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What is Stevia Rebaudiana - Ka'a He'e

The Ka'a He'ê, Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, is a native plant that grows in the northern areas of the Oriental Region of Paraguay.

It has been known, from times immemorial, that the leaves of Ka'a He'ê (Stevia Plant Paraguay) were used as a medicinal plant as well as a sweetener by the Guarani Indians, the native people indigenous to Paraguay.

The technology related to the growing of the species has developed considerably since the days in which the learned Swiss botanist Moisés S. Bertoni discovered and identified it taxonomically. Especially after the agronomist Juan B. Aranda Giménez and his wife Vera Bertoni established the methods for not only multiplying but also "domesticating" the means of production

Ever since Doctor Ovidio Rebaudi undertook the first studies on the nature and industrial application of the sweetener extracted
from the Ka'a He'e (Stevia Plant Paraguay) numerous foreign scientists continue investigating its properties. Thus, as a result of laboratory tests undertaken, it is known today that the extract contains steviósido, rebaudiósido A, and at least six other sweetener components.

Through the diffusion of information regarding the nature and present day use, besides the potentials of the plant's sweetener principles, its commercial growing has acquired a somewhat variable importance in Brazil, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, USA (California) and, logically in Paraguayos. A strong impulse in the production of this species is being made in the first four countries mentioned through the extraction, distilling and crystallisation of its main chemical components which are already being utilised in a vast gamma of products destined for human consumption.
Is there any danger in stevia rebaudiana? If you are considering adding stevia to your diet and you have some concerns please click here to read the article.

Rebaudi, a chemist, was the first to study the sweetening substance of the Stevia although he classified it erroneously as Glicirricina.

In further studies, that have included sensory tests, it has been found that the Rebaudioside A has the best flavour besides being the closest to that of sugar. A slightly bitter flavour can be detected in the sweetness of the Steviosido and Rebaudioside A. It is a peculiarity that exists in minute quantities, and is due to having in their composition traces of Alfa-rhamosyl instead of Beta-glucose.

Commercial companies in many countries have been studying each of these components, through physical and chemical means, in order to eliminate the slight bitter flavour in the sweetness. Besides, genetic investigations must be pursued by which it may become possible to select the plants that will eventually not contain rhamosyl, which causes the slight bitter taste. In 1999 the Steviafarma S.A. company of Maringa-Brazil managed to eliminate, after six years of investigations and through the use of chemical solvents, the bitter taste and thereby obtaining 98% of Steviosida, Rebaudiosida A as well as other rebaudiosides with 250 and at times 300 higher content of sweetness than that of saccharine, actually authorised by the FDA of the United Sets and commercialised in various countries of the world.

Schock (1982) (4). Has expressed that the interesting chemical components are the Steviosido, Rebaudioside A; besides, there exist at least six sweet components united to a central structure of three carbon rings, whose chemical structure is so described.
According to this investigator the concentrations of Stevioside reaches between 3 and 10% of the weight in dry leaf matter, the Rebaudioside A, less concentrated, varies between 1 and 35%.


In 1966, through a study undertaken by the Faculty of Medicine of the U.N.A. Paraguay, Professor Ovidio Miguel announces that the Stevia can be utilised against diabetes.

The Research Centre of Stevia in Brazil in 1970, during the International Diabetes Congress, coincided with the thesis of Dr. Carlos A. Oviedo: "Effects of Ka'a He'ê" (Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni) on Glaucoma. Studies on 25 normal hydrocarbon clinical reasons.

In 1969, Professor Derek H.R. (Nobel Prize for Chemistry) heads, in the Imperial Science and Technology School of London, a group of scientists in the study of interesting aspects of the plant.


1970, Dr. Carlos A.Oviedo of the Faculty of Medicine of the U.N.A. Paraguay, presents the effects of Ka'a He'ê on Glaucoma. Information that was given at the 209th Congress on Diabetes held in Buenos Aires by Dr. Ovidio Miguel.

At the 7th International Diabetes Congress its hypoglycaemia action is made known.

In Japan experiments are made for its domestic use and its application in food factories as well as the pharmaceutical industry.

1976. During the 28th Annual Reunion for the Progress of Science held in Brasilia, Dr. Gila de Amaral de Von Schmelling presented her work titled "Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni and its hypoglycaemia effects on rabbits", through which the anti-diabetes effect of the plant was proved.

Earlier, Rasenach 1908 (6) and Dietrich 1909 (7) demonstrated that the principle sweetener of the Stevia is totally different to that of Glycogen. Through the use of alcohol they were able to extract the likeable sweet substance of the leaves, purify it and later obtain it in the form of white odourless crystals that would melt at 238º C. In 1921 the active principle was named Steviosido by the International Chemistry Union (Unión Internationale de Chimie) (8)

Bridel and Lavielli (1931) (9) undertook other studies of Steviosido and ratified the active formula of C 38 H60 018. They stated that besides the previous discovery by Rasenbach and Dietrich, the substance in question possessed hygroscopic powers that were approximately 300 times sweeter than Saccharine or sugar cane. Small quantities of this substance, when entering into contact with the tongue have an agreeably and delicious sweet flavour, but then quite quickly one perceives a sensation of bitterness. This, for many, is stronger than that one senses when using saccharine.

