Stevia is a perennial shrub that grows up to 1 m tall and has leaves 2-3 cm long. It belongs to the Aster family, which is indigenous to the northern regions of South America. Stevia is still found growing wild in the highlands of the Amambay and Iguacu districts (a border area between Brazil and Paraguay). It is estimated that as many as 200 species of Stevia are native to South America; however, no other Stevia plants have exhibited the same intensity of sweetness as . It is grown commercially in many parts of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Central America, Israel, Thailand, and China.
(), also called , in the aster family (), grown for its sweet-tasting leaves. The plant is native to , where it has a long history of use by the . The leaves contain a number of sweet-tasting chemicals known as steviol , which can be used fresh or dried to sweeten beverages or desserts or can be commercially processed into powdered noncaloric sweeteners. Steviol glycosides, particularly the chemicals stevioside and rebaudioside A, can be more than 300 times sweeter than table and are nonglycemic (i.e., they do not affect blood glucose levels). Touted as a healthier alternative to sugar, stevia sweeteners grew in popularity worldwide in the early 21st century.