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While the U.S. did place a trade embargo on stevia in the 1990s because its safety had not been thoroughly proven, it was verified by the FDA (in 2008) that stevia doesn’t present any long-term dangers. According to Andrew Weil, MD, the director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, stevia has endured centuries of human use without any known side effects.
To be used in baking and cooking, stevia leaves must be dried out and ground into a granulated form: a fine white powder. However, you can use stevia leaves as sweeteners for hot drinks by dropping the leaves directly into the beverage. Using stevia leaves in cold drinks doesn’t have the same effect.
Stevia is not as easy to grow as most culinary herbs, but it has been successfully grown in climates ranging from southern Canada to the American South. Stevia is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 11 and up, and does best in semi-humid locations with acidic, well-draining soil. Space plantings 8 to 10 inches apart in a location where they will receive full sun....