Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni is a sweet and nutrient-rich plant belonging to the Asteraceae family. Stevia leaves contain steviol glycosides including stevioside, rebaudioside (A to F), steviolbioside, and isosteviol, which are responsible for the plant’s sweet taste, and have commercial value all over the world as a sugar substitute in foods, beverages and medicines. Among the various steviol glycosides, stevioside, rebaudioside A and rebaudioside C are the major metabolites and these compounds are on average 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose. Steviol is the final product of Stevia metabolism. The metabolized components essentially leave the body and there is no accumulation. Beyond their value as sweeteners, Stevia and its glycosdies possess therapeutic effects against several diseases such as cancer, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, inflammation, cystic fibrosis, obesity and tooth decay. Studies have shown that steviol glycosides found in Stevia are not teratogenic, mutagenic or carcinogenic and cause no acute and subacute toxicity. The present review provides a summary on the biological and pharmacological properties of steviol glycosides that might be relevant for the treatment of human diseases.
Keywords: Stevia, steviol glycosides, stevioside, rebaudiosides A, cancer, diabetes, toxicity.