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Picture of dried plants of stevia -- Latin name stevia rebaudiana... News Photo50 Kilometer,Asuncion,Healthcare And Medicine,Horizontal,Hospital,Identity,Medical Research,Paraguay,SteviaPhotographer Collection: AFP 2012 AFPTO GO WITH AFP STORY Picture of dried plants of stevia -- Latin name stevia rebaudiana bertoni -- taken at the Paraguayan Institute of Agrarian Technology in Caacupe, 50 km east of Asuncion, on November 15, 2012. Experts from around the world gathered in Asuncion this week for a symposium on stevia, a herb declared as 'genetic heritage' by Paraguayan President Federico Franco during the opening of the meeting in a bid to win international recognition as the stevia plant's country of origin. Stevia rebaudiana, sometimes known as sweatleaf or sugarleaf, or 'ka'a he'e' in Guarani, has been used for centuries by the Guarani native people to sweeten their drinks, being 300 times sweeter than sugar with none of the calories. The US and most recently the European Union, finally gave their green light to the use of the age-old natural South American sweetener in foods and drinks, a thing widely done in Asia and South America before. Studies at the medical school at the University of Asuncion found stevia had a long list of beneficial properties, being an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and an anti-bacterial agent useful in the battle against diabetes, high blood pressure and tooth decay. AFP PHOTO/NORBERTO DUARTE (Photo credit should read NORBERTO DUARTE/AFP/Getty Images)