Sugarcane; Is Sugar A Drug

SugarcaneIs Sugar A Drug

Nameof Student

Nameof Institution

Sugarcane(Saccharumspp.)Is Sugar A Drug

Sugarcane(Saccharum spp.) is a recurrent agricultural plant belonging to theGraminae family and grown primarily for its sucrose-containing juicethat are extracted from the stalk of the sugarcane plant. Throughoutthe world, the sugarcane plant is best planted commercially intropical and subtropical areas characterized by temperatures thatwarm, humid climatic conditions and fertile soils. Apart from itssucrose, the sugarcane has been known to have medicinal value, as itis evident in this paper.


Theproposed title is “Sugarcane is sugar a drug.”Thisis looked from the aspect that plants have multiple roles in theirinteractions with the humans. Thus, as the title proposes this paperwill check on the aspects where sugarcane has or can be used as adrug.


Issugar a drug? Sugarcane is well established as a cash crop*, undersugar production. However, for the natives and traditional healers ofthe world, sugarcane is available medical herb* finding a significantplace in traditional alternative healing methods. Thus, the paperwill review is sugar is a drug?


Thesugarcane, though a cash crop, also has medicinal value in it. Overand above the production of sugar as a commodity, the traditionalhealers have used sugarcane for medicinal purposes where it has beenused as an alternative heal method. Therefore, various medicinalproperties contained in the sugarcane plant have been realized acrossthe globe and continues to be utilized in medical purposes such asbeing used as a laxative, useful in fatigue, anemia, ulcers, and goodfor the lungs. However, there are some people who argue that theincreased use of sugarcane can have detrimental health effects. Thereis a tendency for people to become addicted to sugar and this affectstheir health negatively. Taking a lot of sugar can predispose aperson to liking sugar products such as sweets and sugary foods. As aresult, there is a high possibility that a person will developdiseases such as diabetes, which are partly caused by taking sugaryproducts. Therefore, apart from the health benefits of sugar, thereare also the negative effects associated with sugarcane intake.


Accordingto the science of Ethno botany, this is the study of multiple rolesof plants in the society, showing the dynamic inter-relationshipbetween humans and plants, it has shown that since prehistoric timesand in all civilizations, plants have been proven to have medicinalproperties. In the planet kingdom more than one thousand four hundredpants including trees, groundcover, and shrubs are considered to havemedicinal value. In the Lineal binominal system of plant taxonomy,more than sixty diverse groups have been given the species nameofficinalis, offcinale, or officinarum, all which are adjectiveswords with the same meaning to mean used in medicine. Thus, inaddition to being a cash crop for the commodity sugar, the sugarcanein the plant taxonomy has been given the Saccharum officinarum, tosignify it carries medicinal values. Therefore, in addition to theother roles of sugarcane in its interaction with the human, the paperwill also focus on its medicinal value (Eksteen, Singels, andNgxaliwe, 2014).

Biology/ Natural History

Sugarcaneis a tall monocotyledonous plant grown in hot and humid regions forits high levels of sucrose stored in its stalk. The modern sugarcanesvarieties cultivated for the sake of sugar production are complexinter-specific hybrids (Saccharum spp.) that are a result ofintensive selective breeding of species with the Saccharum genus. Thehybrids primarily involve crosses between the species Saccharumoffcinarum L. and S. sportaneum L. (Cox et al, 2000).

TheS. officinarum accumulates very high levels of sucrose in the stemalthough they are poor disease resistance. In addition, the speciesis thought to be a product of complex introgression between the S.spontaneum, Eriathus arundinaceous, and Miscanthus sinensis. The S.officinarum is purely cultivated in the garden with no members foundin the wild. The center of origin for S. officinarum is thought to bePolynesia, with the species probably being transported throughoutSoutheast Asia by humans, culminating into a diverse in Papua NewGuinea and Indonesia where majority of the specimens were collectedin the1800s (Pallipparambil, Cha, and Gray, 2014).

