Sugarcane: a healing plant, an addictive poison and a homeopathic remedy
Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane, is a species of perennial grass believed to have been first domesticated in New Guinea around 8000 BCE. The plant stalks contain sucrose, a simple sugar, and is widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions to produce sugar, rum, and ethanol. Sugarcane cultivation and processing first spread throughout Asia and India, and later Europe. The Portuguese were first to bring sugarcane to the New World, introducing it to Brazil around 1480. Here the conditions for cultivation were ideal and by 1540 there were over 2000 sugar mills in Brazil’s north coast. As sugars’ economic importance grew (thanks to rum’s popularity), sugar plantations began sprouting throughout the rest of the Caribbean and South America. Cultivation and processing continued to flourish in the region at the expense of slaves and indentured servants, as well as the natural environment.
Sugar in Small Amounts is Good for Our Health
Other than the plant stalks themselves, sugarcane juice is one of the purest forms of sugar and maintains the highest amount of the plant’s natural vitamins and minerals. Fresh-pressed sugarcane juice contains phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium as well as vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C and E. In India, sugarcane has been used in the Ayurveda and Unani systems of medicine to treat various ailments. Below is a list of health benefits attributed to sugarcane.
Sugarcane juice supports our immune system. It is rich in antioxidants, fighting inflammation, viruses, allergies, and tumors. researchers have found that the juice contains phenolic acids and protective compounds such as quercetin, caffeic acid and ellagic acid.
Sugarcane juice is alkaline in nature, beneficial in fighting various types of cancer like prostate and breast cancer.
Sugarcane juice is a known antiseptic. It combats infection and putrefaction. It has a solvent action on fibrin and stimulates secretion by the intense osmotic changes induced, thus rinsing out the wound with serum from within outward, favoring healing.
Sugar is a diuretic. It has diuretic properties that can help remove excess salt and water to help the kidneys function properly. Studies have shown that consuming sugarcane juice with lime and coconut water can reduce the burning sensation caused by many types of urinary tract issues. Taking Sugarcane juice with lime juice or coconut water helps in treating dysuria (burning sensation while passing urine), prostatitis, kidney stones, STD (sexually transmitted disease) and urinary tract infections. Sugarcane also assists in other problems like hyper acidity, cystitis, enlarged prostate, gonorrhea, nephritis.
Although sugar is often associated with weight gain, consuming some sugarcane can boost your metabolism. Diabetic patients are urged to choose direct sugarcane derivatives over refined sugars to help regulate their glycemic index. Sugarcane molasses concentrate has been found to lower glucose and inhibit the production of insulin. Sugarcane can also be consumed as a purgative to help treat high blood pressure.
Sugarcane juice helps regulate digestion and relieve constipation. It acts as a laxative due to its high potassium level, it is also a rich source of live enzymes which nourish the body.
Sugar is useful for colds and flus. Sugarcane Juice is considered a great home remedy for treating sore throats. Moreover, it acts as an expectorant helping remove mucus from the lungs. Sugarcane quenches thirst by rehydrating the body thus known as the instant body booster to prevent dehydration from fever.
Sugarcane juice is also known to increases muscle power and strengthen major organs such as the eyes, stomach, heart, kidneys, mind, sex organs and many others when regularly consumed.
In Ayurveda, sugarcane juice is used to help rejuvenate the liver and to treat jaundice by normalizing the bilirubin level in the body.
Sugar is considered an aphrodisiac and is thought to increase libido, as well as the quality and quantity of semen and helps rectify erectile dysfunction.
Sugar is beneficial for pregnancy due to its high folic acid content. It is believed to help women conceive faster and to increase lactation in nursing mothers. Studies have found that consuming sugarcane juice with ginger can help decrease the occurrence of morning sickness and strengthen the immune system of pregnant women as well.
Sugar is considered a sustainer and developer of the musculature of the heart and hence useful in failure of compensation and a variety of cardio-vascular troubles. Acts as a nutrient and tonic, in wasting disorders, anemia, neurasthenia, etc., increasing weight and power.
Sugar in Large Amounts is Bad for Our Health
We’ve all been reprimanded by the dentist for eating too much sugar because there is a well-established link between consumption of sugar and cavities. Researchers have also established the connection between high sugar consumption during our early years to obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Now we are learning that too much sugar consumption not only affects our physical health, it also affects our emotional and mental health.
Scientific studies are showing evidence that high levels of sugar have negative effects on a child’s brain, both in their psychological health and in their cognitive function. For instance, a study published by the American Journal of Psychiatric Health found that children who drink more than 4 servings of sugary beverages per day are much more likely to exhibit mental distress and depression. These individuals also had more school conduct problems than others who consumed less sugary beverages. (AJPH). A second study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology found that young children had more difficulty concentrating and exhibited more conduct problems after taking as little as 6 ounces of juice sweetened by sucrose. (Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology). Research also indicates that teens who take in high amounts of sugar in their daily diets tend to perform worse in cognitive tests that deal with visual spatial learning and long-term memory (AOAFamily).
