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The stevia plant originally came from the rain forests of Brazil and Paraguay. It is now grown in those areas, as well as in Japan, Korea, Thailand, and China. It is most widely used as a non-sugar sweetener in food and drink, particularly because it does not appear to have any calories or affect on blood sugar like most natural sweeteners (like sugar or honey). The leaf is used in herbal preparations.
The native peoples in South America used stevia primarily as a sweetener, a practice adopted by European colonists. The indigenous tribes also used stevia to treat diabetes.1 During World War II, stevia was grown in England as a sugar substitute. The greatest use of stevia as a sweetener today can be found in Japan.
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