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Sugarcane: Uses, Benefits, Side effects And More By Dr. Rajeev Singh

By Dr Rajeev Singh +2 more

Introduction: 

Sugarcane has gained its status from the unknown wild grass plant to the world’s largest-grown cash crop. Sugarcane is a rich source of sucrose. Sugarcane is scientifically called Saccharum officinarum and belongs to the family Poaceae. After Brazil, India is the second-largest producer of sugarcane. Sugarcane originated around 8000 BC in New Guinea and later spread to the tropical and subtropical regions of South and Southeast Asia. Sugarcane is in the form of a thick stalk about 3-5 meters long. It has a sweet taste due to its sucrose content. Sugarcane juice is a highly famous nutrient-packed drink and has been used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. Besides its Ayurvedic applications, sugarcane may be the best example of a renewable natural resource as its by-products like biofuel, fibre and fertilizer are known to benefit the environment.​1–3 ​Let us discuss the health benefits of eating sugarcane, its properties, potential uses and many more.  

Nutritional Value of Sugarcane: 

The nutrients of sugarcane may include: 


Nutrient Value 
Protein 2.9% 
Fibre 27.5% 
Potassium 27.9 g 
Calcium 1.6 g 
Magnesium 1.5 g 
Phosphorus  1.1 g 

Table 1: Nutritional value of Sugarcane stalk per kg of dry matter.4 

Sugarcane may contain phytochemicals like phenolic acids, plant sterols, flavonoids, terpenoids glycosides, fatty acids, alcohol and policosanols.2.3 

Sugarcane is largely used for producing sugarcane juice. It may be rich in potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, and vitamins such as vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C and E. 100 mL of sugarcane juice may contain 39 calories of energy and 9 g of carbohydrates.3 

I may suggest sugarcane if you are looking for a natural way to manage weight during pregnancy. Did you know that sugarcane juice has some special compounds called polyphenols? These polyphenols might actually speed up your metabolism, which is how your body uses energy. This may be helpful for pregnant women because it might help them avoid gaining too much weight.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Did you know?

Properties of Sugarcane: 

 Sugarcane may have the following health-benefitting properties: 

  • It may have antiseptic properties. 
  • It may have cooling effects. 
  • It may be used as a laxative (loosen stool and increase bowel movement). 
  • It may relieve inflammation. 
  • It may be an analgesic (relieves pain). 
  • It may have a diuretic effect (increases urination). 
  • It may enhance liver health. 
  • It may act as an antioxidant. 
  • It may lower cholesterol levels. 
  • It may reduce high blood glucose levels.​2,3​ 

I might have some good news for you. If you have diabetes, you might be happy to know that sugarcane juice may be a good choice for you. It contains natural sugar that has a low glycaemic index. This means that it might not cause a big increase in your blood sugar levels like some other sugary drinks would. However, if you have type 2 diabetes, it’s important to talk to your doctor before consuming sugarcane juice.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Potential Uses of Sugarcane: 

Some traditional and native healers worldwide may recommend sugarcane for various health conditions.2 The following may be the potential uses of sugarcane: 

Potential uses of sugarcane for cancer 

Cancer may be a result of damage caused due to free radicals in the body. A review by Chinnadurai in 2019 suggests that sugarcane juice contains high amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese and antioxidants. The daily consumption of sugarcane juice might provide enough antioxidants and minerals to the body to help scavenge and remove these free radicals from the body. Hence, it might help fight against cancer, especially skin, breast and prostate cancer.3 However, more human studies are needed to suggest the potential uses of sugarcane for cancer. Cancer is a serious medical condition. Therefore, it requires proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Potential uses of sugarcane for constipation 

Constipation may affect regular bowel movements and disrupt the digestive system. Sugarcane juice may be a rich source of potassium. Sugarcane juice may have laxative properties that may aid healthy bowel movements. It may help the digestive system function properly and alleviate stomach problems.3 However, more research is required to use sugarcane for constipation. Therefore, take the doctor’s advice and do not use sugarcane to self-medicate. 

Potential uses of sugarcane for skin 

Sugarcane may contain an alpha-hydroxy acid compound. This compound may have a positive effect on the skin by helping to keep it hydrated. Additionally, sugarcane may contain glycolic acid, which may help recover the lost protein from the skin. Sugarcane juice may be a powerful drink due to its rich nutrient value.3 More human studies are needed to conclude that sugarcane benefits skin. Take medical advice and do not self-medicate. 

Potential uses of sugarcane for liver 

The Unani system of medicine suggests that sugarcane juice may be good for patients with jaundice and other liver-related disorders. When taken regularly, sugarcane juice may cool down the stomach and provide immediate relief from jaundice. In addition, sugarcane juice may help regulate the bilirubin levels in the liver, which may take off the pressure from the liver and enhance its functions. Hence, these reduced bilirubin levels may benefit the liver.2,3 However, more human studies are needed to suggest the potential sugarcane benefits for the liver. If you have jaundice, consult a medical physician and take appropriate treatment. Do not self-medicate. 

Potential uses of sugarcane for kidneys 

Sugarcane juice may have diuretic properties. It may increase urine production and help clear and flush the urinary tract. In addition, taking sugarcane juice daily with coconut water and lime juice may help reduce the burning sensation related to urinary tract infections. Hence, sugarcane juice might help enhance kidney function.2 However, further studies on humans are required to evaluate the benefits of sugarcane for kidneys. If you have kidney-related problems, consult a specialist and get proper treatment. 

