Is Stevia Safe or Healthy?

Is Stevia Safe or Healthy

We all know that sugar isn’t healthy, especially in excess, but increased awareness about the problems with sugar consumption have led to the development and use of sugar substitutes.

Some of these substitutes are harmful, and some are beneficial alternatives. Most alternative sweeteners on the market are artificially created and have a host of side effects. Others, like honey or maple syrup, have slightly more health benefits than processed sugar but are still high in naturally occurring types of sugar such as fructose.

One sweetener that often gets lost amid the confusion is stevia…

What is Stevia?

Stevia is an herb, originally from South America, though it now grows throughout the world.

It is naturally very sweet and considered 100 to 200 times sweeter than sugar, but it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels like sugar and other artificial sweeteners do.

It has been used as a sweetener and medicinal herb in various cultures around the world for centuries but has only gained modern popularity in recent years.

Unfortunately, while stevia leaf (in fresh or dried form), is a natural herbal sweetener, many modern forms of stevia based sweeteners are powdered and processed. In fact, popular powdered stevia sweeteners go through dozens of steps during processing from bleaching to chemical alteration.

There are two compounds in stevia that are responsible for the sweetness: Stevioside and Rebaudioside A.

Rebaudioside A is most often extracted and used in stevia powders and sweeteners, but it is not usually the only ingredient. In fact, most stevia sweeteners on the market contain added erythritol from corn, dextrose or other artificial sweeteners.

Stevioside only makes up about 10% of the sweetness in stevia but also has the unusual bitter aftertaste that many people don’t like in stevia. It also contains most of the beneficial properties of stevia that are credited with the health benefits and is the most well studied.

Is Stevia Safe?

To answer this question, it is important to differentiate between processed forms of stevia and the naturally occurring herbal form.

Stevia as the green plant that you can grow in your backyard or find as dried leaf or tincture form is considered safe and has even been studied and found to have health benefits.

Powdered and bleached stevia, though FDA approved, has not been studied and undergoes an extensive chemical process to reach its final white powdered form.

Benefits of Stevia (in Natural Form)

Stevia as a medicinal herb has been used for centuries but has also been recently studied for its health benefits.

One double-blind placebo study found that regular consumption of stevia can help reduce blood pressure for patients with mild hypertension. (1)

Another study found that stevia may have the potential to reduce breast cancer cell growth (2), though this hasn’t been extensively researched yet.

Follow up studies have uncovered potential benefits in reducing blood sugar and in avoiding other types of cancer growth.

In addition, most people who consume stevia use it as an alternative for sugar, and simply avoiding sugar can have health benefits of its own.

Risks of Stevia

Even in natural form, there are also some potential risks of using stevia.

It has an extremely sweet natural taste but doesn’t affect blood sugar levels. While this would logically be a good thing at first glance, there is a potential downside to this. The body expects a blood sugar change when consuming sweet foods. Some experts speculate that it might be stressful to the body when it expects a blood sugar rise and it doesn’t occur, though this hasn’t been proven.

Researcher Sarah Ballantyne also presents some concerns about the potential hormone-mimicking and altering effects:

There is evidence that steviol glycosides have contraceptive effects in both males and females. In particular, one specific steviol glycoside, called stevioside, has been shown to have potent contraceptive properties in female rats, implying that stevia may have an impact on estrogen, progesterone or both.

While small and occasional consumption of stevia likely has little to no impact on general health, it should not be consumed on a regular basis especially by those with altered hormone balance and dysfunctional immune systems.(3)

The only studies I found on this hormone aspect indicated that extremely large amounts of the Stevioside part of the plant would be needed to affect hormone balance (and Stevioside only makes up 10% of the sweet compounds in the plant), so I don’t think this is a tremendous concern, especially for moderate or occasional use.

Even though studies show that only extremely large amounts of stevia would be needed to cause temporary infertility or hormone problems, I would still personally avoid stevia if I struggled with hormone problems or infertility.

Stevia Safety: The Bottom Line

No human studies have ever shown any problems from pure and natural forms of stevia and dozens of studies have shown potential benefits from it.

Personally, I feel safe using stevia in leaf form or tinctures made from leaf form but avoid the white processed and powdered versions.

In particular, the two forms of stevia I use are:

What do you think? Does your family use stevia?

You May Also Enjoy These Posts...

Reader Interactions

It Shouldn’t Be This Hard to Be Healthy…

Become a Wellness Mama VIP member for free and get access to my handbooks & quick start guides to help you detox your home, become a master of home remedies, make beauty products from scratch, and conquer mealtime madness!

Yes! Let me in!

Wellness Mama widget banner

Reader Comments

  1. I admit it – I don’t normally watch videos either. (Glad to hear it’s not just me!) I keep the volume of the speakers turned off because I’m normally listening to music and would rather read the info than change the speakers. Or else there are other people in the room that I don’t want to disturb with noise from the computer. The only time I watch a video is when it’s showing me how to do something that I really need a visual for. It’s basically quicker for me to read info than wait for it to be explained in a video.

  2. I’m with you. especially when ads start first before the video. even with audios i like to find a transcript instead. but i’m getting more patient. loved your grains are slowly killing you.

