steviol formed is excreted with the faeces. Small amounts of steviol are taken up by the colon and conjugated to be excreted in the urine. In hamsters fed 250mg steviol/kg body weight, a free steviol concentration of about 102µg/ml plasma was without harmful effects. In humans no free steviol could be detected in plasma after oral administration of 750mg stevioside per person per day (± 12mg/kg bw). The maximal peak concentration of conjugated steviol was around 20µg/ml, i.e. far below the values found safe for hamsters. As less than 400mg stevioside will be used per day, this value will be rather below 10µg/ml. The conjugated steviol derivatives are excreted into the urine.
5) Is Stevia safe for phenylketonuria (PKU) patients?
Yes, Stevia and stevioside are absolutely safe as the chemical structure of stevioside is a diterpene glycoside that is totally different from aspartame.
6) Stevia and Blood Pressure
In a study with humans, stevioside (250mg thrice a day) was administered for 1 year to 60 hypertensive volunteers (Chan et al., 2000). After 3 months the systolic and diastolic blood pressure significantly decreased and the effect persisted during the whole year. Blood biochemistry parameters including lipid and glucose showed no significant changes. No significant adverse effect was observed and quality of life assessment showed no deterioration. The authors concluded that stevioside is a well tolerated and effective compound that may be considered as an alternative or supplementary therapy for patients with hypertension. Although blood pressure was lowered, no effects on male potency were observed, a characteristic that improves quality of life! In the treated group, the average blood pressure at the beginning of the study was about 166/102. By the end of the study, this had fallen to 153/90. In contrast, no significant reductions were seen in the placebo group. Liu et al. (2003) reported that the underlying mechanism of the hypotensive effect of administered stevioside in dogs (200mg/kg BW) was due to inhibition of Ca2+ influx from extra-cellular fluid.
7) Is it true that Stevia or stevioside influence reproduction?
Not at all! The results of a decrease of live birth rate in rats (Planas and Kuc, 1968) by Stevia decoctions were refuted by Shiotsu (1996) who did more reliable experiments with many more animals using methods as similar as possible to the methods used by Planas and Kuc. No effect on general condition, body weight, water consumption, live birth rate or litter size was found. No effects of stevioside were found on fertility or reproduction in mice, rats or hamsters (ref.: see chapter literature). Whereas Melis (1999) suggested a possible decrease of the fertility of male rats by a very high dose of Stevia extract, Oliveira-Filho et al. (1989) who administered extracts with similar stevioside content stated that there is certainly not an effect on male fertility. It is not sure that the observed effects were due to the stevioside present in the extract. It should also be mentioned that the used extract concentrations were extremely high, at the start of the experiments even 5.34 % of the body weight (or around 5.3 g stevioside/kg bw). For an adult person of 65kg this means 3.47kg of dry Stevia leaves or about 34.7kg fresh leaves/day, i.e. more than 50% of the body weight! The significance of such experiments where only one extremely high concentration was tested, should be questioned. Melis' results are also in contradiction with those of a huge number of other researchers, who could not reveal any effect on fertility of male or female animals.
8) How much Stevia or stevioside may be consumed per day?
An acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 7.9mg stevioside/kg BW was calculated (Xili et al., 1992). However, this ADI should be considered as a minimum value as the authors did not test concentrations of stevioside higher than 793mg/kg BW. From various chronic toxicity studies an ADI of 20mg/kg BW can be deduced (safety factor 100). Even an ADI of 7.9mg/kg BW means that a person of 65kg may consume 513 mg pure stevioside per day. For substituting all the added sugar in the food (about 131g/day), which is nearly impossible, less than 436mg stevioside are required. This amount equals about 4.36g dried Stevia leaves (10% sweetener content).
9) How much dried Stevia leaves or how much stevioside should be used for sweetening purposes?
All depends upon the sweetener contents of the dried Stevia leaves. This may vary between 6 and 15% of the dry weight. Therefore, the dried leaves are between 18 and 45 times sweeter than sugar. This means that 100g of dry leaves (6% stevioside) correspond to 1800g sugar or to 4500g sugar (15% in the leaves). Pure stevioside is only used in the food industry and is not for sale in shops. It is always mixed with other compounds to dilute the extreme sweetness and to facilitate the weighing in the kitchen. Depending upon how much bulk compounds are added the sweetness of the mixture varies and you should try it out yourself. The most frequent mistake people make with Stevia or stevioside is measuring out too much. Very tiny amounts of the powder can greatly sweeten. It's easy to add too much Stevia, which overwhelms the taste buds. It is a challenge to find the right amount of Stevia to use because it is so highly concentrated. Stevia comes in many forms: (The sweetness varies with each form.) - liquid concentrate, easy to measure in drops - white powdered extract, non-licorice flavor (the form primarily used in Japan) - it is sometimes blended with a non-sweet filler called maltodextrin - fresh Stevia leaves - extremely sweet taste with a strong licorice flavor - dried leaf, finely powdered (licorice flavor)
10) How many calories are in Stevia extract?