Abnormally low blood glucose, or hypoglycemia, can also have a negative impact on health. The main cause of hypoglycemia is the exaggerated use of 'rapid' carbohydrates, namely of refined sugar, in our modern diets. Hypoglycemia seems to negatively influence social behavior and emotional wellbeing; causing erratic, violent, and antisocial behavior. In a study of the behavior of juvenile delinquents, researchers noted that 82% of the 106 juveniles suffered from hypoglycemia. They also found that their behavior significantly improved if they were put on a sugar free diet.
Saccharum officinarum: Sugarcane as a Homeopathic Remedy
In homeopathy, remedy profiles are created based on what the substance is traditionally known to treat when a moderate amount is ingested as well as what the substance causes when taken in excess. Homeopathic Saccharum officinarum is made from the fresh juice of the sugar-cane. As noted above, sugarcane juice and sugar, in small quantities, have known health benefits and can be used as a home remedy to treat a variety of ailments. In large quantities, it has the exact opposite effects. For example, a small amount of sugar helps regulate metabolism while too much sugar causes weight gain; similarly, a small amount of sugar helps relieve urinary tract infections while too much sugar causes them.
Physical symptoms caused by consumption of too much sugar that can be treated by its homeopathic version include (think of diabetic symptoms):
Dryness of skin, nails, hair, feet, vagina, stool, tongue; profuse thirst (like diabetics)
Bone density loss, rickets, & tooth decay
Effects of malnutrition (including obesity, emaciation, anorexia, eating disorders, scurvy)
Constipation, acid stomach and itchy anus
Coated tongue/stiff tongue
Chronic colds, allergies, flu
Weakening of muscles: heart, eyes, and feet/legs; muscle stiffness; nervous tics
Profuse night sweats, particularly in the head
Too much sugar also causes mental and emotional issues (think about what happens when kids eat too much sugar). These symptoms can be treated by the homeopathic version of sugar:
Cravings & withdrawal including mood swings, irritability
Ennui & depression
Essence of Sugarcane
Keywords: respiratory infections, hyperactivity, desire for attention, desire for appreciation, feeling unloved, desire sweets.
Sugar is associated with sweetness, niceness, kindness, gentleness, and love. Words like “sweetie” and “sweetheart” bring forth the idea that sugar is love. We get candy for Valentine’s Day as a sign of someone's love, and we celebrate joyous occasions with cakes, pastries, and desserts. We all love sugar (what is not to love). And some of us seem to love sugar more than we love ourselves. It is therefore no surprise that the essence of this remedy is lack of self-love. In children, this translates to a fear not to deserve his mother's love and to fear to be abandoned by her.
One can describe a person needing this remedy as someone who is predominantly concerned with relationships with family and friends, he or she is striving to belong but is insecure. Although his position is stable, he feels he has too much responsibility to maintain it. He reacts with anger, trying to force the group to his will. These are people who have been taught to suppress/eradicate their emotions. They hold grief inside, along with unexpressed anger and anger about past events. They fall into disease from disappointed love; their self-confidence is deeply affected leading to delusions they are despised. They feel unfortunate and want to please everyone in order to belong or fit in.
Too much of a good thing is always bad, and sugar is no exception. It is our reality that sugar is in all our processed foods. Sugar is not only a great sweetener, it is also extremely useful in food processing; it helps balance the food’s acidity, helps baked goods retain moisture and enhances canned food’s texture and color. Most importantly, sugar inhibits the growth of microorganisms, making it a useful preservative. Adding sugar to processed foods makes the food taste and look better and last longer. Thus, as we have increased our consumption of processed food, we have inadvertently also increased our consumption of sugar. Unfortunately, we seem to love sugar, and food manufacturers have noticed. Added sugar seems to be in everything. It is disguised, it’s not just in candy, or cereals, it is also found in many drinks, snacks, and even food we consider “healthy” like granola bars, yogurt, salad dressings and sauces. Unfortunately, sugar is addictive and the more we consume, the more it consumes us.
The numbers speak for themselves. Back in the 1800s, the average American consumed around 4 pounds of sugar a year. In 1999, at the peak of sugar consumption in the United States, Americans were eating 155 pounds of sugar per year ~ 52 teaspoons per day. Today, the average American’s annual consumption of sugar is about 105 pounds a year, or 20 teaspoons per day. As a reference, the daily recommended intake of sugar is 6 teaspoons for women and children, and 9 for men.
We can blame the manufacturers to some extent, but the buck stops with us. Our addiction to sugar is brought on because we are neglecting our own nourishment. It is easier to buy prepared and processed food, and it takes good to us. The more we eat it, the more we crave it. We feed it to our kids in the hopes that they will feel happy, stop whining, and eat something but we haven’t accustomed them to eating real nutritious food. Their unbalanced diets bring symptoms of malnutrition. They exhibit problems with concentration at school due to low energy/sugar crash and later with erratic or violent behavior from the continued hypoglycemic states (ever heard of the term hangry?). As teens the trend continues and we see depression, eating disorders, hormonal imbalances arise. As adults, if the path has not changed, we continue to see mood disorders, as well as incidences of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Sugarcane and sugar are not the problem. The problem lies in the quantity and quality of sugar we consume. We should be smart about how we use sugar; learn the benefits and consciously and judiciously consume it to maintain balance and health.