Excerpt from “The Body Ecology Diet” by Donna Gates.

Introduction to Stevia

Stevia is an extraordinarily sweet herb…200-300 times sweeter than sugar. It has a slight licorice-like flavor that most of us with a sweet tooth, and all the children we have ever met, love. For some people who only like the taste of real sugar it may take a little getting used to, but it has such important medicinal value that it is well worth learning to love.

Stevia is almost calorie-free, so weight watchers love it. It is ideal for children since it prevents cavities. Unlike sugar, it does not trigger a rise in blood sugar. You won’t get a sudden burst of energy followed by fatigue and a need for another “fix.” Most importantly for our purposes, it does not feed yeast or other microorganisms, and it increases energy and aids digestion by stimulating the pancreas.

Since artificial sweeteners are banned in Japan, the Japanese are the greatest consumers of stevia. A member of the chrysanthemum family (closely related to tarragon and chamomile and distantly related to lettuce, artichokes, safflower oil, and sunflower seeds and oil), it is totally safe and has been used for centuries by the Indians of South America where it grows wild.

Stevia is available in a number of forms, including a crude green powder and a brownish liquid extract, which has a strong, unpleasant, licorice-like taste. The white powder is used in our cookbook. If you have trouble obtaining white stevia extract, please contact us at 1266 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA 30327 or call (404) 352-8048, FAX (404) 352-3409.

Working with the white stevia powder (extract) is difficult, so we usually recommend creating a liquid concentrate from the white powder. We call this concentrate our Stevia Working Solution. To make it, dissolve 1 tsp. white stevia powder into 3 Tbsp. filtered water. The white powder may stick to the spoon but will soon dissolve. Pour this concentrate into a small bottle with a dropper top and refrigerate it to increase its shelf life.

A tiny pinch of the powder is so potent that most people put in too much and find that it is just too sweet for them. That’s why we recommend using the liquid and experimenting with a few drops at a time to find your own personal level of desired sweetness. One teaspoon of liquid working solution will approximately equal on cup of sugar.

With the exception of Nicolette Dumke, no one has worked more extensively to develop recipes using stevia than our Body Ecology staff. In her book, “Allergy Cooking With Ease,” Nicolette gives many recipes for carob cake and cookies that you may want to try if you have children who need healthier cakes, especially for birthday parties. She warns that stevia-sweetened baked goods do not brown very much, so when baking, check them for doneness by touching and not by color. Stevia tastes strong in bland foods, but with stronger flavors such as carob it disappears. It blends especially well with citrus fruit flavors such as lemon and cranberry.

NOTE: You can buy Stevia products at most Health Food Stores.

Current Status of Stevia

Mark D. Gold
October 3, 1995

Stevia is widely used as a sweetener in Japan (~40% of the sweetener market), Brazil, South Korea, Paraguay, and a number of other countries. There has never been a report of an adverse reaction linked to the use of Stevia.

In the early and mid 1980s, Stevia was growing in popularity. During the last part of the 1980s, the FDA began seizing Stevia from health food manufacturers without adequate explanation. In 1990, Food Processing magazine had an insert about stevia. Approximately 200 manufacturers including all of the major food manufacturers showed interest in using Stevia in the manufacturing of their products.

In 1991, the FDA banned the importation of Stevia intended for use in foods. This ban was reportedly at the request of NutraSweet (owned by Monsanto) which produces a toxic artificial sweetener called aspartame. This action, a clear violation of the law which allows any product with a history of safe use before 1958 to be automatically approved, kept manufacturers from using stevia and kept NutraSweet from having to compete with a safe, “natural” sweetener.

In 1992, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) petitioned the FDA to declare use of Stevia as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe). The AHPA provide hundreds of documents showing that Stevia had been commonly and safely used before 1958, and thus met the requirements for GRAS status. In July 1992 the FDA rejected the AHPA petition. When asked how much more information was needed, the FDA responded “Well, this may sound flippant, but we’ll know it when we see it.” (Translation: No matter what you provide we’re not going to approve stevia to compete with artificial sweeteners.)

After exchanges of letters and a meeting, the FDA demanded information that they do not have the authority to request and they demanded information based on proposed regulations that they did not pass. Still, in the spirit of cooperation, the Herbal Research Foundation provided additional information requested about the safety and use of stevia.

In December 1993, the FDA again disallowed the filing of the AHPA petition for approval of Stevia. This meant that public comment on the petition by qualified experts could not take place and that stevia would not be approved.

In September 1995, the FDA adjusted their “Import Alert” to allow for the importation of Stevia *only* if it is clearly marked that it is intended to be used as or in dietary supplements. This will tend to permit personal use, but keep food manufactures from using Stevia in their products until they can be secure in their supply for all intended uses.

Thus, the FDA is still in clear violation of the law (which, by the way, means nothing to the FDA when it comes to protecting their “clients,” i.e., Monsanto/ NutraSweet), but at least it is a small step in the right direction.