Virtually none. Stevia extracts are considered to have zero calories, zero carbohydrates, zero sugar, zero fat and zero cholesterol.
11) Can Stevia extract replace sugar in the diet?
In the first place it has to be said that the food industry adds too large amounts of sugar to our food. This added sugar is virtually devoid of nutritional benefits and, at best, represents empty calories in the diet. We really do not need this added sugar in the food. We are supposed to eat fresh fruit and vegetables daily and these contain enough sugars for our body. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar and has none of sugar's unhealthy drawbacks. In case of hypoglycemia, Stevia or stevioside are of course unable to substitute for sugar. Consult your physician.
12) What about Stevia or stevioside and dental health?
From experiments with albino Sprague-Dawley rats Das et al. (1992) concluded that neither stevioside nor rebaudioside A is cariogenic (cavity causing). Although rather high concentrations of stevioside and Stevia extracts were shown to reduce the growth of some bacteria, the concentrations used for sweetening purposes are rather low. Therefore, the beneficial effect of the use of stevioside would rather be due to the substitution of sucrose in the food by a non-cariogenic substance. Moreover, stevioside is both fluoride compatible and significantly inhibits the development of plaque, thus Stevia may actually help to prevent cavities.
13) Can Stevia or stevioside be used in cooking and baking?
Absolutely! The melting point of stevioside is 198°C without decomposition or browning. It is extremely heat stable in a variety of everyday cooking and baking situations, compatible with dairy products and with acidic fruits such as strawberries, oranges, limes and pineapples. Moreover, it is pH stable, non-fermentable and does not darken upon cooking and therefore it has a wide range of applications in food products.
14) What is the composition of a Stevia extract?
The four major steviol glycosides are: stevioside, rebaudioside A, rebaudioside C and dulcoside A. It has long been known that rebaudioside A has the best sensory properties (sweetest, least bitter) of the four major steviol glycosides. On the whole plant level, steviol glycosides tend to accumulate in tissues as they age, so that older lower leaves have more sweetener than younger upper leaves. Since chloroplasts are important in precursor synthesis, those tissues devoid of chlorophyll, like roots and lower stems, contain no or trace amounts of glycosides. Once flowering is initiated glycoside concentrations in the leaves begin to decline.
15) How to prepare a Stevia Extract?
A liquid extract can be made from fresh or from dried and ground Stevia leaves. Simply combine a measured portion of Stevia leaves or herbal powder with pure alcohol (Brandy, or Scotch will also do) and let the mixture sit for 24 hours. Filter the liquid from the leaves or powder residue (eg. using a coffee filter) and dilute to taste using pure water. Note that the alcohol content can be reduced by slowly heating the extract and allowing the alcohol to evaporate off. A pure water extract can be similarly prepared, but will not extract quite as much of the sweet glycosides as will the alcohol. Each liquid extract can be cooked down and concentrated into a syrup.
16) What is the legal status of Stevia and stevioside?
Both the Stevia plant, its extracts, and stevioside have been used for many years as a sweetener in South America, Asia, Japan, China, and throughout the EU. In Brazil, Korea and Japan Stevia leaves, stevioside and highly refined extracts are officially used as a low-calorie sweetener. In the USA, powdered Stevia leaves and refined extracts from the leaves have been used as a dietary supplement since 1995. In 2000, the European Commission refused to accept Stevia or stevioside as a novel food because of a lack of critical scientific reports on Stevia and the discrepancies between cited studies with respect to possible toxicological effects of stevioside and especially its aglycone steviol (Kinghorn, 2002; Geuns, unpublished). The advantages of stevioside as a dietary supplement for human subjects are manifold: it is stable, it is non-calorific, it helps maintain good dental health by reducing the intake of sugar and opens the possibility for use by diabetic and phenylketonuria patients and obese persons.
Acknowledgements to http://www.kuleuven.ac.be/bio/biofys/ESC/English/ESC.htm
About 150 species, including:
For centuries, the Guarani Native Americans of Paraguay and Brazil used Stevia species, primarily S. rebaudiana which they called ka'a he'e ("sweet herb"), as a sweetener in yerba mate and medicinal teas for treating such conditions as obesity, high blood pressure, and heartburn. It has recently seen greater attention with the rise in demand for low-carbohydrate, low-sugar food alternatives, and is widely used as a sweetener in Japan, and is available in the US and Canada as a health food supplement.