  3. I watch videos that are how-to, but not all of them. Only the ones that are something I don’t know how to do and I want to know how to do. I actually use YouTube a lot for simple cooking stuff, like kneading bread and cutting different types of veggies, just so I can see it myself.

    If I saw the above promo video as an ad on a site, I definitely wouldn’t watch it. Are you considering doing video tutorials, or just posting your promo elsewhere?

    • I’ve thought about doing video tutorials at some point, if they would be helpful to anyone… just trying to gauge that mainly. Thanks for the comment!

  4. I would definitely be interested in video tutorials. 🙂

  5. I use liquid Stevie that I purchase from Trader Joes.. Is not powder form, I won’t use that this is poor extract from the leaf. I use it every day in my coffee!! I have had no side effects or anything negative happen to be for using it. I’m diabetic and it’s about time I had something I could use that want killing me in the process!

  6. I use liquid Stevie that I purchase from Trader Joes.. Is not powder form, I won’t use that this is pure extract from the leaf. I use it every day in my coffee!! I have had no side effects or anything negative happen to me for using it. I’m diabetic and it’s about time I had something I could use that want killing me in the process!

  7. Great article. I’m not a big fan of videos either.

  8. I suffer from migraines and am triggered by artificial sweeteners like aspartame. I noticed that I also get them when I have anything containing “stevia extract,” but not when I have anything containing “stevia leaf” or “organic stevia” so I wholeheartedly agree with this article. For me, the proof is in the reaction, or lack thereof.

    • Thank you! I also suffer migraines from artificial sweeteners! I did not want to subject myself to the pain so added stevia to list of products to avoid. The stevia products in the grocery stores look just as processed as the saccharine. Now, I know it is viable option when it is leaf form!

  9. Two dry stevia leaves in a cup of tea,all the sweetness i need to start the day. Two glasses of water with a trickle of lemon juice from the garden is my other option.

  10. I tried stevia in the past in its natural leaf form but ground. I thought it was awful!!! Not sweet at all but really bitter – it went in the bin!!!

  11. What about zylitol as a sweetner. Apparently it is derived from the birch tree and they use it in finland daily in schools after meals to prevent tooth decay in school children. My husband tried it and says it tastes good. Have you read any negatives on it at all?

  12. Well, it is ok to use stevia in tea or coffee, but what about homemade jams? If sugar is bad what should you use instead ?

  13. Wonderful well-written article. I have been meaning to research stevia. Thanks!

  14. Katie there is so many flavor choices how does one decide which one to get (of the drops)? I went off sugar about a week ago and need some kind of an alternative. Also have you done any research on coconut sugar?

  15. It was my understanding that the clear liquid stevia is nearly as processed as the powder. My doctor had me use a liquid stevia extract that was dark brown. Honestly, I preferred the clear flavored ones. I used to use them in small amounts in iced hibiscus tea. I did not like the dark extract’s flavor. Do you have info about how the clear liquid is processed? I like to use stevia in small amounts alongside honey, but I stopped because I wasn’t sure about it in light of my fertility issues. It seems that in the very small amounts I was using it before shouldn’t have been a problem. Thanks.

    • Me too, that is EXACTLY why I am here. Nothing about Zevia seems to indicate it’s bad for you, but I mentioned that I drink it now to a friend, and he acted like I was killing myself, so though I’d read up on Stevia earlier, I thought I’d reread to see if Zevia was not a good choice.

  16. Please note that stevia is not always benign. I am one of the many people allergic to stevia. I cannot tolerate any form of it. I get severe sinus symptoms, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, etc, just like I get from dandelions, ragweed, flowers, etc.
    Please see this link:
    1. Allergic Reaction: Stevia has been known to rarely cause anaphylaxis, but this is more common in those that already have an allergy to chrysanthemums, marigolds, ragweed or daisies.

  17. We use stevia sparingly as we do any natural sweetener. the brand we use is called Omica. Amazing flavor and unreconstituted, organic. no bitterness. Just one drop. Try it. It will change your mind about stevia if you don’t like it in general like us.

  18. Stevia is also related to ragweed. If you have a ragweed allergy, eating the plant can produce symptoms of anaphylaxis. Despite being processed, some people can still have a reaction if the allergy is severe enough. I find I can tolerate it a bit better in winter (the processed stuff gave me horrid stomach cramping last fall). Eating the plant (leaves) last fall had me on benadryl for a few days. When ragweed is blooming (like now), I have to stay away from it because it intensifies my allergy. I’m using monk fruit right now since xylitol is not readily available in my area. I don’t like that it’s mixed with dextrose and sugar though so I don’t use very much of it. Usually I just have one packet in my morning coffee.

  19. Videos: arrrrgggf. Too much video in today’s world!

  20. I do not use any sort of Stevia any more. I suffer from migraines and was told by a Dr. to use Stevia instead of other artificial sweeteners. I already did not really use artificial sweeteners (I thought, because I didn’t drink diet soda or anything major) but after learning all the different names for artificial sweeteners I began checking labels much more diligently and found out how many packaged foods contain sweeteners. Even things that aren’t diet sometimes contain mostly can sugar or other normal sweeteners with a small amount of sucralose to reduce calories just a bit.

