Stevia is a natural sweetener obtained from a shrub that is grown in Brazil, Paraguay, southeast Asia, and elsewhere. Crude stevia extracts are about 100 times sweeter than sugar, while the actual sweet chemicals are about 200 times sweeter.
Stevia and its derivatives are said to be the holy grail of high-potency sweeteners, because they are obtained from a natural source, unlike the controversial synthetic sweeteners (saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame-K, sucralose). .
Since the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), stevia can be sold legally in the United States, but only as a “dietary supplement.” Even so, it can be found in many forms in most health-food stores, and is also incorporated into drinks, teas and other items (all labeled as “dietary supplements”). It cannot, however, be called a “sweetener” or even referred to as “sweet.” To do so would render the product “adulterated,” according to the FDA, and make it again subject to seizure.