In 1931, French chemists isolated the glycosides that give stevia its sweet taste. These extracts were named steviosides and rebaudiosides. These compounds are 250–300 times sweeter than sucrose (ordinary table sugar). Stevia's sweet taste has a slower onset and longer duration than sugar's, and especially at high concentration, it has bitter and liquorice-like after-tastes. Stevia does not significantly alter blood glucose, and so is attractive as a sweetener to diabetics and others on carbohydrate controlled diets.
In the early 1970s, the Japanese began cultivating stevia as an alternative to artificial sweeteners such as cyclamate and saccharin, suspected carcinogens. The plant's leaves, the aqueous extract of the leaves, and purified steviosides are used as sweeteners. Stevia sweeteners have been produced commercially in Japan since 1977 and are widely used in food products, soft drinks, and for table use. Japan currently consumes more stevia than any other country; there, stevia accounts for 40% of the sweetener market.
Today, stevia is cultivated and used in food elsewhere in east Asia, including in China (since 1984), Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Malaysia, it can also be found in Saint Kitts and Nevis, in part of South America (Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay) and in Israel. China is the world's largest exporter of the stevia extract, stevioside.
Health concerns and limits on use
A European health study found that stevioside depressed the virility of male mice . It has also been reported that steviol, a breakdown product from stevioside and rebaudiaside (two of the sweet compounds in the stevia leaf) is a mutagen. Although unresolved questions remain concerning whether metabolic processes can produce steviol in animals, let alone in humans, these findings nevertheless prompted the European Commission to ban stevia's use in food in the European Union pending further research. It is also banned in Singapore and Hong Kong . Additional animal tests have shown mixed results in terms of toxicology and adverse effects of stevia extract, with some tests finding steviol to be a weak mutagen while others find no safety issues.
Stevia has been used by millions of users in modern countries such as Japan for thirty years and centuries in South America spanning multiple generations, with no reported or known harmful effects on humans.
Whole foods proponents draw a distinction between consuming (and safety testing) only parts, such as stevia extracts and isolated compounds like stevioside, versus the whole herb. In his book Healing With Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford cautions, "Obtain only the green or brown [whole] stevia extracts or powders; avoid the clear extracts and white powders, which, highly refined and lacking essential phyto-nutrients, cause imbalance".
In 1991, at the request of an anonymous complainant, widely believed to have been filed by the sugar industry, the United States Food and Drug Administration labelled stevia as an "unsafe food additive", and restricted its import. The FDA's stated reason was "toxicological information on stevia is inadequate to demonstrate its safety" . This ruling was controversial, as stevia proponents pointed out this designation goes against the FDA's guidelines, under which any natural substance used prior to 1958 with no reported adverse effects should be recognized as safe. It is believed that the sweetening industry has pressured the FDA to keep stevia out of the United States, due to the fact that stevia is naturally occurring and no patent is required to produce it.
The FDA requires proof of safety before recognizing a food additive as safe. A similar burden of proof is required for the FDA to ban a substance and label it unsafe. In 1995, recognizing that this burden of proof had not been met, the FDA revised its stance to permit stevia to be used as a dietary supplement, although not as a food additive. Currently, it is legal to import, grow, sell and consume Stevia products in the United States if it is contained within or labelled for use as a dietary supplement.
Similarly, in Australia and Canada, stevia has been approved only for dietary supplements. It has been grown on an experimental basis in Ontario since 1987 for the purpose of determining the feasibility of growing the crop commercially.
Both the sweetener and the stevia plant Stevia rebaudiana, bertoni (also known as Eupatorium rebaudianum bertoni) are known by the following names in other languages:
* Chinese: (Tian ju - sweet flower), (Tian ju ye - stevia leaf)
* English : Candy leaf, Stevia (UK), Sugar leaf, Sweetleaf (USA), Sweet honey leaf (Australia), Sweet herb of Paraguay
* French: Stévia or Stévie
* German: Stevia
* Italian: Piccolo arbusto con foglio piu dolce, Stevia
* Japanese: (Amaha sutebia)
* Marathi: Madhu Parani
* Portuguese: Capim doce, Erva doce, Estévia (Brazil), Folhas da stévia, Stévia
* Sanskrit: Madhu Patra
* Spanish: Caá-ché, Hierba dulce, Ka´a he´e (Guaraníes - Natives of Paraguay), Stevia del norte de Paraguay, Yerba dulce
* Swedish: Stevia
* Tamil: Seeni Tulsi
* Telugu: Madhu Patri
* Thai: Satiwia, (Ya wan - Bangkok)
Books (I haven't read these books so before you buy make sure the cook books are using whole leaf stevia powder only - no adulteration with sucrose, stevioside, splenda, etc)
* The Miracle of Stevia - by James May (ISBN 0758202202)
* Sugar-Free Cooking with Stevia - by James Kirkland (ISBN 1928906117)
* Stevia Sweet Recipes: Sugar-Free-Naturally - by Jeffrey Goettemoeller (ISBN 1890612138)
* The Stevia Cookbook: Cooking with Nature's Calorie-Free Sweetener - by Ray Sahelian (ISBN 0895299267)
More reasons to use Stevia instead of sugar:
SUGAR IS SHOWN TO CAUSE MENTAL DISORDERS IN CHILDREN
New Norwegian research published in the American Journal of Public Health has found that teens in Norway who drank the highest amounts of sugary sodas experienced higher rates of mental disorders such as hyperactivity and distress.