    ANYWAYS, back to Stevia… I didn’t avoid products with that because of my Dr.’s recommendation. But after still getting migraines regularly, I realized the tea provided at my work had Stevia in it. One day after not having any tea or any migraines in a few days, I then brewed a cup of the tea and had a migraine beginning before I was even through the entire cup. Since then I’ve cut out Stevia as well as anything with Rebaudioside A (because that was another one that it took me awhile to learn about and look for on labels!) and now I’m mostly migraine free (well down from 15-20 per month to 1-2). One of my main triggers is hunger, so I think for me it may all be blood-sugar related. I’m not a Dr. but personally, I believe the theories on stress to the body when it’s expecting a rise in blood sugar but doesn’t get it (as stated above) definitely are true. However, I expect it doesn’t affect everyone. Unfortunately, it seems my body is just too sensitive to blood sugar related changes than the average person so it’s no Stevia for me.

    I’m glad that diabetics have found a healthier, natural way to sweeten things, though. I wish it was easier to identify products that contain ANY no-cal sweetener and more awareness that whether or not something is “healthy” varies person by person and other people suffering from migraines may need to avoid Stevia too. Ex: for me, small amounts of natural sugar, syrup, honey etc. is much “healthier” than Stevia or any other no-cal sweetener, however for a diabetic, Stevia leaves are a great option. This all being said, I am curious now what form of Stevia is in the products I’ve gotten migraines from. If it’s NOT Stevia leaves, I am somewhat curious to try out Stevia leaves and see if they are any better. But I’m in no rush… doing nothing to risk a possible migraine is preferable!

    Thanks for the great information!

  21. Have you heard of Swerve? I’m generally really leery of any kind of sweetener that has a fancy name and supposedly tastes just like sugar, but I admit I’m curious about this one. Everything I’ve read so far sounds pretty positive. It’s erythritol and oligosaccharides and supposedly has no effect on blood sugar.

    • It would technically be safer than many artificial sweeteners, but I’m leery of sugar alcohols and would not personally use it.

  22. Japanese researchers have discovered that our gut bacteria convert steviosides to steviol, which is mutagenic and absorbed into the bloodstream. The WHO has published data that 4 mg stevia/kg body weight is the safe maximum intake. One serving of powdered stevia is 42 mg, so the limit for a 120 lb woman would be 5 servings/day.

  23. (regarding the last line of your stevia post)
    did you mean to hyperlink “this recipe” for us to have your stevia tincture recipe?
    hope so 🙂

    thanks so much!

  24. Questions: Skinny girl stevia both powder packets and liquid are organic. Does that mean that both have no added chemicals? Are both forms safe to use? Is the liquid form better health-wise?

    Love your site! Thank you for your investigations into the health issues, and your great recipes!

    Thanks, Kathie.

  25. Upon my reseearch I have read Omica stevias whether powdered or liquid are some of the purest on the market. I’ve never tried it I’m simply researching stevia brands in my attempt to find ones better than the “big” brands (same research that’s lead me to this article). If anybody has ever tried Omica please comment as it is expensive. The majority of the reviews on Amazon are five star. I use stevia because of diabetes so the more natural/organic while still tasting good, the better.

  26. On the liquid stevia recommended here, it contains grapefruit seed extract which I thought was not good for you…

  27. I use the white powdered stevia in my tea and lemonade and have not suffered any adverse effects from it. I have lupus, celiac, borderline diabetes and post-menopausal, and it is one of the few things I can consume without issue. Informative article that still tells me I have nothing to fear from it. I grew it once to try the ultimate all-natural version of it, but couldn’t stand the black licorice after-taste!

  28. I use Stevia and have been wondering about the “body expecting sweet calories but not getting them” issue, myself. Overall, I try to stay away from as much “sweet” stuff as possible, but I am a tea lover and some teas just need a little sweetness to bring out their full flavor and cut any bitterness.
    Thanks, Wellness Mama, for a quality article.
    I will add, that one of the most recognizable “stevia” products (which I won’t name for liability reasons) has very little actual stevia and is mostly a chemical concoction produced by a major soft-drink company and a chemical manufacturer.
    My advice – definitely do your homework and read the ingredients!

  29. Yes we use organic stevia in the liquid form made, but I altenate with raw honey, organic cane sugar, and organic maple syrup. Thanks for your providing such great information.

  30. regarding the possible hormone altering affects of stevia i had learnt while studying a bachelor of health science in Nutrition that there may be a link with young male/male children consuming stevia and testicular cancer and male reproductive decline. this was a few years ago so i can not remember who conducted the study but i know myself as a mother i allow my daughter to consume very small amounts of stevia occasionally but in reality parents and care givers should provide a nourishing balanced diet low in processed sugars and limit fruit intake to 2-3 serves/day from the begging so the child’s body and reward centre in their brain is use to eating that way. great article thanks.

  31. Hi. Thank you for all your very informed issues that you deal with on your website. I was considering using Stvia until I found the following link.
    I wondered if you had any views on the information in the link? I would apprciate your input and thanks again