What Is Stevia? Awesome Facts You Won’t Believe

In this blog we’ll show you the characteristics of Stevia, its main types, properties, history, main exporters and importers, how it is cultivated, and some products made from this plant. Don’t miss it!  

What is Stevia and what are its characteristics?   

Scientific nameStevia rebaudiana
Common nameStevia y ka’a he’ẽ
Place of originParaguay y suroeste brasileño
HabitatClimas templados. Suelos arenosos y con mucha humedad.
DistributionAsia, Europa y Norteamérica.

Characteristics of Stevia 

Part of the Stevia genus, the Stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana bertoni) is native to South America and for centuries has been appreciated there for its sweetening properties. It is also known as honeyweed or sweet seaweed. Today it is grown in China as well. The leaves of the plant contain sweet-tasting plant compounds, also called steviol glycosides. In South America, the Stevia leaves are dried and crushed to sweeten teas and dishes.

Stevia, along with other sweeteners, is a popular alternative to regular sugar for many people. It is highly demanded because, at the moment, these days is trendy not to use traditional sugar in meals for health reasons. Sugar is not only high in calories, it also promotes tooth decay and has an unfavorable effect on blood sugar levels.

This plant can grow up to 0.9 meters tall. Its leaves are oval and toothed on the edges and have a bright, dark green color with a rough texture, often with some hairs. These leaves are 5 cm long and 2 cm wide. Its stems grow erect sideways.

It has small white flowers, without a notable aroma, with a tube-shaped silhouette. They grow in clusters or spikes, that is, the flowers shorten their length as they get closer to the top; the longest flowers are at the base, and the shortest at the tip of the cluster. Its branches are extended laterally.

It has a sort of dry fruit that is usually found within a crown of floral fuzz that causes it to move in the wind as it falls off.

Types of Stevia 

There are 8 types or varieties of Stevia in general:

  • SW227
  • SW201
  • SW129
  • SW107
  • Criolla
  • Morita II
  • Eirete
  • JBB

Today we focus on the first 4 types as they are the main ones.


It has been confirmed through field trials that SW227 has an excellent flavor of sweet leaf with very little bitterness, late flowering, and high plant vigor characterized by a large amount of branching and higher dry leaf yield.  SW227 is believed to be ideal for the fresh and dried leaf market characterized by the demand for a sweet leaf with little bitterness, where the same leaf is used directly in the cooking or sweetening process.

In field trials in Ontario, Oregon, SW227 produced approximately 5000 pounds of leaf per acre per year.


The SW201 variety has an improved flavor that is well suited for producing fresh and dried Stevia leaves, as well as for some home gardening customers.

An additional benefit for growers is that SW201 has superior overwintering and higher subsequent growth and flowering relative to most plant populations of this type.

SW201 is believed to be the world’s first Stevia variety that was bred specifically to be consumed as both fresh and dried leaves. SW201 is the subject of the second patent filed by S&W for a unique Stevia plant variety.


Field trials have confirmed that SW129 has very sweet leaves with high levels of steviol glycosides, excellent overwintering, high plant vigor, high leaf yield, and late flowering. For this reason, SW129 is ideal for commercial production.

In field trials in Ontario, Oregon, SW129 produced over 5000 pounds of leaf per acre per year.


The SW107 variety has higher Reb-A sweetener concentrations, higher leaf production, and an improved flavor profile. SW107 has been bred to address commercial processing markets in North America, South America and other regions of the world that have suitable climates for it.

SW107 is thought to be well-qualified to succeed in the commercial market. SW107 has several differentiating factors, including superior overwintering and late flowering attributes.

In field trials throughout the western United States, SW107 produced approximately 40% more leaf, 60% more Reb-A content, and over 100% increase in Reb-A ratio compared to test samples of current Stevia varieties. In mainstream production, it is believed that these results, along with an improved taste profile, mean that SW107 will be economically attractive to Stevia growers and to the commercial volume Stevia processing community.

