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Stevia Rebaudina News

Herbal remedies can provide healthy alternative to energy drinks
by Dr. John Stump
From Elberta-Lillian Ledger - 2005-12-01

Over the past 10 years there has been a quiet revolution happening in the herbal field. I don't mean the farmers field, I mean the industry of herbs sweeping the market place. This is resulting in products ranging from candles to candy.

But one of the hottest herbal categories in the market place is a beverage. More than half of the patients that come in today ask if they are drinking the right thing. The companies making these new designer drinks are taking baby steps in a brand new arena--nutraceutical foods that can play a role in the prevention and treatment of illness.

Literally, the term nutraceutical means foods ("nutra") that have the properties of medicine ("ceuticals" as in pharmaceuticals). To create these new fortified tonics and teas, scientists turn to a variety of herbal and nutritional ingredients.

But not all fortified beverages are created equal. Some taste fine but have little or no active ingredients to have noticeable effects. Others are so loaded with medicinal components that they taste awful. Still, some have broken out of the pack on all fronts.

In laymen's terms, a tonic is any medicinal dirnk that is considered refreshing, restorative or invigorating. Products of this kind have been around for decades; in earlier times, a tonic was synonmyous with soft drink, as opposed to a hard drink (alcohol drink).

The first ginger ales contained extracts of ginger root, orange peel, and nutmeg, as well as essence of lemon, rose, ginger oil, and capsicum, a spicy concoction of ingredients to help digestion.

Today's nutraceutical tonics and teas blend herbs from the four corners of the earth. When I was teaching in Japan 20 years ago, the only soda you saw in the entire country was Coke. Now you have the sweet potions that can be found in about any corner store from Fairhope to Kalhasa in the Himalayas.

Notable makers include Tazo, which markets a line of enahcned teas and tonics; Sobe, whose exotic tonics contain herbs steeped in strong antioxidants tea or juice; Masala Chai, whose teas are blended with Chinese herbal elixers geared to increasing male and female sexual energy; Nantucket Nectars, which offers a nectar line with Vitamin C, ginkgo and other fressh pressed juices.

What makes the earlier soft drinks so harmful to ones health was the high sugar content. Today the majority of energy drinks are trying to steer clear of this earlier pitfall. Many are going to the natural alternative that appears to be accepted without reservation by most experts called Stevia, a non-caloric, centuries-old sweet herb from South America.

Currently available as a dietary supplement in many forms, including powders and liquid, Stevia is believed to have regulatory effects as regulator of blood sugar, unlike other sweetening agents, and to retard, rather than promote, tooth decay.

Unfortunately, the FDA refuses to sanction Stevia as a food additive. Despite the fact that it has been thoroughly tested and given a clean bill of health in Japan and other countries, the FDA categorizes stevia as "unsafe."

It also refuses to consider petitions to reclassify stevia, apparently as a result of food industry trade-group pressure. The FDA does not even allow stevia marketers to inform consumers how to use this herb as a sweetener (even going so far as the confiscate independently published books on the subject like the one I got some of this material from).

The majority of the United States has not even realized Stevia's potential at this time. The sugar industry is a very powerful trade group and will continue to fight stevia's recognition but stevia is now getting the people behind their effort and I feel will soon be recognized.

There are other herbal noncaloric sweeteneres like Momordica grosvenori (also known as Thladiantha grosvenori). But this herb native to China will be a long time getting to the marketplace since it only grows in certain mountainous regions that are very hard to access. I only learned of this herb from my former Chinese accupuncture teacher that lived in a monastery in North China where it grows.

I wanted to write this column to let the reader know that there is a healthy alternative to the sugar and artificial sweetener dilemna that many face today. But it will still take a little effort to get the best natural sweetener, for now just watch the label and be sure you are not getting high sugar and caffeine content as the primary energy boosters!!


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