Stevia is a sweetener and sugar substitute derived from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana, native to Brazil and Paraguay. The body does not metabolize the glycosides in stevia, so it contains zero calories like some artificial sweeteners
The plant Stevia rebaudiana has been used for more than 1,500 years by the Guaraní peoples of South America, who called it ka’a he’ê (“sweet herb”). The leaves have been used traditionally for hundreds of years in both Brazil and Paraguay to sweeten local teas and medicines, and as a “sweet treat”. The genus was named for Spanish botanist and physician Petrus Jacobus Stevus (Pedro Jaime Esteve 1500–1556), a professor of botany at the University of Valencia.
In 1899, Swiss botanist Moisés Santiago Bertoni, while conducting research in eastern Paraguay, first described the plant and the sweet taste in detail. Only limited research was conducted on the topic until, in 1931, two French chemists isolated the glycosides that give stevia its sweet taste.