The chemist Bell (1954) (10) let it be known, after undertaking several studies of the differences between Stevioside, and comparing it to other sweeteners known until then, that it should be described as not only unique but that it also merited deeper studies for it possessed  sufficient characteristics that justified doing so. It is also evident that such Biochemists as Barton, Butterfield, Hanson and Wisner, who studied it in the past, were left impressed by its extraordinary powers for sweetening. Since time immemorial the Ka'a He'ê (Stevia Plant Paraguay) has been used in the native Indians ethno-botany, in the popular Paraguayan medicine and locally as a sweetener for diabetics.

From certain studies these show that the Stevioside is found in greater quantity in the leaf, between 7% and 15% of its dry weight; 3% in the flowering, less than 3% in the stem and none in the roots (11). From one hectare of cultivated plants one obtains between 1500 and 2000 kilos of dry leaves; that is to say, 100 to 200 kilos of Stevioside per hectare.

Ishima y Katayama (19769 (12) experimented in their studies that of mixing several types of sugars with Stevioside from which they were able to observe company credit check the quality and residual flavour. They arrived at the conclusion that to perfect the sweet flavour, it was best to add to the Stevioside the Sacrisa. To the Stevioside, in order of importance, there follows other sugars such as glucose, fructose, etc.

These investigators also proved that the least residual flavour could be obtained by mixing them with fructose. On the other hand it is worth mentioning that in Japan, the companies that work with Stevia, are investigating possible mixtures with other peptic and amino acid substances.

There exist reports revealing that citric acid, acetic acid, lactase acid, malic acid and tartaric acid diminish the residual flavour of the Steviosido (Maruzen Masei S.A., 1978)

Doctor's Tanake and Mitsuhashi (13) from the Ika University of Hiroshima (Japan) directed detailed investigations when separating the glycerides in various species. Besides the Stevioside, the principal glyceride (6-8%), there were identified in the plant other diterpenos glycerides such as Rebaudioside A,B,D,E (2,3%) with a higher sweetener grade than that of pure Stevioside, reaching up to 350 times higher than that in sugar cane (Saccharine). Later the Dulcoside A, B were identified as having sweetener grading up to 50 times more than sugar. It is in this manner that one can see how the industrial product extracted from the Stevia is in reality a combination of various glycerides, whose quantities may vary according to the variety and their locality. (14)

In the 6th Pharmaceutical Congress celebrated in Buenos Aires in 1976, there were also presented 2 works by the "Stevia Investigation Centre" from the city of Sao Paulo. The first work consisted of: "The inducting effect of corporal loss of weight (a demonstration of the Ka'a He'ê action against obesity); the second, "The anti-rhythm effects" (a demonstration on the beneficial values for the hearts regular functioning).

Dr. Ovidio Miguel, in the same study, points out that "The sick did not present manifestations of intolerance nor any toxicity, and felt a sensation of well-being during the course of the sickness, a fact unknown until then."

The Endocrinologist specialist on Nutrition and Diabetes, Nilsa Noemi Ibarrola Arce explains the following: "Different to the conventional hypoglycaemiants, it betters the pancreas circulation, especially that of the isles with the result of there being a secretion of insulin. The continuous use of Ka'a Heê (Stevia Plant Paraguay) through intake of infusions, that is to say consumed regularly, diminishes the intake of carbon hydrates at intestinal level, therefore acting as a slimmer, and also alleviates rheumatic pains. Having attended to hundreds of diabetic patients, I attained, through the regular use of Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni (Ka'a He'ê Stevia Paraguay) to liberate from the insulin the dependent insulin. It also explains the goodness of the plant as a heart tonic, anti-depressant, diuretic, digestive and as an antacid."

According to its properties the Stevioside has multiple applications, amongst them are:

1. Anti Caries: Not being fermentative it is used at present in dental pastes and chewing gum.

2. Sweetener: The product can be utilised in various industries.

3. Food products: It is utilised in sweet-sour products, sauces and pickles. It is used partially in ice creams and iced cakes, which gain higher qualities by neither altering their structure or their flavour. We have hundreds of great stevia recipes on our site.

4. Pharmaceutical: It is being utilised in certain pharmaceutical formulae due to possessing a non-fermenting property.

Other reasons for which it is being used in pharmacy are: It does not suffer alterations in acid media, hydrolysing only in very alkaline media (PH9), whilst thermally remaining very stable.

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