Properties and benefits of Stevia 

Nutritional profile of Stevia 

Take a look at the nutritional table of Stevia per 100g, taken from Vegaffinity.

CompositionQuantity (gr)CDR(%)
MineralsQuantity (mg)CDR(%)
VitaminsQuantity (mg)CDR(%)
Vitamin A00%
Vitamin B100%
Vitamin B200%
Vitamin B300%
Vitamin B1200%
Vitamin C00%

5 properties of Stevia that you need to take advantage of

Sweetening power 

One of the greatest benefits of Stevia is its great sweetening power. This power comes from the aforementioned plant compound steviol glycosides, also known as stevioside. Stevioside is 300 times sweeter than refined sugar, sucrose, therefore even the smallest amounts of Stevia are sufficient to replace crystalline sugar on a large scale. For example, 20 grams of Stevia is sweet enough to sweeten a cake that requires hundreds of grams of table sugar according to the recipe.

It can help to lose weight 

Preferably in diet products. Dietary products are foods with a reduced calorie count that can help you lose weight quickly and healthily. Stevia actually has a relatively high-calorie content: 100 grams of Stevia contain about 370 kilocalories. For comparison: the same amount of granulated sugar has about 400 calories.

So, at first glance, the difference between Stevia and sugar is not so great in this respect but the sweetening power of Stevia is decisive here. Just a few grams of Stevia, with the correspondingly few calories, give a diet product the same sweetness than large amounts of sugar, which have many more calories. So, if you want to consciously avoid calorie intake in your diet, you have a suitable alternative to the sweetener.

Healthy for teeth 

One of the most serious effects of a sugary diet is permanent damage to oral flora and teeth. Sucrose and other sugars such as glucose and fructose supply a breeding ground for bacteria, which contribute to the formation of plaque and cavities. The situation, however, is completely different with the stevioside in Stevia: these sweet plant substances offer harmful bacteria significantly less basis for their propagation, they are said to even inhibit their growth due to their content of plant pigments, chlorophyll, and vitamin C. Stevia, as a sugar substitute, can strengthen the oral flora and help you avoid damage to your teeth.

Alternative for diabetics 

Its sweetening power makes Stevia also an alternative for diabetics. They need to avoid large amounts of sugar, but this is not the only reason why the plant substance is relevant to the diabetic diet. Unlike refined sugar, Stevia has few negative effects on the pancreas. It also scores very low on the glycemic index, which measures the effects of foods on blood sugar levels.

Various culinary uses 

Stevia is also sought after in cooking for another reason: the sweetener is very stable, which means it can be used in various ways. It changes neither its taste nor its consistency even at high heat. You can also use stevia as an additive for hot tea and refreshing lemonade, for baking cakes and for preparing frozen desserts. Moreover, you don’t have to store it in any special way.

History and origin of Stevia 

Stevia is not by any means a new discovery. A Swiss botanist discovered the plant in South America as early as 1887. 13 years later, Ovidio Rebaudi isolated the plant’s ingredients and gave it its name. He also realized that drinks could be sweetened with Stevia.

The Spanish conquerors introduced the Stevia plant to Europe as early as the 16th century.

Stevia was cultivated in Europe during World War II, but after the war, it fell back into oblivion.

Stevia has been approved in the EU as E 960 since 2011 which is a mixture of stevioglucosides with a minimum proportion of 89% rebaudioside A; however, the marketing of the plant is not allowed in Europe because not all of its active ingredients have been investigated.

Stevia rebaudiana originally comes from the highlands of Amambay in Paraguay and has been used since immemorial times by the local Guarani indigenous people to sweeten their food. The Indian term “Kaa-He-e”, which means something like “sweet herb”, is still used in Paraguay today. In Paraguay, Stevia rebaudiana leaves are often brewed together with a mate to make a tea drink.

Global Stevia Industry 

Know the main exporters and importers of Stevia in the world.   

