Potash (Akanwu) Consumption and the Effect on Human Health

Potash, which is also known as akanwu in Igbo, kanwa in Hausa and kaun by the Yorubas, is an ingredient used in preparing many Nigerian cuisines.

Potash consumption and the effect
Potash consumption and the effect

Akanwu is a type of lake salt (sodium carbonate) that is dry and hydrated. It is an alkaline salt that is a mixture of different substances.

The naturally arising Kanwa mineral varieties (Trona, Natron, and Potash) typically contain several other impurities such as clay, sand, and metals like, magnesium, silicon, iron, aluminium, calcium, and titanium.

Studies reveal that the akanwu salt is the second most commonly used salt in Nigeria. Though, the akanwu has a very low quantity of potassium similar to sodium.

Diseases such as kidney failure, cancers, and the likes are becoming more common each passing day.

Some of these ailments may be caused by edible chemicals of which potash might be one of them; thus the need to find out the effect of potash on the body.

Health Benefits of Potash – Positive Effects

It serves different purposes depending on what it is used for:

  • Culinary Purposes

Potash (Kaun) is edible and is usually used for cooking purposes like akidi (black Mexican beans), beans, fiofio (cowpea beans), etc.

  • Potash is normally added to food like beans, ukwa, ponmo-meat, etc. to soften and shorten the cooking time.
  • It is used in cooking soup and the likes.
  • It is also used to emulsify oil and water while preparing local dishes like ugba, isi ewu, abacha, and nkwobi.
  • Also, as an ingredient in fertilizers, it increases plant resistance to disease and heightens water retention.
  • It is used for bleaching textiles, making glass, making soap, preservatives of meat and fish, etc.

Other Uses Include:

  • Toothache Relief
  • Fungicidal Properties – for cleaning purposes and preventing molds and mildews
  • Fire Extinguishing Purposes used as a fire suppressant
  • Cough Treatment
  • Constipation Relief
  • Tobacco Snuff Preparation
  • Lactation Purposes
  • Fertilizer Production
  • Medicinal Purposes Some traditionalists do use potash (akanwu) for preparing herbal medicines and concoctions.

Side Effects of Potash – Negative Effects

Notwithstanding the above-mentioned benefits of akanwu, experts have warned that it should be taken with caution as consumption of high amounts could be detrimental to human health (Davidson et al., 1974, Bello, 1988).

  • It is known to contain a high amount of sodium and this poses health hazards to human beings.
  • Potash has been found to have the following negative effect on human lives.
  • Abortion Induction – Pregnant women are highly advised to refrain from taking any kind of potash concoction.
  • The consumption reduces the protein content of food when used as a tenderizer
  • Excessive intake of potash by men predisposed them to low sperm production.
  • Regular intake of potash is unfriendly to the kidney and liver.
  • It has high sodium content which accumulates in the blood and could trigger high blood pressure.

This article is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostics and treatments.

Make sure to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions.

Always visit the hospital for counseling, guidance, and treatment about a specific medical condition.

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