Herbal Awareness ~ Stevia

The Food and Drug Administration approved Stevia as a healthy (because it does not contribute sugar to the diet) “natural” sweetener, although very little has been studied about Stevia’s (Stevia rebaudiana) contraceptive component.

That should not come as a surprise because, well, if Stevia is an effective contraceptive, then pharmaceutical companies will not gain profit from investing in research. Additionally, they stand to lose money especially among those looking for a more natural alternative to sweet without the calories.

My primary concern is not that Stevia is an under-studied herbal contraceptive alternative for those seeking birth-control measures. My concern lies in the fact that couples desiring to conceive who are making dietary and lifestyle changes in preparation for a much-wanted child, may be thwarted in their efforts by the consumption of Stevia. Stevia causes both male and female infertility.

Historically, among the Indians in Paraguay, where Stevia is a native weed, the plant is not used as a sweetener but as a common contraceptive.

The glycosides in Stevia are very similar structurally to certain plant hormones. When the plant is manufactured (or “purified”), one of the ten balancing hormones (eight of these are sweet) becomes isolated from the others. Although some studies say that this is safe, other studies suggest that these plant glycosides having this hormone structure can act as a mutagen and at very high concentrations, increase the risk of cancer. Although most people, will not ingest these processed forms of Stevia in great enough quantities for this to be of concern, it may be significant enough to impair those with autoimmune disease. In this case, the outside influence of hormones can potentially speed disease development and progression.

One study on the contraceptive properties of Stevia in 1968 (there’s not much, folks) performed on adult female rats whose fertility was proven, gave them a decoction (strong tea) of the herb. It was found to decrease fertility for at least 50 to 60 days even after they stopped ingesting it. 1

Another study done in 1999, asserts that tested prepubescent male rats on a mere 60 days of an aqueous extract (basically, a strong tea) resulted in a decrease in the final weight of the testis, seminal vesicle, and cauda epididymidis (the tube that connects a testicle to a vas deferens in the male reproductive system.) The Stevia solution also lowered the fructose content of the male sex glands and decreased the epididymal sperm concentration as well as a marked decreased their testosterone level. 2 These are major changes in very young male rats. There is no information regarding whether these changes are completely reversible when use is discontinued. I would expect that traditionally Stevia was not given to young children as they do not procreate. So what are we doing to our kids by allowing them to consume foods and beverages containing Stevia? We really have no clue how Stevia affects young developing males, or females for that matter. Most of us never knew it had contraceptive actions.

Traditionally, Stevia was used as a contraceptive agent by females. It was not used as a food (sweetener) as we, in our modern culture have decided it can be used. The Stevia plant has been sweet for thousands of years, but we with our burgeoning intellect decide we can ‘fake out’ our ravenous sweet tooths with it. This information is something to chew on. Or maybe not. The fact that this plant has such a bitter aftertaste might actually be its redeeming quality. Perhaps we should take heed.

Holistic Health Practitioners and Herbalists need to be aware of all of the herbal actions of Stevia in order to recommend appropriate dietary changes and remedies for their clients. From the limited amount of sometimes conflicting information, there is not much to pull from. I would give much credence to how this plant was used historically. When an herb is well-known in an entire culture for a specific effect and is utilized as such for hundreds of years, even though modern society has not yet studied it out, we ought to use wisdom in our recommendations.

We know that the natives used Stevia’s aerial parts to make teas for consumption. Our modern culture processes it, bleaches it white, and does who-knows-what to the plant even to the isolating of plant constituents – just like a pharmaceutical and still has the audacity to call it “natural”. We have no real knowledge how those changes affect the herbal properties. Me, I would skip them and just use the leaves – or avoid anything labeled Stevia entirely, especially if you – a male or a female – want to have a baby.

Seriously, when we crave sweets that much it is an indicator that something systemic going on the body. It will not be corrected by consuming alternative sweeteners as a substitute. To get free from the cravings there are other steps required.

If you have questions, please post them below. If you desire a personalized consult for this or other health-related issues, please feel free to schedule an initial consult or a free 15-minute Discovery Session HERE. I would like to assist.

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The Herbs & The Bees, LLC, or its staff do not diagnose or prescribe. Our purpose is to provide information, products and suggested wellness programs to those who will share responsibility for their personal well-being. Our services are not a substitute for medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please consult a licensed physician.

