Sugar (Tang)

Botanical Name: Saccharum officinarum, S. sinense, S. barberi

Sugar was originally imported to Europe to be used as a medicine. Sugar is used as a preservative and sweetener in many foods and beverages. Numerous studies continue to be undertaken to help clarify how using too much sugar can harm the body while the right amount can support brain function and help to energize. To date, it is known that too much sugar leads to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, inflammation, tooth decay, dementia, hyperactivity and a host of other related ailments and conditions.

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Below is an overview of sugar, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of sugar.

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Western Name: Sugar

Also Known As: Sugar Cane, Sugarcane, Plume Grass, Lump Sugar, White Table Sugar

Organs/Systems: Cellular Metabolism, Nervous System, Blood, Brain

Key Actions: Energizes, Preservative, Exfoliant, Flavoring Agent

Medicinal Uses: Preservative for jams, jellies, and syrups. Provides energy to cells for proper functioning. Essential for brain and muscle functioning. Helps to heal skin wounds, removes dead skin cells, and moisturizes.


Pin Yin: Tang

Also Known As: N/A

Meridians: Spleen, Stomach

Key Actions: Moistens, Invigorates Qi, Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach, Sweetener

Medicinal Uses: Small amounts support healthy digestion, helps moisten the intestines and nasal passages, supports brain and muscle activity. Used to help sweeten formulas that may not taste good. The sweet flavor is associated with nourishing the body and cells. Too much can cause unwanted Dampness and health issues.

Basic Habitat / Botany:

Sugarcane is a species of grass in the genus Saccharum. It is a perennial grass in the family Poaceae. It has beautiful red, purple, or white-striped stalks with thick stems that look like bamboo. The stems can grow to be 2 inches in diameter and up to 20 feet tall.

The origin of sugarcane is so old that it is difficult to trace its origins. The common variety Saccharum officinarum, was domesticated in 4000 BC in New Guinea. S. sinense and S. barberi, are believed to have originated in Southern Asia and India, respectively. The grasses require tropical, frost-free climates and enough rain during the growing season to help the plant reach its full potential.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Raw Sugar Crystals, Refined (removes the molasses)

Flavors/Temps: Sweet, Neutral, Moistening

Caution: Excess sugar can be harmful to your health.

Key Constituents: Sugar is a Carbohydrate composed of Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen. Nutritive sugar, Non-nutritive sugar, Glucose, Fructose, Galactose, Lactose, Sucrose, Polysaccharide

History/Folklore: One of the earliest written references to sugar is found in Chinese manuscripts dating back to the 8th century B.C. It was originally imported to Europe to be used as a medicine. Sugar is an excellent preservative and sweetener for bitter-tasting formulas and herbs. Sugar is also noted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for its moistening properties.

The Chinese used sugar to make desserts and as an ingredient in other culinary recipes. By 647 A.D., they were establishing their own sugar plantations to cultivate sugarcane closer and more cheaply at home.

The Crusaders also brought sugar home with them to Europe after their campaigns in the Holy Land. It was commonly called “sweet salts.”

Sugar was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese and to the Caribbean in the 1400s.

The word “sugar” derives from the Sanskrit “sarkara,” via the Persian word for sugar, “shakkar.”

It was brought to sugar plantations in the Americas and West Indies during the 18th century when sugar became available for common people to use instead of honey or molasses. Sugar production played a large role in the perpetuation of the slave trade, the role of migrant workers, and consequently the spread of ethnic cultures around the globe as cheap labor.

By the 19th century, sugar was considered a necessity. It drove colonization and created many unforeseen social changes felt all over the world. The distribution of modern ethnic populations was in large part influenced by the slave trade. This includes Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

Sugarcane is the source of 70% of the world’s sugar supply. The rest is from sugar beets. Sugarcane is also used to produce ethanol, although usually made from corn, sugarcane has proved to be twice as effective. After being used to make sugar, the rest of the plant is used to make paper products or animal food. It is also used as an ingredient in producing biodiesel.

Today the average person is said to consume about 53 lbs. of sugar a year, or the equivalent of 260 food calories per person per day. The American Heart Association recommends less than 9 teaspoons per day for an adult male, less than 6 teaspoons for an adult female, and children 2 to 18 years of age.

There are two types of sugars: natural and added. Natural sugars, aka complex carbohydrates that are found in fruits and milk, help regulate blood sugar and provide nutrition. Added sugars, such as white sugar (sucrose), brown sugar, and syrups are simple carbohydrates that provide little nutritional value and can cause blood sugar spikes.

Sugars are monosaccharides (glucose (dextrose), fructose (found in fruits), and galactose (found in milk), xylose, and ribose), disaccharides (sucrose, common table sugar, or lactose (another sugar found in dairy products), or oligosaccharides. The monosaccharides are called “simple” sugars, the most important being glucose.

