Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Focus on Herbs: Stevia


As I am attempting to make better use of the herbs we have growing, this week I concentrated on getting to know more about stevia. Most people would already know it can be used as a sweetener in place of sugar. However, the stevia which you buy in the supermarket is white unlike the green powder that is produced after drying and grinding the herb at home.

When you eat a fresh stevia leaf it tastes quite sweet.

It is, after all, 250-300 times sweeter than refined sugar. According to Isabell Shipard's How Can I Use Herbs In My Daily Life hunger sensations can be curbed by drinking a glass of water containing several drops of stevia essence or syrup, it can be used by diabetics without it causing problems and it assists the liver in controlling blood sugar levels as well as a myriad of other health benefits. In her book, Isabell has four pages dedicated to stevia alone and she obviously thinks highly of it.

So in order to experiment with using Stevia I first picked a few stems, pulled off the leaves and dried them.

Then I put them into the food processor but mine obviously isn't powerful enough to grind it into a powder... I put it into an old coffee grinder which my husband must have bought at a garage he does...and it ground the leaves down nicely producing a green powder quite unlike the Stevia sold in the supermarket, don't you agree? Which begs the question, what is added to make it white?

Then I made liquid essence (left) and and a syrup (right). Now to be honest, the powder tasted bitter at first and then that gave way to a very sweet sensation and I wasn't quite sure I liked the taste. However, the essence and syrup seemed more palatable so, as Isabell advises in her book, I will need to do personal research to discover how much suits my taste buds and sweet tooth requirements in tea, coffee, etc. In baking recipes 1/2 cup of sugar can be replaced by approximately 6 large finely chopped stevia leaves. However, cakes and other items won't rise as much as they do when granulated sugar is used.

So, I will be doing a bit of experimenting in the next week to find a suitable 'dose' of stevia for my coffee. If anyone is interested in making their own liquid essence and syrup here are the recipes:

Liquid Essence: Add 2 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh leaves to 1 cup of boiling water and steep for 30 minutes. Strain and refrigerate.

Syrup: Place 4 teaspoons of dried powdered leaves in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes. Cool and refrigerate.

If the mixture is to be kept for any length of time, a teaspoon of vitamin C powder may be added as a preservative. An infusion of fresh or dried leaves can be drunk as a hot or cold beverage as well.

If you want to grow stevia and it isn't available where you live you could order it from Isabell's farm. I am not sure if seeds and plants can be sent to all Australian states but the farm staff could tell you that. It is probably quite readily available in most nurseries though.

Have any of my readers grown stevia and, if so, how do you use it in your daily life? I may need some inspiration with this herb as I get used to it. :-)


  1. Good morning Nanna Chel, I've been wondering about stevia too & couldn't reconcile the green leaves with the white product sold in the supermarkets. Perhaps it is the syrup distilled and then dried leaving a granulated product? Does your hubby try these things with you? Mine is pretty traditional about some things & I doubt he will want to go away from sugar. However I think in the future I'll try growing some and do the syrup option for my own benefit. Thanks Barb.

  2. Barb, my hubby used to make his own yoghurt etc. before we married in the late seventies and was a very healthy vegetarian. However, he got into bad eating habits as time went on and ended up having 3 teaspoons of sugar in his coffee and was drinking a lot of lemonade in summer. Recently when he started to get arthritis he gave up sugar, alcohol etc as he felt his system was getting too acidic. He has lost heaps of weight and his high BP has come down. So he doesn't really need the stevia as such :-) He is from a migrant family and his mum used to make soap, cheese etc so he is used to that lifestyle unlike a lot of our older Aussie men.

  3. Definitely your homegrown and produced Stevia would be miles better than the supermarket. I never thought of making my own "sugar" or thought it was possible. My mum has arthritis/gout and like your husband is from an immigrant family who DIY everything growing up. I need to help my mum get back to basics with her health.

  4. Yes, cutting down on sugar is something I would like to do but it is in so many foods that we buy so it gets a bit tricky. I also bought some Gotu Kola for the pain of arthritis which doesn't actually cure arthritis but works on the pain.


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