By Esse Johnson
It may seem at first boring and mundane, but there’s good reason to become familiar with the history of the now famous shrub. While modern science is in a tizzy to nail down and agree upon health benefits of stevia, its history has much to expound.
The stevia plant is part of the large sunflower family and native to subtropical parts of South and Central America, Mexico, and the US states Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The Guarani people were historically nomadic and are now known to Paraguay, parts of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Bolivia. The Guarani are said to have used the “candy leaf” for more than 1500 years. In their native tongue it’s called ka’a he’ê, which means sweet herb.
This nation of people has used the herb for sweetening mate, a common tea drink, as well as a refreshing treat just chewing the leaf. But they’ve also known it to be medicinal, and to this day herbal medicine in Paraguay and Brazil uses stevia to treat illness and promote health.