References & Resources:

Stevia Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/stevia-leaf-sugar-plant-sweetness-74187/

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17744732

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10619379

Population, Resources, Environment: Issues In Human Ecology by Paul R. and Anne H. Ehrlich

https://www.thepaleomom.com/teaser-excerpt-from-the-Paleo-approach-the-trouble-with-stevia/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Y_ubswux58

https://www.journalagent.com/ejm/pdfs/EJM_9_2_51_56.pdf

Herbs for Horses ~ Devil’s Claw Root

Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) an herbal remedy for pain and inflammation.

Devil’s Claw is known for its many actions on both the human body and in horses. It has been found to be anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain relieving), somewhat sedative, have anti-rheumatic properties, and due to its bitter qualities – a diuretic and stimulant to the liver. This makes it beneficial for people and pony’s (horses) with poor appetites and indigestion.

While it is the tuber that is used medicinally, the botanical name in Greek, Harpagophytum, means “hook plant”. A name derived from its hard, claw-like fruit.

It can be used both internally and externally but is most often taken internally. If used in small amounts it can be top dressed on the horse’s grain ration if they’re a good eater. But beware, Devil’s Claw is extremely bitter. It also can be dosed in a 60cc syringe mixed with a tablespoon of applesauce and, if needed, a drizzle of honey. In an acute situation with a horse not used to the taste of Devil’s Claw, I would recommend using the syringe. If the situation is chronic, with patience, your horse most likely will develop a taste for it (or at least a tolerance for it) and if not used in high doses, a topdressing may be suitable. I have used it both ways.

It is worth consideration in the treatment of arthritis and similar chronic conditions and may be effective in any kind of degenerative joint disorder, or bony changes that result in inflammation.

“Several studies show that taking devil’s claw for 8 to 12 weeks can reduce pain and improve physical functioning in people with osteoarthritis. One 4-month study of 122 people with knee and hip osteoarthritis compared devil’s claw and a leading European medication for pain relief. The people who took devil’s claw had as much pain relief as the people who took the medication. Those who took devil’s claw had fewer side effects and needed fewer pain relievers throughout the study.

An analysis of 14 studies using devil’s claw to treat arthritis found that higher quality studies showed devil’s claw may relieve joint pain. And a review of 12 studies using devil’s claw for treating arthritis or low back pain found that devil’s claw was at least moderately effective for arthritis of the spine, hip, and knee.” 1

Devil’s Claw is commonly used in both Germany and France to reduce inflammation, relieve arthritis pain, headache, and low back pain. Extensive German studies have likened its anti-inflammatory properties to that of cortisone and phenylbutazone, more commonly called “Bute,” but without the toxicity or undesirable side-effects.

“Side effects of phenylbutazone are similar to those of other NSAIDs. Overdose or prolonged use can cause gastrointestinal ulcers, blood dyscrasia, kidney damage (primarily dose-dependant renal papillary necrosis), oral lesions if given by mouth, and internal hemorrhage. This is especially pronounced in young, ill, or stressed horses which are less able to metabolize the drug. Effects of gastrointestinal damage include edema of the legs and belly secondary to leakage of blood proteins into the intestines, resulting in decreased appetite, excessive thirst, weight loss, weakness, and in advanced stages, kidney failure and death. Phenylbutazone can also cause agranulocytosis.” 2

For those who enter their horse(s) in competitions, you will have to verify whether the use of Devil’s Claw is allowed. Although not banned, according to the FEI, Devil’s Claw is considered a controlled substance. While it may be used outside of competition, it may not be in your horse’s system during a competition. It is thought to give the horse an unfair advantage. Here is the link: http://prohibitedsubstancesdatabase.feicleansport.org/search/ You will need to inquire about and follow all rules pertaining to the use of Devil’s Claw in any horse show(s) your horse is entered in.

For those who enter their horse(s) in competitions, you will have to verify whether the use of Devil’s Claw is allowed. Although not banned, according to the FEI, Devil’s Claw is considered a controlled substance. While it may be used outside of competition, it may not be in your horse’s system during a competition. It is thought to give the horse an unfair advantage. Here is the link: http://prohibitedsubstancesdatabase.feicleansport.org/search/ You will need to inquire about and follow all rules pertaining to the use of Devil’s Claw in any horse show(s) your horse is entered in.

References & Resources:

The Herbs & The Bees, LLC, or its staff do not diagnose or prescribe. Our purpose is to provide information, products and suggested wellness programs to those whowill share responsibility for their personal well being. Our services are not a substitute for medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please consult a licensed physician. If you are seeking medical advice for your equine, please consult a licensed veterinarian.

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