TheS. spontaneum is believed to have originated from the Southern Asia.This is a more adoptable species and it develops in differentenvironments and at different attitudes in the tropics through thetemperate regions from latitude 8 degrees south to 40 degree northextending across the geographical zones (a) the East zone thatconsist of South Pacific islands, Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, China,Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Burma. The zone (b) which is thecentral zone includes India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan,Afghanistan, Iran, and Middle East. Zone (c) which is the West zoneentails such countries as Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania,other Mediterranean countries (Singh,Mishra, and Godara, 2014).

Social/ Cultural (Uses of Sugarcane)

Thesugarcane plant is an established agricultural field crop with a longhistory of safe use. The plant is believed to have been recognized asa home backyard crop perhaps as early as 2500 BC (Luzet al, 2010).The sugarcane is primarily grown as a source of sugar, a productextracted from the raw cane in a sugar mill. The cane is shredded andthe juice is extracted by crushing. As after heating the juice in thepresence lime, to attain a clarified sugar juice which is thenconcentrated via evaporation to produce syrup, which is later takenthrough the process of crystallization extracting the sucrose. Atthis point the sucrose is crystallized through a process of heavyboiling of the remaining molasses, the whole process gives twoproducts sugar and molasses.

Theby-products from crushing sugarcanes in the mills are bagasse whichis a fiber and secondly is molasses. Bagasse or the fiber has severalapplications, which include power generation used at the mills,papermaking, and used as livestock feeds. On the other hand, molasseswhich is syrup like deposit that results from the removal of thesucrose from the sugar juice. The molasses is used for alcoholfermentation processes as well as a fertilizer used in the canefields. The bagasse or fiber is also used in power generation throughburning it to produce steam that run the mill, with excess energybeing directed to the electricity grid (Ensinas et al, 2009). Theashes are mixed with other impurities to make filter cake a commodityused as fertilizer in cane farms (Kleynhans,Conlong, and Terblanche, 2014).Thus, the plant is important to the humans for its sucrose used as asugar and the by-products utilized in other functions suchfertilizers, energy production, and fermentation agents in beerproduction.


Theeconomic yield of sugarcane is determined by accumulation of sucrosein the stalk. In conditions that favor the accumulation of sucrose,the storage parenchyma tissue of sugarcane can store sucrose up to62% maximum value dry weight or 27% fresh weight. The commercialhybrid cultivars of sugarcane descended from inter-specificintegration of S. officinarum and S. spontaneum. The S. officinarumaccumulate very high levels of sucrose in the stem, resulting to higheconomic yields, however, it has poor disease resistance.

Theplant is important in international trade, as the country producingsugar in bulk export it to the non producing countries across theglobe. Thus, sugar is a commodity highly valued by governments inproducing countries considering the returns it gives in foreignexchange (Sevilla, Burris, Gunapala, and Kennedy, 2001).


Humanshave been cultivating sugarcane for at least the last two millennia.Traders and migrating populations hybridized and moved sugarcanesfrom the Southern Asia through India and China, across the MiddleEast and Northern Africa, and into the Mediterranean (Luz et al,2010). The Europeans introduced sugarcane into the Islands off theWest coast of Africa, while Columbus transported sugarcane fromCanary Islands to the Dominican Republic on his second voyage in1493. In the century that followed, sugarcane planting spread to theCaribbean islands and Mexico, Central America, and South America.

Theincrease of sugar production in Northern America lead to the birth ofage of slavery as more workforce was required to work in cane fields,this saw an importation of over 4 million slaves from Africa. Thehigh influx of slaves made the Caribbean the largest world producerof sugarcane, resulting low prices affected the trade that existedbetween Europe and India. Sugar brought about changes in diet forEurope and North America seeing an introduction of jams, coffee, tea,candy, and processed foods among other changes. At what time 18thcentury was winding up, sugar prices had dropped to the extend it wasavailable to everyone in the word. In the 20thcentury sugar received competition from artificial sweeteners. Latersugar would get more replacements such as aspartame, cyclamate,stevia, and other wide variety of naturally formed substance such asBrazzein (Sachdeva, Bhatia, and Batta, 2011).