Top Stevia exporters in the world in 2020 

In the following chart, you can see the top 10 exporting countries of Stevia in 2020 according to FAO. Besides, it provides information on the monetary volume of exports of these countries in 2020, specifically in U.S. dollars:

Top Stevia importers in the world in 2020 

The main importers of Stevia according to FAO for the year 2020 are shown in the following chart. On the other hand, it also provides information on the monetary volume of imports from these countries, specifically in US dollars in the year 2020. Let’s see what they are:

How is Stevia cultivated? 

There are several requirements to be taken into account in order to grow this plant. Below, we show you what they are:   


Stevia grows best in semi-humid places with acid soils, with good drainage and soil pH between 6.7 and 7.2.


Give this heat-loving plant a sunny, warm, and wind-protected spot in the garden or on the balcony. The plant is not frost-resistant and should spend the winter indoors.

Method of planting Stevia 


You can choose to plant Stevia either by cuttings or by seeds.

Before planting, soften the humus-rich garden soil with a little sand or pumice.

A distance of about 30 to 50 cm between plants should be maintained so the grass can develop well in the growing soil.

Sow from April onwards in seed trays in a cool environment or on the window sill. The seeds are pressed down lightly and not covered with soil. If the germination temperature is around 22 degrees Celsius, the first seedlings should appear in about ten days. They are then picked and planted in pots or outdoors. When planting in a pot, the diameter should be 20 to 30 centimeters of space between each plant. However, it doesn’t have to be particularly deep.


Stevia plants love the change between wet and dry and thrive optimally in these conditions, so water the honeyweed regularly and then let the soil near the root dry out until it feels only slightly moist inside (you check this using your thumb). However, be sure to avoid waterlogging, to which honeyweed is very sensitive.


The Stevia plant should be fertilized very sparingly, since, like many herbs, it becomes susceptible to disease if it has an excess of nutrients. It is best to fertilize once a month at the most during the growing period and to refrain from additional fertilizers for at least three months after transplanting.


Potted Stevia must be transplanted whenever the plant outgrows its previous pot. Sweetgrass needs a lot of space to develop freely; it forms strong, flat storage roots, therefore it needs wide pots or bowls. Normal potting soil or special soil for herbs is suitable for these plants.


It is necessary to cut the sweet leaf regularly during the summer months for the plant to grow stronger and thicker. Even before the first cool nights herald autumn, the Stevia should be cut back to a length of about ten centimeters.

Common pests and diseases 

Stevia is very hardy grass when properly cared for. Weeds occur with over-fertilization, unstable stems and weak, light green leaves. In this case, the plant should not be fertilized for a few weeks. Light white spots underneath the leaves indicate powdery mildew or white rust. These outbreaks must be mitigated or fight the disease on the plant with appropriate means.

Stevia in winter 

Since Stevia is frost sensitive, this sweet herb cannot be overwintered outdoors. Stevia should be dug up in autumn before the first-night frosts and moved to a bright place in winter.

If you have a heated winter garden or a heated greenhouse with temperatures of at least 18 degrees Celsius, you can grow Stevia without direct contact with winter.

If you do not have this option, you can cut the plant back to about 5 centimeters in autumn and dig it up. You can place the honeyweed in nutrient-poor soil and keep it in a frost-free room until next spring. It is recommended to place Stevia in a window with good sunlight starting in March to encourage renewed growth in the plant.

Stevia maintainance

  • Especially in summer, make sure that the plants receive enough water, as the shallow-rooted plants only get water near the surface and are somewhat drought-sensitive.
  • For Stevia to grow numerous leaves, it has to be fed with additional nutrients in nutrient-poor soil or in pots, preferably with compost, horn shavings or long-term mineral fertilizer. However, one must be careful not to over-fertilize the plant, otherwise, it may become more susceptible to pests.
  • Although excessive nitrogen fertilization increases leaf mass, it also reduces the stevioside content in the leaves. If you are unsure of the nutrient content of the soil, a soil test should be done before seeking fertilizer.
  • Regular pruning promotes growth, making the plant more numerous, more stable, and less susceptible to shoot breakage. Pruning also favors leaf formation. However, from August onwards they should no longer be cut, as the plant will no longer grow significantly after this point.

