Ka’a he’e is the Guaranì name for Stevia rebaudiana, a perennial plant native to the mountains of Paraguay, long grown high up in the northeast of the country, in the Cordillera del Amambay area. It was first classified by botanist Moises Bertoli, but has been used as a natural sweetener by the Guaranì people since pre-Hispanic times. It was also known for its curative properties, for which it was consumed mixed in small quantities with mate or in an infusion with other medicinal herbs. Ka’a he’e is susceptible to frost and grows to around half a meter tall. It has ovate leaves and many small white hermaphrodite flowers which bloom in the late fall.
Originally from the Cordillera del Amambay, between the 23rd and 24th parallels, ka´a he´e has long grown wild here, at altitudes of around 700 meters above sea level with an average temperature of 23°C, average precipitation of 1,600 millimeters and very humid summers. It is particularly associated with the Ava Guarani Yva indigenous people, formed of 17 families, a total of around 150 people, though it is known and appreciated by other small pre-Hispanic communities in the area. It is used only by the community; it is not sold and cannot be found on the market.
Ka’a he’e is at risk of disappearing because its native geographic area, its natural habitat, has suffered severe deforestation over the years due to the introduction of more profitable crops like soy, grass for grazing and cannabis. If this plant was to disappear, so too would the traditions linked to its use by indigenous peoples and knowledge of its healing powers.
It is particularly linked to the Ava Guarani Yva indigenous community.