Generic Name: stevia
Other Names: Stevia rebaudiana
Drug Class: Herbals
What is stevia, and what is it used for?
Stevia is a natural sweetener extracted from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana plant. Stevia is reported to be 200 to 400 times sweeter than table sugar (sucrose) but has zero calories. People use stevia as an alternative to sugar and also take it to reduce blood sugar levels, and blood pressure and weight loss, however, there aren’t enough scientific studies to support many of these uses.
Stevia contains compounds known as steviol glycosides, which contribute to the sweetness in stevia leaf. There are 11 steviol glycosides among which stevioside and rebaudioside A are the most abundant. Purified extracts from stevia leaf contain a high concentration of steviol glycosides and can be up to 400 times sweeter than sucrose, but have no calorific value. The FDA has approved stevia purified to a minimum of 95% as a food additive, generally recognized as a safe (GRAS) product.
In addition to providing zero-calorie sweetness, stevia is also believed to reduce the gastrointestinal absorption of glucose and stimulate insulin secretion, which can help in controlling blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes. Using stevia instead of sugar which has a lot of calories, may help in weight loss and managing obesity. Preliminary research suggests stevia may dilate blood vessels and reduce blood pressure, however, study results are mixed.
Suggested uses of stevia include:
What are the side effects of stevia?
- Do not take stevia if you are hypersensitive to any of its components.
- Do not take stevia if you are hypersensitive to Asteraceae family of plants, including ragweed and daisies.
- Safety of prolonged use of stevia has not been established.
Common side effects of stevia include:
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms or serious side effects while using this drug:
- Serious heart symptoms include fast or pounding heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, shortness of breath, and sudden dizziness;
- Severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness, vomiting, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady;
- Severe nervous system reaction with very stiff muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, and feeling like you might pass out; or
- Serious eye symptoms include blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights.
This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What are the dosages of stevia?
There isn’t sufficient information to know what might be an appropriate stevia dose may be.
- 250-500 mg orally thrice daily
- 1 g stevioside take with meals
- Water extracts of 5 g of leaves every 6 hours for 3 days to increase glucose tolerance
- Stevia is an approved food additive and is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA.
- Stevia overdose is unlikely to cause serious adverse effects, but it may cause gastrointestinal side effects which should resolve with discontinuation of stevia.
What drugs interact with stevia?
Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
- Stevia has no known severe, serious, or moderate interactions with other drugs.
- Mild Interactions of stevia include:
The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.
It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
What else should I know about stevia?
- Stevia is likely safe for most adults taken as a sweetener or in recommended doses.
- Take stevia exactly as per label directions, avoid excessive quantities.
- The FDA has approved only the purified form of stevia as safe to use. Do not use stevia leaves or crude extracts, there is insufficient information about the safety of their use.
- Check with your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement, including stevia.
- Stevia is marketed as a dietary supplement and is not regulated by the FDA. Products may differ in formulations and strengths, and labels may not always match contents; exercise caution in choosing your product.
- Store stevia safely out of reach of children.
- In case of stevia overdose and persistent side effects, seek medical help or contact Poison Control.
Stevia is a natural sweetener extracted from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana plant. Stevia is used as a zero-calorie alternative to sugar and it is used to reduce blood sugar levels and blood pressure, and aid weight loss, however, there aren’t enough scientific studies to support many of these uses. Common side effects of stevia include nausea, bloating, dizziness, numbness, and allergic reaction. Avoid using stevia if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
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