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Sweet Leaves

While there is no question that stevia is sweet, many users will admit that they have also experienced a bitter aftertaste from some brands. In fact, one of the problems with stevia products currently available from health food retailers is that many of them just plain do not taste good. They often have a distinct grassy taste, with varying degrees of bitterness associated with the sweet. These differences in quality may partly be a result of using non-Paraguayan stevia, partly due to poor extraction and processing techniques and partly the result of ignorance on the part of manufactureres concerning the real nature of the stevia plant. One knowledgeable producer of stevia products is attempting to set up industry standards for grading stevia leaves according to their quality. Grade A stevia would be the highest quality, an extremely sweet grade, with little bitter aftertaste and a concentrated degree of sweetness. This grade is very difficult to obtain due to climatic conditions that prevent harvesting at just the right time. Grade B would be a little less sweet with some minor deterioration of the leaf. Most of the best stevia arriving in the United States from Paraguay is Grade B. The vast majority of stevia sold in the United States would be classified as Grade C, a poor grade with a good deal of grassy, bitter flavor. Extracts of Grade C are particularly unpalatable, possessing far too much bitterness. Manufacturers often try to dress them up with other flavoring agents, but such attempts seldom work. Once you have tasted a premium stevia, you will never be satisfied by lesser products.

Bitter Veins

The bitter principles are actually found in the veins of the leaf, while the leafy material between the veins contains the sweet components. Great care must be taken during production of stevia extract to avoid contaminating the sweet with the bitter. This pertains as much to extraction as it does to milling.

The Restricted herb

Due to FDA regulations, pure stevioside or rebaudioside is not allowed in the United States. Even the leaf is suspect if it is labeled as a sweetener. Producers must exercise great caution in their labeling practices to avoid FDA involvement. Stevia and stevia extract are considered foods. Sweeteners are not foods, but food additives. Therefore, stevia cannot be called a sweetener. This, of course, restricts a manufacturer's ability to "get the word out" on stevia's use as a sweetening agent for teas or whatever. In practice, as long as the stevia industry poses no significant threat to the U.S. sugar or sugar substitute industries, the FDA will probably not be pressured to concern itself with what goes on with stevia labelling or use. Any perceived threat at all, however, could tip the scales the opposite way, and all forms of stevia could be banned.

NOTE: since this article was written, the FDA has approved Stevia for use as a dietary supplement in the US, but Canada has yet to approve it.

Nutrient-rich plant

To keep things low-key, remember that the sweetening effect is simply a pleasant by-product. The primary reason that stevia is combined with the other herbs is to enhance the nutritive value of the other herbs! Stevia is, after all, nutrient-rich, containing substantial amounts of protein, calcium, phosphorous and other important nutrients.10-11

Page 5 Medicinal uses