Wait until branches are at least 8 inches long. Cut branches halfway and hang to dry in a well ventilated area. Remove leaves from branches once stems snap instead of bend. Grind leaves to use as a sugar substitute, or add directly to teas or drinks as a sweetener.
Native to Paraguay, stevia has long been used as an herbal sweetener. As early as 500 AD, the Guarani people used stevia in hot mate to cut the bitter flavor. Stevia is said to be 200-300 times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way.
Stevia is most commonly used as a sugar substitute but is also believed to be anti-hyperglycemic, anti-hypertensive, antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.