- Sweet herb of Paraguay
- Candy leaf
- Honey leaf
- Sugar leaf
For Patients & Caregivers
Tell your healthcare providers about any dietary supplements you’re taking, such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, and natural or home remedies. This will help them manage your care and keep you safe.
How It Works
Stevia is used as a substitute for sugar.
Stevia is an herb that is used as a sweetener. The FDA allows only a purified ingredient from stevia as a food additive. Animal and laboratory studies suggest stevia products can suppress inflammation in the body or help regulate blood sugar, but studies of benefits in humans are unclear.
- Nausea, stomach fullness: In 4 patients during a study following intake of 500 mg stevioside powder. Symptoms resolved after 1 week of treatment.
- Restless leg syndrome: In a 54-year-old man with complex medical conditions. A medication review did not yield potential causes. Symptoms seemed related to use of a stevia product, and stopped when the product was discontinued.
For Healthcare Professionals
Stevia rebaudiana is an herb native to Brazil and Paraguay. Its raw leaves as well as purified extracts such as stevioside and steviol have been used as sweeteners and promoted as sugar substitutes for diabetics (2). Stevia extract is many times sweeter than table sugar (1), but only purified steviol glycosides have the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status by the FDA for use in food (8).
In vitro and animal studies suggest that stevia has anti-inflammatory (5) (6), hepatoprotective and renoprotective effects (11). In humans, small studies suggest stevia may reduce hypertension and hyperglycemia (3) (4) (13), but a meta-analysis of steviol glycosides on type 2 diabetes biomarkers did not find significant benefit (14). In an RCT comparing low-calorie sweeteners, ingestion of rebaudioside did not appear to affect body weight (15). Additional studies are needed to clarify any benefits.
Mechanism of Action
Mechanisms of purported antihypertensive effects with stevioside are unclear, although it may act as a calcium channel antagonist, similar to the drug verapamil (9). Other studies suggest steviosides are metabolized in the gut where bacteria provide an aglycone metabolite that then enters the blood circulation (16).
In vitro studies suggest stevioside suppresses production of inflammatory mediators (6). In mouse skin, it inhibited tumor-promoting 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (5). In other animal studies, stevia products inhibited hepatic gluconeogenesis (10) and increased insulin sensitivity (11).
Potential effects of stevia on the dopaminergic system and iron metabolism, primary pathways implicated in restless leg syndrome, need further evaluation as there is a case report of a patient with complex comorbidities but no other potential causes for RLS except newly initiated stevia intake (17).
Abdominal fullness, myalgia, nausea, and asthenia: In 4 patients during a study following consumption of 500 mg stevioside powder. Symptoms resolved after 1 week of treatment (4).
Moderate restless leg syndrome: In a 54-year-old man with complex comorbidities who reported limb restlessness that interfered with sleep. Medication review did not yield potential causes. Symptom onset corresponded to recent stevia use and subsided with product discontinuation. A brief reintroduction of stevia after a few months caused a recurrence which again subsided after product discontinuation (17).