Inthe traditional medical system, sugarcane plants are considered asmedical herbs. For the traditional healer, the S. officinarum alsoreferred to as Ganna is sweet, oleaginous, diuretic, tonic, cooling,aphrodisiac, and useful in fatigue, thirst, leprosy, intestinaltrouble, anemia, inflammation and ulcers among other illness. Sugarsis also considered to be beneficial to the liver, and for patientshaving jaundice are advised by medicine men to take large quantitiesof Ganna juice. In addition, the Ganna juice also comes in handy as aremedial for Renal Calculi given that its use is used in flushing outthe Pathri efficiently in a very short time. Famers are aware of thestyptic properties of Ganna, thus, in case of an injury in the fieldsthey utilize this traditional knowledge. In addition, traditionalhealers have suggested for patients with skin troubles to take moreand more Ganna, since it is considered to good blood purifier. Theseestablish the sugarcane plant as a drug useful to the human race(Karthikeyan and Samipillai, 2011).

Policy/ Legal

Thegrowth of sugarcane has no any form of legal restriction, it can begrown anywhere as long as the climatic conditions to support it areavailable. The government have put policies in place to help increaseits production such subsiding on the prices of seedlings,fertilizers, and ensuring the prices of sugar are favorable for thefamers to encourage them to produce more.


Inconclusion, the study has proved the existence of multiple roles thesugarcane plant in the society it has a dynamic inter-relationshipwith the humans that date over two millenniums back. Nevertheless,the uses of the sugarcane plant have evolved with time with humanbeings able to get more befits out of it. Among this benefits areeconomical and medical values whereby it is used in curing variousillness. Therefore, were can comfortably say in addition to otheruses, sugar is also a drug that humans use to deal with differentillness.


Cox,M., Hogarth, M., Smith, G. (2000). Canebreeding and improvement. In “Manual of cane growing,” MHogarth, P Allsop, eds.Australia: Bureau of Sugar Experimental Stations, Indooroopilly. Pp91-108.

Eksteen,A., Singels, A., &amp Ngxaliwe, S. (2014). Water relations of twocontrasting sugarcane genotypes. FieldCrops Research,168,86-100.

Ensinas,A. V., Modesto, M., Nebra, S. A. and Serra, L. (2009). Reduction ofirreversibility generation in sugar and ethanol production fromsugarcane. Energy34(5),680–688.

Karthikeyan,J., &amp Samipillai, S. S. (2010). Sugarcane in therapeutics.Journalof Herbal Medicine and Toxicology4(1),9-14.

Kleynhans,E., Conlong, D. E., &amp Terblanche, J. S. (2014). Hostplant‐relatedvariation in thermal tolerance of Eldana saccharina. EntomologiaExperimentalis et Applicata, 150(2),113-122.

Luz,S. M., Caldeira-Pires, A., &amp Ferrao, P. (2010). Environmentalbenefits of substituting talc by sugarcane bagasse fibers asreinforcement in polypropylene composites: Ecodesign and LCA asstrategy for automotive components. Resources,Conservation and Recycling,54(12),1135-1144.

Pallipparambil,G. R., Cha, G., &amp Gray, M. E. (2014). A Comparative Life-TableAnalysis of Sipha flava (Hemiptera: Aphididae) on Two Biofuel Hosts,Miscanthus× giganteus and Saccharum spp. Journalof Economic Entomology,107(3),1069-1075.

Sachdeva,M., Bhatia, S., &amp Batta, S. K. (2011). Sucrose accumulation insugarcane: a potential target for crop improvement. ActaPhysiologiae Plantarum,33(5),1571-1583.

Sevilla,M., Burris, R. H., Gunapala, N., &amp Kennedy, C. (2001). Comparisonof benefit to sugarcane plant growth and 15N2 incorporationfollowing inoculation of sterile plants with Acetobacterdiazotrophicus wild-type and nif mutant strains. MolecularPlant- Microbe Interactions,14(3),358-366.

Singh,R., Mishra, A., &amp Godara, A. S. (2014). Growth, yield and qualityof mid late and late varieties of sugarcane (Saccharum spp complexhybrid) as influenced by row spacing and fertility levels. INDIANJOURNAL OF AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES,84(10),1280- 1283.