White and brown sugar cubes and sugar cane on wooden table background
panida wijitpanya/iStock/GettyImages

While sugar is usually thought of as the sweet ingredient in most desserts, the plant it's derived from, sugar cane, actually has a variety of other uses outside of the foodie realm. Originating in New Guinea around 6000 B.C., sugarcane found its way to the Americas around 1493. This versatile plant plays an important role in many non-food products, and can be used in several surprising ways.

Skin Care

When refined, sugarcane is a common ingredient in many body scrubs and exfoliating products, as its grainy texture makes it useful for scrubbing away dead skin cells. Sugarcane can also be mixed with lemon juice and other ingredients to create an all-natural, organic wax and be used to remove body hair.


Molasses, a substance attained from sugarcane production, is an essential ingredient in rum alcohol. Sugarcane was first used to create rum in the West Indies during the 17th century. Pure alcohol is also created using molasses.


Traditional plastics are not biodegradable, but modern technology has allowed scientists to create "compostable" bio-plastic , using sugarcane as a primary ingredient.


Molasses and pure sugar are common additions to tobacco, and create a sweet-tasting flavor traditionally smoked through a hookah. Known as "shisha," the tobacco used for hookah comes in a variety of blends, including fruit flavors.

Cane Ethanol

Ethanol, an alternative to gasoline, is an ecological bio-fuel that is made using sugarcane. This is considered to be a more renewable, sustainable resource than traditional gasoline, as sugarcane cultivation occurs at a very fast rate and it's less taxing on the environment.


When combined with other ingredients, such as lime, sugarcane can be used to create organic fertilizer. Using sugarcane fertilizer helps improve the quality of soil, thereby improving the quality of any food grown in that soil.