If you have followed the "Stevia Chronicles" for any length of time,
youíll know that controversy dogs this unassuming ancient herb.
Banned here ... praised there ... on a consumer alert over there ...
yet still sought for around the world.
Just what is the purported
danger in using stevia? Itís hard to uncover any real evidence for
In his book Stevia Sweet
Recipes Jeffrey Goettemoeller has the following to say about
"Stevia has undergone numerous
toxicity tests. None of these tests have shown any harmful effects.
Few substances can make this claim. The real test, though, was
centuries of continuous use by natives of South America. In
addition, thousands of tons of stevia extracts have been consumed
over the last 20 years in many countries with no harmful effects
Others have reached similar
conclusions. In The Stevia Cookbook, by Ray Sahelian, MD, we read:
Stevia has been used as a sweetening ingredient in foods and drinks
by South American natives for many centuries, and there is no report
of any plant toxicity to the consumers (Suttajit, 1993). Stevia has
been added to a number of food products in Japan since the mid
1970s. No indications of any significant side effects have yet been
reported after more than 20 years of use. Similarly, no reports of
any adverse reactions to stevia have been reported in the United
In the same book you can read
about one of the studies of the possible carcinogenic
(cancer-causing) effect of stevia in rats. In a 1997 study conducted
at the National Institute of Health Sciences in Tokyo, Japan, it was
concluded that stevia had no adverse effects on the experimental
Following extensive research
Dr. Daniel Mowrey MD, Herbalist and renowned scientist, reported:
"More elaborate safety tests
were performed by the Japanese during their evaluation of Stevia as
a possible sweetening agent. Few substances have ever yielded such
consistently negative results in toxicity trials as have Stevia.
Almost every toxicity test imaginable has been performed on Stevia
extract [concentrate] or stevioside at one time or another. The
results are always negative. No abnormalities in weight change, food
intake, cell or membrane characteristics, enzyme and substrate
utilization, or chromosome characteristics. No cancer, no birth
defects, no acute and no chronic untoward effects. Nothing."
In the United States, Rob
McCaleb, President of the Herb Research Foundation sees the irony in
the ongoing FDA stevia (which he calls Ďthis embattled herbí) saga.
He tells us that stevia has been under FDA import alert since 1991,
but "actually, according to the HRF, numerous scientists, and tens
of millions of consumers throughout the world, especially in Japan,
the herb is safe."
Perhaps itís not the safety of
stevia, but its sweetness which is the real sticking point as
McCaleb goes on to explain. If stevia has the potential to become a
popular non-caloric sweetener, where would that leave some other
products currently on the market?
McCaleb says, "That's the
problem, apparently, because someone (FDA won't say who, but it's a
big company) doesn't want it on the market, and convinced FDA to ban
it. Now, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 has
forced FDA to allow it in dietary supplements. The agency says it's
still illegal to use it as a food ingredient, placing them in the
rather stupid position of saying it's safe if labeled as a
supplement, but not when sold in or as a food. This would seem to
violate the famous "Hee Haw" rule implemented by former FDA
Commissioner Frank Young. Dr. Young implored his managers not to
place the agency in a position which made it appear foolish by
violating obvious common sense. The rule was reportedly prompted by
the FDA's case against ginseng capsules years ago. A judge told the
Agency that the position that ginseng was safe as a tea but
dangerous in a capsule was ridiculous. Now they say stevia is safe
in a capsule, but not in a tea, unless the tea is labeled as a
dietary supplement. Go figure . . ."
Toxic or just tasty? We think
itís time that the evidence on stevia be allowed to speak for