Researchers from the University of Oslo surveyed more than 5,000 Norwegian 15- and 16-year-olds on their soda consumption habits, then questioned them on mental health, including questions on hyperactivity and distress. The researchers found that the teens with the most mental health problems were the teens who reported the highest sugary soda consumption.
"There was a strong association between soft drink consumption and mental health problems among Oslo 10th graders," the researchers' report stated. "This association remained significant after adjustment for social, behavioral and food-related disorders."
The researchers -- led by Dr. Lars Lien -- found that teens who reported skipping breakfast and lunch were some of the heaviest consumers of sodas, with most students reporting between one and six weekly soft drink servings. Though moderate drinkers were less likely to display mental disorders than those who drank no soft drinks , the researchers reported clear links between the worst mental health sufferers and the highest soda consumers.
For example, Lien's team found a direct linear relationship between the high soft drink consumption and hyperactivity . The more sodas teens drank, the more hyperactivity symptoms they displayed. Teens who drank four or more soft drinks per day displayed the worst mental health symptoms, with 10 percent of boys and 2 percent of girls reporting consuming that much daily soda.
Norwegian authorities recommend that only 10 percent of daily calories come from sugar , but Lien's team found that at least 25 percent of Norway 's teen boys were getting that much sugar from soft drinks alone.
"One simple and effective measure to reduce soft drink consumption in this age group would be to remove soft drink machines from schools and other public places where adolescents gather," the researchers wrote.
Consumer advocate Mike Adams, author of " The Five Soft Drink Monsters " -- a book aimed at helping consumers kick the soda habit -- calls Lien's study "the soft drink industry's worst nightmare" and favors removing soda vending machines from schools.
"[The study] establishes a scientific link between the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in soda and abnormal mental states in children," Adams said. "In the world of nutrition, we've known this for a long time, but the soda industry has vigorously fought any such associations, claiming sodas are harmless. Today we know that simply isn't true."
Luo Han Guo vs. Stevia
by Kathryn Vercillo
Like Stevia, Luo Han Guo is a natural sweetener which is derived from an herb. Rather than being South American, this one comes from China but just like with Stevia, it was being used as a natural sweetener in its area of origination for hundreds of years before making its way up to us here in the United States. It's sweeter than sugar (according to Wikipedia, both of these sweeteners are up to 300 times sweeter than sugar).
The most notable difference that I found between this Luo Han Guo product and my old favorite Stevia was that Luo Han Guo is said to have medicinal properties. In China, the fruit that this herbal product comes from has been used medicinally for throat infections and coughs, constipation, heat stroke and even diabetes. Of course, none of this has been proven in the Western World and it doesn't apply to the sweetener form of the product anyway. But it's interesting to note.
I think that what I've decided is that, if for some reason, I decided that I'm once again interested in pursuing a diet that incorporates natural sweeteners into it, I'd at least give Luo Han Guo a try. It's got enough similarity to Stevia that there's a decent chance that I'd probably like it well enough as far as taste goes. And who knows, maybe its medicinal properties wouldn't do anything in that form. But the power of the mind is an amazing healing tool, so thinking about those great benefits might be good enough. It's good enough for me anyway. Although I really like my sugar!
You can learn more about Lan Han Guo and Stevia from Wikipedia.
