Several natural mineral resources that are highly beneficial for human usage have been unraveled in the past and more are yet to be known. One of such important natural resources is potash, which is also known as kaun, akanwu or kanwa. Potash (akanwu) is a type of lake salt (sodium carbonate) that is dry and hydrated in nature.
This type of lake salt usually forms and shoots out from the soil during rainy season but tends to fall off, solidifies and get dried during the dry season. Potash (akanwu) is usually covered by shallow water by approximately less than 2 ft deep. Studies reveal that the akanwu salt is the second most popularly used salt in Nigeria however, the akanwu has a very low quantity of potassium comparable to sodium.
Potash (Kaun) is edible and is usually used for cooking pulses like beans, akidi (black Mexican beans), fiofio (cowpea beans) etc in order to tenderize the pulses so easily. Akanwu is also added in ewedu and okro soup during preparations in order to boost the viscosity as well as to increase the greenness and texture of the vegetables. It is used for mixing water and oil while preparing local dishes like abacha, ugba and nkwobi. Although the potash is used for certain food preparations however, studies reveal that it is not suitable for our health thus curtailing the level of consumption is highly advisable. Palmfruit ashes (ngu), ashes of roasted peels of unripe plantain and baking soda are an healthier alternative to potash. 2. Toothache Relief Akanwu (potash) can be ground and mixed with water before applying on tooth to relieve toothache. 3. Acts as a Preservative Kaun potash (akanwu) solution can be used as a preservative. 4. Funigicidal Properties Potash (akanwu) contains fungicidal properties thus is capable of being used for cleaning purposes and preventing molds and mildews. 5. Fire Extinguishing Purposes Studies reveal that the akanwu, which is also known as potassium bicarbonate can be used as a fire suppressant for fighting fire thus can sometimes be found in some dry fire extinguishers. 6. Fertilizer Production The potash of sulfur, which is a non-flammable white crystalline salt is chemically used for producing fertilizers due to its potassium and sulfur content. 7. Abortion Induction Studies reveal that potash (akanwu) can induce abortion in early pregnancies due to its ability to increase uterine contractility. Pregnant women are highly advised to refrain from taking any kind of potash concoction.
Studies reveal that potash is capable of increasing breast milk production and quality in new mothers for example, the Hausa women use the potash to prepare special porridge with millet and guinea corn, which they often take after childbirth in order to boost breast milk production.
But ‘Kawu’ Poisonous… Says food expert
Potash, locally referred to as ‘Kawu’ among Akans, is highly poisonous and not good for human consumption, according to Mr. Ken Peprah Gwomoh Mensah, a food safety and research consultant.
Potash, which is often used in most Ghanaian homes to prepare foods such as okra stew, waakye (rice and beans) etcetera, Mr. Gwomoh disclosed, could render a man impotent, cause stroke and other diseases to the human body.
The food expert made this interesting but startling revelation when speaking to the paper on a wide range of issues bothering food safety last Monday during a seminar held for restaurants and chop bar operators in Takoradi in the Western Region.
He recounted that potash was introduced in the country 100 years ago by some people who migrated into the country from Sokoto in Nigeria.
“This kawu thing that we have been consuming is very acidic and it could adversely affect our intestines and I think the earlier we stop our market women from selling it the better,” he cautioned.
Mr. Gwomoh Mensah however could not fathom why health institutions such as the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service and the Ghana Medical Association have not conducted any research into the commodity to enable them caution Ghanaians against its intake.
In his estimation, a lot of mysterious deaths that occur in hospitals and in most Ghanaian homes are as a result of the intake of the “poisonous product (Kawu),” adding that until efforts are made to ban the commodity in our markets, the country was still going to witness such strange deaths.
However, in a separate interview some market women at the Takoradi main market expressed shock and downplayed the latter’s assertion, saying “Until the Ghana Health Service comes out to ban the commodity, there is no way we are going to stop consuming it.”
Against that backdrop, Mr. Gwomoh Mensah cautioned the public to be mindful of where and what they eat to avoid contracting harmful diseases.