Also Read: Can Probiotics Cause Constipation? A Research-Based Examination of Side Effects

Other potential uses of sugarcane:3 

  • Regularly drinking sugarcane juice with little ginger may help reduce morning sickness, mostly seen during pregnancy. 
  • Sugarcane extract contains calcium, magnesium and iron, which may help boost and regulate the natural immunity of the body, helping the body to fight various viral, bacterial, and protozoal infections. 
  • Sugarcane contains essential minerals that might reduce tooth decay and bad breath. 

Though studies show the potential uses of eating sugarcane in various conditions, these are insufficient, and there is a necessity for further studies to develop the scope of sugarcane benefits on human health.  

Let me tell you an intriguing fact. Febrile disorders, which often cause fevers in infants and children, may sometimes lead to seizures and loss of proteins in the body. But did you know that sugarcane juice might actually help in the recovery process? It contains proteins that may help compensate for the ones lost during the fever.

Dr. Smita barode, BAMS

How to Use Sugarcane?  

Sugarcane may be processed to make the following products: 

  • It may be used to produce brown sugar.2 
  • It may be used to make sugarcane juice.2 
  • It may be used to make jaggery, syrup and molasses.​2​ 
  • It may be used with other juices, such as lime juice and ginger juice.2 
  • Sugarcane stems may be cut into small pieces and chewed.3 

You should consult a qualified Ayurvedic doctor before having sugarcane in large quantities. Also, consult an ayurvedic/herbal preparation of sugarcane before discontinuing or replacing your ongoing medical treatment with an ayurvedic physician. They will guide you to a better form and dosage per your health condition. 

Side Effects of Sugarcane: 

Though there are several advantages of eating sugarcane, it may also cause allergies. This is because sugarcane produces pollen which gets transported by wind.5 

  • Exposure to these sugarcane pollens may cause allergic rhinitis (itching and discharge in the nose).5 
  • This may cause excess sneezing, nose congestion, swelling of the mucous membrane, etc.​5​ 
  • Such sugarcane side effects may be rare and occur only close to sugarcane farms.  
  • However, if you experience such allergic reactions, consult your doctor and get the necessary treatment. 

Precautions to Take with Sugarcane: 

The potential uses of eating sugarcane might be countless. However, eating in larger quantities is not recommended. Therefore, taking the following precautions is necessary:  

  • Sugarcane may lead to pollen allergies. Therefore, avoid visiting sugarcane fields and maintain good hygiene.5 
  • There is no information about the safe use of sugarcane during pregnancy and breastfeeding; therefore, avoid eating sugarcane or take a doctor’s consultation to avoid complications. 
  • You should take extra precautions while giving sugarcane to small children and the elderly to trigger any allergies. 
  • You should not use sugarcane to self-medicate on your own. It is necessary to take advice from a medical practitioner and use it if advised. 

Interactions with Other Drugs:  

More human research is needed to study the interactions between sugarcane and other drugs. However, one should not assume that there are no interactions at all. Therefore, to avoid possible interactions, you should avoid having sugarcane with medicines; it is better to consult with doctors.  

Frequently Asked Questions: 

Does sugarcane benefit in case of morning sickness? 

Yes, one of the advantages of sugarcane is that it may help with morning sickness. Taking sugarcane juice with a dash of ginger may help in women suffering from morning sickness, mostly seen during pregnancy.2 However, do not self-medicate; take a doctor’s consultation. 

What are the sugarcane side effects? 

Sugarcane pollen may cause allergic rhinitis (irritation in the nose). In addition, it may cause sneezing, congestion and mucous membrane swelling.5 If you experience such side effects after eating sugarcane, immediately contact your doctor and get treatment for your allergies. 

What are the different products produced from sugarcane? 

Sugarcane crops are majorly used in large-scale industries. It is processed to produce different products such as sugarcane juice, brown sugar, syrup, jaggery, molasses and bagasse.​2

What are the different properties of sugarcane? 

The nutrients of sugarcane may regulate various biological activities in the body. It may have antiseptic properties, cooling effects, diuretic effects, analgesic activity, lower cholesterol levels, reduce high blood glucose levels and relieve inflammation. Additionally, it may act as a laxative and an antioxidant.​2,3​ 

What are the benefits of sugarcane in jaundice? 

Regular consumption of sugarcane juice may help regulate the bilirubin levels and reduce bilirubin levels in the body. In addition, sugarcane juice may help cool down the stomach and provide immediate relief to jaundice patients.2,3 However, take proper treatment from your doctor and do not self-medicate. 

References: 

​​1. Sagadevan K, Babu D, Janakiraman V, Palaniswamy H, Kasirajan L, Gomathi R, et al. A short review on sugarcane: its domestication, molecular manipulations, and future perspectives. Genet Resour Crop Evol. 2022;69:2623–43. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9483297/pdf/10722_2022_Article_1430.pdf 

​2. Singh A, Ranjan Lal U, Muhammad Mukhtar H, Singh P, Shah G, Dhawan R, et al. Phytochemical profile of sugarcane and its potential health aspects. Pharmacogn Rev. 2015;9(17):45–54. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4441162/pdf/PRev-9-45.pdf 

​3. Chinnadurai C. Potential health benefits of sugarcane. Sugarcane Biotechnology: Challenges and Prospects. 2017;1–12. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319013514_Potential_Health_Benefits_of_Sugarcane 

​4. Sugarcane forage, whole plant | Feedipedia [Internet]. [cited 2022 Dec 5]. Available from: https://www.feedipedia.org/node/14462 

​5. Randrianandraina P, Solo CE, Andriambelo R. Role of sugarcane pollen in allergic rhinitis: a case-control study. The Pan Afri Med J. 2022;41(133):1–9. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35519171/ 

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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