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General advice to consumers on the use of herbal remedies from the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
From the website of the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (www.mhra.gov.uk) Department of Health, UK
• Remember that herbal remedies are medicines. As with any other medicine they are likely to have an effect on the body and should be used with care. • Herbal remedies may sometimes interact with other medicines. This makes it particularly important to tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking a herbal remedy with other medicines such as prescribed medicines (those provided through your doctor or dentist). • Treat with caution any suggestion that a herbal remedy is '100% safe' or is 'safe because it is natural'. Many plants, trees, fungi and algae can be poisonous to humans. It is worth remembering that many pharmaceuticals have been developed or derived from these sources because of the powerful compounds they contain. Any medicine, including herbal remedies, which have an effect on the body should be used with care. • Treat with caution any herbalist or other person who supplies herbal remedies if they are unwilling or unable to provide written information, in English, listing the ingredients of the herbal remedy they are providing. • If you are due to have a surgical operation you should always remember to tell your doctor about any herbal remedy that you are taking. • Anyone who has previously experienced any liver complaint, or any other serious health complaint is advised not to take any herbal remedy without speaking to their doctor first.
Few conventional medicines have been established as safe to take during pregnancy and it is generally recognised that no medicine should be taken unless the benefit to the mother outweighs any possible risk to the foetus. This rule should also be applied to herbal medicinal products. However, herbal products are often promoted to the public as being “natural” and completely “safe” alternatives to conventional medicines. Some herbal ingredients that specifically should be avoided or used with caution during pregnancy. As with conventional medicines, no herbal products should be taken during pregnancy unless the benefit outweighs the potential risk.
Many herbs are traditionally reputed to be abortifacient and for some this reputation can be attributed to their volatile oil component.(6) A number of volatile oils are irritant to the genito-urinary tract if ingested and may induce uterine contractions. Herbs that contain irritant volatile oils include ground ivy, juniper, parsley, pennyroyal, sage, tansy and yarrow. Some of these oils contain the terpenoid constituent, thujone, which is known to be abortifacient. Pennyroyal oil also contains the hepatotoxic terpenoid constituent, pulegone. A case of liver failure in a woman who ingested pennyroyal oil as an abortifacient has been documented.
A stimulant or spasmolytic action on uterine muscle has been documented for some herbal ingredients including blue cohosh, burdock, fenugreek, golden seal, hawthorn, jamaica dogwood, motherwort, nettle, raspberry, and vervain. Herbal Teas Increased awareness of the harmful effects associated with excessive tea and coffee consumption has prompted many individuals to switch to herbal teas. Whilst some herbal teas may offer pleasant alternatives to tea and coffee, some contain pharmacologically active herbal ingredients, which may have unpredictable effects depending on the quantity of tea consumed and strength of the brew. Some herbal teas contain laxative herbal ingredients such as senna, frangula, and cascara. In general stimulant laxative preparations are not recommended during pregnancy and the use of unstandardised laxative preparations is particularly unsuitable. A case of hepatotoxicity in a newborn baby has been documented in which the mother consumed a herbal tea during pregnancy as an expectorant. Following analysis the herbal tea was reported to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are known to be hepatotoxic.
A drug substance taken by a breast-feeding mother presents a hazard if it is transferred to the breast milk in pharmacologically or toxicologically significant amounts. Limited information is available regarding the safety of conventional medicines taken during breast-feeding. Much less information exists for herbal ingredients, and generally the use of herbal remedies is not recommended during lactation.
Herbal remedies have traditionally been used to treat both adults and children. Herbal remedies may offer a milder alternative to some conventional medicines, although the suitability of a herbal remedy needs to be considered with respect to quality, safety and efficacy. Herbal remedies should be used with caution in children and medical advice should be sought if in doubt. Chamomile is a popular remedy used to treat teething pains in babies. However, chamomile is known to contain allergenic sesquiterpene lactones and should therefore be used with caution. The administration of herbal teas to children needs to be considered carefully and professional advice may be needed.
The need for patients to discontinue herbal medicinal products prior to surgery has recently been proposed. The authors considered eight commonly used herbal medicinal products (echinacea, ephedra, garlic, ginkgo, ginseng, kava, St John’s Wort, valerian). On the evidence available they concluded that the potential existed for direct pharmacological effects, pharmacodynamic interactions and pharmacokinetic interactions. The need for physicians to have a clear understanding of the herbal medicinal products being used by patients and to take a detailed history was highlighted. The American Society of Anaesthesiologists (ASA) has advised patients to tell their doctor if they are taking herbal products before surgery and has reported that a number of anaesthesiologists have reported significant changes in heart rate or blood pressure in some patients who have been taking herbal medicinal products including St John’s Wort, ginkgo and ginseng. MCA is currently investigating a serious adverse reaction associated with the use of ginkgo prior to surgery. In this case, the patient who was undergoing hip replacement experienced uncontrolled bleeding thought to be related to the use of ginkgo.
From the website of the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (www.mhra.gov.uk) Department of Health, UK
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