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7 Negative Health Effects of Potash (Akanwu)

Potash is a familiar ingredient in Nigerian cuisine, often recognized by its different names, such as ‘Akanwu’ among the Igbos and ‘Kaun’ among the Yorubas. It’s a type of salt found in lakes, made up of sodium carbonate or potassium carbonate. Typically, it has a texture resembling chalk and appears whitish or gray. This piece aims to explore potential impacts on health associated with potash (Akanwu or Kaun).

Potash is a mixture of various chemicals and minerals, including potassium, sodium, magnesium, aluminum, calcium, and more. It’s not uncommon for it to contain impurities like sand. It presents a dry, salty taste, occasionally bordering on being tasteless.

In Nigeria, potash is integrated into cooking practices, though not in the manner of a typical ingredient. For instance, when preparing beans, potash is used to soften them, reducing the required cooking time. It’s also added to soups as a thickener and included in various other dishes.

Beyond its culinary uses, potash finds application in diverse areas such as alleviating toothaches, treating coughs, producing fertilizers, making tobacco snuff, and various other applications.

In this article, our focus is on understanding the potential health effects of potash and determining whether its usage provides any benefits to the body.

Negative Health Effects of Potash (Akanwu)

Negative Health Effects of Potash (Akanwu)

Rising Blood Pressure

Excessive potash intake can increase the risk of high blood pressure. This is due to the buildup of sodium in the bloodstream. Individuals with hypertension or those at risk of high blood pressure should avoid foods rich in sodium, including potash.

Protein Reduction

Using potash to soften or tenderize food comes with a downside – it reduces the protein content in the food. This means you’ll be getting less protein than usual. Over time, this might cause a lack of protein, especially if you use potash often in your cooking.

Not Recommended During Pregnancy

Pregnant women should steer clear of potash consumption, as it might trigger abortions or premature births. This is because it can cause contractions in the uterus, which is risky for pregnant women. Mrs. Iyabode Alabi, a dietician and former Head of the Department of Dietetics at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, cautioned that potash could pose health risks, especially during pregnancy.

Too Much Sodium

Potash contains a lot of sodium, which isn’t great for our bodies. Consuming too much sodium can lead to problems like headaches, higher blood pressure, kidney issues, kidney stones, stroke, and weaker bones. If you use potash in your cooking, it’s wise to avoid adding extra salt to prevent overloading on sodium. Also, don’t chew on potash for fun and then eat salty foods; this can raise sodium levels in your body. Furthermore, studies have suggested that potash might harm the liver.

May Cause Sperm Issues

Research indicates that excessive potash consumption could lead to low sperm production in men. A study from 2021 discovered that potash negatively affected sperm quality and male sex hormones in rats.

This could potentially result in fertility problems and difficulties in having children. Additionally, it might harm the testicles. Yet, it’s important to note that the effects on humans might not be the same, and more research is needed.

May Cause Kidney Damage

In 2021, a study investigated the kidney-toxic nature of potash (kaun) in rats. The findings revealed that potash led to higher levels of sodium, potassium, creatinine, and urea in the kidneys. This study suggested that potash could be harmful to the kidneys, particularly at high doses. As a result, its consumption should be discouraged.

Request Asked Questions

What is Akanwu called in English? Akanwu is called potash in English.

Is potash the same as salt? No, potash is different from regular salt. It’s a different type of compound.

Is potash the same as baking soda? No, potash and baking soda are not the same. They are different substances with distinct uses.

Is potash good for babies? Potash is not recommended for babies, as it might not be safe for their health.

What is potash called in Nigeria? In Nigeria, potash is often called Kaun or Akanwu in various regions.

What is the organic name for potash? The organic name for potash is potassium carbonate.

Does potash increase blood pressure (BP)? Yes, excessive consumption of potash can potentially lead to an increase in blood pressure.


While there are certain kitchen benefits to using potash, it’s important to note that its advantages for the body are limited. It’s advisable to consider avoiding potash altogether if possible. The potential health effects of potash can be quite harmful, underscoring the need to use it cautiously.

Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka Martins is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.

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