STEVIA is best known as a calorie-free alternative to sugar. However, it has numerous other beneficial therapeutic properties and is a plant you really should grow in abundance if you have the space available.
Since stevia is a tropical plant, don't plant it outside until soil temperatures remain above 50 degrees. The plant prefers a rich & loamy soil and full sun. Do not over water.
Cool autumn temperatures and shorter days tend to intensify the sweetness. While you can gather and use fresh leaves all summer, collecting the leaves in autumn and drying them for winter use will provide the most potency. Cut off the branches with pruning shears then strip the leaves.
Once all your leaves have been harvested you will need to dry them. This can be accomplished on a screen or net. The drying process is not one that requires excessive heat; more important is good air circulation. On a moderately warm fall day, your stevia crop can be quick dried in the full sun in about 12 hours. (Drying times longer than that will lower the stevioside content of the final product.) A home dehydrator can also be used, although sun drying is the preferred method.
Crushing the dried leaves is the final step in releasing stevia’s sweetening power. This can be done either by hand or, for greater effect, in a coffee grinder or in a special blender for herbs. You can also make your own liquid stevia extract by adding a cup of warm water to 1/4 cup of fresh, finely-crushed stevia leaves. This mixture should set for 24 hours and then be refrigerated.
Watch a Video: How to prepare dry stevia & liquid stevia
At this time you can take cuttings that will form the basis for the next year’s crop. After dipping the stem cuttings in a rooting hormone, they should be planted in a rooting medium for two to three weeks, giving the new root system a chance to form. They should then be potted — preferably in 4.5-inch pots — and placed in the sunniest and least drafty part of your home until the following spring.
- Helps regulate blood sugar levels (stevia nourishes the pancreas and thereby helps restore normal pancreatic function), so it is frequently used in treating diabetes - both as a sweetener alternative and to help stabilize blood sugar leves, increase insulin resistance and perhaps even promoting insulin production while discouraging glucose absorption into the blood.
- Make a tea using crushed raw stevia leaves 2-3 times daily. Heat (don't boil) 1 cup of water with 1 teaspoon of leaves and steep for 5-7 minutes. Drink hot or cold.
- Aids in digestion by improving gastrointestinal function.Drink stevia tea after each meal asa it may provide you with improved digestion while relieving heartburn and stomach pain.
- Used as a skin care product, stevia is used to clear blemishes and tighten skin to reduce wrinkles. It's also used to treat acne, eczema, seborrhea and dermatitis.
- Has been used to treat gingivitis, tooth decay and cavities; heals mouth sores. Make a tea, as described above, and gargle 3-4 times daily.
- May help treat dandruff and hair loss
- Mix 3-4 drops of stevia concentrate into your regular shampoo and wash as normal. You may also use stevia tea as a conditioner, rinsing it out after 5 minutes to retain hair color and strength
- Has a mild beneficial effect in lowering blood pressure
- Has been used to aid in withdrawal from tobacco and alcohol addiction
- Helps with weight loss, not only by using it as no-calorie substitute for sugar but because it helps curb hunger, control blood glucose and helps increase energy levels.