Stevia is a natural, non-caloric sweetener that’s 40 times sweeter than sugar. It comes from the plant, Stevia rebaudiana, which grows naturally in South America. People have been using stevia to sweeten their yerba mate and tea for hundreds of years. The chemical compounds in stevia that provide the sweet taste, called steviol glycosides, don’t contribute to calories because they aren’t absorbed through the intestines in appreciable amounts, making stevia an ideal sugar alternative.
Over the past several years, there’s been a lot of talk about stevia being beneficial for treating Lyme disease. This idea comes from an in vitro study published in the European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology in 2015. The study found that whole leaf stevia extract effectively kills Borrelia burgdorferi spirochetes and cyst forms. The operative word is, “in vitro,” meaning the test was conducted in a test tube, not a living organism. When placed in a test tube, whole-leaf stevia extract inhibited the growth of live Borrelia spirochetes and cysts.
Additionally, findings in the above study were contradicted by a 2020 study from Johns Hopkins University. In this study, researchers investigated the potential for antimicrobial activity of 12 herbs reported to treat Lyme disease. Stevia rebaudiana was on the list, but it failed to show any appreciable activity against Borrelia by in vitro testing.
The researchers pointed out that in the 2015 study, the stevia extract contained alcohol, which may have accounted for the antimicrobial activity. The samples in the Johns Hopkins study were controlled for alcohol.
Of significance, the Johns Hopkins study did show that seven of the herbs tested had greater activity against the Borrelia bacteria than the antibiotics doxycycline and cefuroxime. The list included Cryptolepis sanguinolenta, Juglans nigra (Black walnut), Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed), Artemisia annua (Sweet wormwood), Uncaria tomentosa (Cat’s claw), Cistus incanus, and Scutellaria baicalensis (Chinese skullcap).
Though the finding that chemical compounds found in stevia have antimicrobial properties is interesting, the fact that most of the chemical components of stevia extract aren’t absorbed through the intestinal tract makes it unlikely that stevia would be useful for treating Lyme disease in a living organism.
Stevia works well as a sugar substitute in your food. However, if you use it regularly, stevia may cause digestive upset in some people.
Stevia is more expensive than standard table sugar but costs about the same as other natural sugar substitutes like xylitol — anywhere from $10 for a package to $40 for a liquid extract.
Dr. Bill Rawls’ Treatment Guide
Want to see more Lyme disease treatment ratings? See What Dr. Rawls has to say about popular treatments and therapies in his Lyme Disease Treatment Guide.
1. Feng J, Leone J, Schweig S, Zhang Y. Evaluation of Natural and Botanical Medicines for Activity Against Growing and Non-growing Forms of B. burgdorferi. Front Med (Lausanne). 2020 Feb 21;7:6. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2020.00006
2. Geuns JM, Augustijns P, Mols R, Buyse JG, Driessen B. Metabolism of stevioside in pigs and intestinal absorption characteristics of stevioside, rebaudioside A and steviol. Food Chem Toxicol. 2003 Nov;41(11):1599-607. doi: 10.1016/s0278-6915(03)00191-1
3. Theophilus PA, Victoria MJ, Socarras KM, Filush KR, Gupta K, Luecke DF, Sapi E. Effectiveness of Stevia Rebaudiana Whole Leaf Extract Against the Various Morphological Forms of Borrelia Burgdorferi in Vitro. Eur J Microbiol Immunol (Bp). 2015 Nov 12;5(4):268-80. doi: 10.1556/1886.2015.00031