Harvesting Stevia 

After Christmas, the pots with the sweet leaves can be moved back outside. Once the soil has warmed up sufficiently, the honey leaf, which has become accustomed to the changing conditions, can be transplanted to the open field.

The leaves of the sweetgrass are harvested at least every three weeks and the entire shoot tip is removed. This invites the plant to branch abundantly and continues to produce new shoots.

Post-harvesting Stevia 

Fresh leaves can be used immediately to add a pleasant sweet aroma to hot beverages. Dosing should be done carefully, five to six leaves per pot are usually sufficient.

Alternatively, you can dry the Stevia herb and obtain a liquid honey herb extract.

Uses and products based on Stevia 

Stevia is very commonly taken as an additive in the preparation of meals as a substitute for sugar, so, the most normal thing is that people consume it in this presentation, however, there are other types of industrial products made from this plant, so it can be said that it is used fresh or processed. Certain products made from Stevia have also been launched in the market, such as the ones we will show you below.

Industrial products made from Stevia 


Truvia is a sugar substitute used to sweeten beverages and food. It is made by macerating the leaves of the Stevia plant. These leaves have been used as a sweetener in South America and Japan for centuries, but in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had to declare them safe before they could be mass marketed.  Truvia was developed by Cargill Corporation and The Coca-Cola Company. In 2008 it was marketed to the general public.


Splenda is an artificial sweetener sold in the United States. In the European Union, the same product is known as E955. It is available in many grocery stores and can be found in the same aisle as sugar. Splenda is not sugar, but a sucralose-based product. Sucralose is a chemical that has many of the same properties as sugar, but with fewer calories.

Vita natura, Liquid Stevia 

Liquid Stevia is the perfect companion for your diet, weight loss, low-carbohydrate diet or simply a healthy diet. This table sweetener is also suitable for diabetics as it is almost calorie-free and non-cariogenic. Stevia liquid cuts down on cravings for regular sugar, as this product has a neutral, sweet taste.  Steviol glycosides provide a special sweetness as they are about 300 times sweeter than cane sugar.


Erythritol is a sugar substitute that tastes and looks like sugar but contains no calories. This makes it appealing to all those who want to take care of their slim figure. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is used as an alternative sweetener. The raw material to produce erythritol is starch. To obtain this product, a biochemical process breaks down the enzymes.  Then, it is fermented using yeast or fungi, from which the final product is obtained as the sugar substitute.

Characteristics of Erythritol:

  • Sugar appearance
  • Free of calories
  • Weaker sweetening power than sugar.


Maltitol is a substance found naturally in fruits and vegetables but is also found as an additive in numerous low-sugar foods. It is a sugar alcohol that is mainly used as a sugar substitute in processed foods.

Sugar alcohols or polyols, also include sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol. They are absorbed in the small intestine and are characterized by a lower caloric content than sugar (2.4 kcal/g vs. 4 kcal/g).

Although sugary foods, beverages and chewing gum are commonly associated with dental caries, maltitol cannot be digested by the bacteria in our mouths, so you will help your dentist a little by occasionally replacing your sugary snacks with maltitol-sweetened candies.

Below, you’ll find a list of other products that are also made of Stevia:

  • Pure Via
  • Stevia In The Raw
  • Naturals Stevia Sweetener
  • SweetLeaf
  • Enliten


Stevia is a very important plant. It is widely consumed for its many benefits including the replacement for traditional sugar and for the many uses it has. We hope that this blog has helped you know more about aloe vera and that you don’t hesitate to consume it in all its presentations in order to enjoy its benefits firsthand.