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Comprised of around 240 species of herbs in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), Stevia can be found growing wild in South America and southwestern regions of North America. It's believed to have first been discovered by Spanish scientist Petrus Jacobus Stevus (Pedro Jaime Esteve) , whose surname was used as the basis for the Latin Stevia. In the late 1800's Swiss botanist Moisés Santiago Bertoni, who had immigrated to Paraguay, documented Stevia's use by indigenous tribes of the country, who called it kaa-he-he. They used it as a flavor enhancer in their drinks and foods, and would also chew the dried leaves for their refreshing taste and sweetness. Bertoni continued to study the herb until finally publishing his findings in 1899 and naming the plant Stevia rebaudiana bertoni. In 1921 American Trade Commissioner George Brady presented information on Stevia to the USDA, calling it "a new plant with great possibility" for commercial cultivation, but the idea never gained enough interest to merit further experimentation.
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