Sugars are important organic energy-carrying molecules used by plants and the body in many different ways. The monosaccharide, galactose, for example, is found on red blood cells and is used by scientists to determine blood groups. All plants contain sugar as they use and make glucose as a primary product of photosynthesis. Fruits generally contain more sugar than vegetables, but all plants contain and use sugar. The proper amount of sugar enjoyed in fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs is not the problem, the issue is too much sugar, and especially refined and processed sugars.

Too much sugar (particularly fructose as is found in high-fructose corn syrup) can overload your liver causing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It can cause insulin resistance, leading to diabetes and too much sugar is known to cause inflammation and overactive cell growth in the body, increasing the potential for age-related illnesses and cancers. Eliminating processed foods, that are loaded with sugars of various kinds, is a good step toward reducing sugar excess in your diet.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, craving sugar is a sign of a weak digestive system. They consider excess sugar to be agitating and disruptive to the functioning of the body’s systems as a whole. Too much sugar can result in a condition they call Internal Dampness, which can lead to sinus congestion, water retention, athlete’s foot, and other Damp conditions. In the right amount, it is considered nourishing, giving cells the energy they need to function properly.

In TCM, a little sweet can aid the digestive process and provide nutritional value. The sweet flavor can also help lubricate the body’s functions. They consider “full sweets,” those found in yams, carrots, certain herbs, and whole fruits to be best as they are naturally integrated with other nutrients, fiber, and proteins that help slow the metabolism of sugar. Processed sugar can overload the body’s systems. This is why after eating a lot of processed sugars you can feel bloated and fatigued versus strong and focused.

Exercise helps burn off excess sugar by stimulating metabolism.

Two excellent non-sugar, plant-based substitutes for sugar are monk fruit and stevia. They do not disrupt blood sugar levels or contain any carbohydrates or calories. Erythritol and Xylitol are sugar alcohols created to be used as sugar substitutes but are not naturally occurring substances. They are made from corn.

Staying properly hydrated helps to flush out excess sugar from your body.

A Quick Sugar Overview…

The Good:

  • There are several types of sugar, not all are bad for you. Glucose, Fructose (found in fruit and vegetables), and Galactose (found in milk), are sugars your body can use. Your body converts sugar into glucose to use immediately for energy and to store for later use. Glucose is also stored for later use, so your body always has what it needs on hand to function properly.
  • Your brain, nervous system, and red blood cells all need a bit of sugar to function properly. The brain requires about 130g of glucose (a particular form of sugar) per day to function properly. During starvation the brain is competing with the body for glucose to survive. Sugar is the brain’s main fuel. It cannot function without it.
    The right amount of sugar can give you an energy and mood boost.
  • Sugar from fruit, vegetables, herbs, and dairy products contain high quantities of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that can help properly digest sugar, reducing the negative impacts on your system.
  • In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) the sweet flavor associated with sugar, and other non-sugar sweeteners and herbs, is identified with providing nourishment and moisture.

The Bad:

  • Too much sugar is known to cause heart disease, weight gain, diabetes, depression, and a host of other ailments associated with excess sugar consumption.
  • Sugar is addictive. The more you consume, the more you crave.
  • Processed sugar and sucrose (white table sugar) have no nutritive value.
  • In TCM too much sugar is said to cause digestive disorders and Dampness, a Pathogenic Factor that can, among other issues, impact blood pressure, cause urinary tract infections, acne, weight gain, headaches, and stomach disorders.

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Did you know?

The Invention of Sugar Cubes

Sugar cubes were first created and invented in the 19th century.

Typical Sugar Names

The names of sugars and generally most carbohydrates end with -ose. This Latin suffix means “full of” or “abounding in”. Some carbohydrates retain older names and do not end in -ose (e.g., amylopectin).
Fun fact!

Plants Used to Make Sugar?

Sugars are found in most plants, but only sugarcane and sugar beets are used for making sugar commercially.

How to use Sugar (Tang) and take FULL advantage of it's healing powers!

Find out how to safely use this powerful herb and get specific recipes you can make use of immediately. Dive deep into Eastern and Western perspectives about HOW and WHY this herb works. Includes uses, benefits, essential oils, gardening tips, and much, much more.

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ATTENTION: All material provided on this website is for informational or educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your healthcare professional or physician. Redistribution permitted with attribution. Be Healthy. Be Happy. Be Whole. Be Free.

ATENCIÓN: Todo el material proporcionado en este sitio web es sólo con fines informativos o educativos. No es sustituto del consejo de su profesional de la salud o médico. Esté sano. Sea feliz. Siéntase completo. Sea libre.

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