Stevia is of the Composite family, related to lettuce, marigold and chicory. It was "Officially" discovered in the late 19th century by Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni. He was given samples of the plant and he reported that "one small piece of the leaf will keep the mouth sweet for an hour". He named the plant Stevia Rebuadiani Bertoni in honor of a Paraguayan chemist name Rebaudi. Bertoni found that the Guarani Indians had been using the leaves of the plant to sweeten bitter teas and as a sweet treat.

Stevia is perhaps unique among food ingredients because it's most valued for what it doesn't do. It doesn't add calories. Unlike other sugar substitutes, stevia is derived from a plant.

The stevia plant is part of the Asteraceae family, related to the daisy and ragweed. Several stevia species called "candyleaf" are native to New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.

But the prized species, Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni), grows in Paraguay and Brazil, where people have used leaves from the stevia bush to sweeten food for hundreds of years. In traditional medicine in these regions, stevia also served as a treatment for burns, colic, stomach problems and sometimes as a contraceptive.

benefits of Using Stevia

* Sugarless with no calories  
* Will not effect blood sugar levels like sugar does.  
* 100% Natural  
* 250 to 300 times sweeter than sugar 
* Heat stable to 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit)  
* Non-fermentable  
* Flavor enhancer  
* Plaque retardant Anti-caries (prevents cavities)  
* Recommended for diabetics  
* Non-toxic Extensively tested in animals and Extensively used by humans with no adverse effects.

Types or forms of Stevia

Types of Stevia:

- Stevia Leaves

* Fresh Leaves – Most pure form. 8 – 12% sweet glycosides : 5-8% Steviosides and 1-2% Rebaudioside A.  
* Dried Leaves – Dried form of the fresh leaves. Used in brewing herbal teas and for making liquid extracts.  
* Tea Cut Leaves – Cut into small pieces and sifted to remove twigs and other unwanted matter.  
* Ground Leaves (Powder) - The dried leaves ground into a fine powder. Usually about 10 – 15 times sweeter than sugar. Used in teas and cooking but does not dissolve. 

- Liquid Extracts

* Dark – A concentrated syrup derived from the dried leaves. Usually in a water and alcohol base. Sweetness varies between manufacturers. This form will offer the greater amount of benefits from the stevia plant.  
* Clear – A solution of powdered steviosides dissolved in water, alcohol or glycerin. 

- Powdered Extracts (STEVIOSIDES)

* 40 – 50% Sweet Glycosides – The processed form of the leaves to concentrate on the sweet glycosides by removing unwanted plant matter. An off white powder. Commonly referred to as "Stevioside".  
* 80 – 95% Sweet Glycosides - The processed form of the leaves to concentrate on the sweet glycosides by removing unwanted plant matter. An off white powder. This powder is 200 – 300 times sweeter than sugar. Quality of the powder depends on purity of the glycosides (i.e. 80 – 95% pure) and the ratio of Rebaudioside A over Stevioside. The higher the ratio, the better the product. Commonly referred to as "Stevioside". 

- Other Forms (STEVIA BLENDS)

* Due to the great strength of the Powdered Extracts, it is common to add a filler to "tone" down the strength so that the Stevioside is easier to use and more palatable. These fillers are usually some form of non-sweet food additive that has little to no nutritive value such as lactose or maltodextrin