Stevia and ‘Lo Han Kuo’
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Carl Ortolani
Posted on: May 18, 1998

I would like to know what the herbs stevia leaves and lo han kuo are and what they are used for.

Stevia is tender perennial herb from Paraguay whose leaves have a very sweet taste. The leaves contain a compound called stevioside which is known to be 300 times sweeter than sugar but without the calories. It has been used for centuries to sweeten foods and drinks. It is excellent for those on weight-loss diets and for diabetics because stevioside contributes no calories to human metabolism.

It is commonly take as a finely ground leaf powder or as a syrup. Although it has an aftertaste, many do not find that objectionable and use stevia as a sugar substitute.

The plant is relatively easy to grow outside in a sunny, well-drained location. It does not winter very well indoors, however, because it is susceptible to a variety of fungal diseases. Because it is tender, it does not survive frost.

Fresh or dried whole leaves can be added to herbal tea mixes with great effect.

We did not find any reference to "Lo Han Kuo". We think that this is a form of the Mandarin transliteration, "Luo Han Guo", which is a curcubit from south China. The botanical name is Momordica grosvenori.

It is generally used to treat the common cold and whooping cough. The fruit is cut in half and hot water is poured over it to make a tea. Cubes of the powdered fruit are used for the same purposes when made into a tea.

We do not carry seeds or plants of this herb. We carry a close cousin, the balsam pear or bitter gourd used in Asian cuisine and medicine. It is listed in our gourmet vegetable section of our catalogue.

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