What is Akanwu

Picture of Akanwu bought from a market in Eastern Nigeria ( my personal Akanwu)

What is Akanwu

Akanwu is an alkaline salt that is formed naturally in nature. From my readings I have found that it is most similar and may be the same thing as sodium sesquicarbonate. Sodium Sesquicarbonate is commonly known as trona and has been used and mined for hundreds of years for several different purposes. Synthetic Sodium Sesquicarbonate can also be manufactured by combining sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) together. Potash or Potassium Carbonate is also an alkaline salt that chemically acts the same as Sodium Sesquicarbonate, which is why many claim that Akanwu is Potash. Potash originates from wood ash, and akanwu from a rock so more than likely they are not the same.  Another similar compound is Potassium Sesquicarbonate. Unfortunately it is quite hard to say precisely what Akanwu is as little research can be found on much of African "products", and generalizations are typically made rather than serious research. 

What is know is that all these compounds are alkaline salts, which are typically used to neutralize mixtures. Alkaline salts such as those listed, interestingly, are not typically used in food around the world. But instead have been used in the making of cosmetics, detergents, and even glass production. One similar substance that has been used similarly to Akanwu is Magadi, also called Magadi soda or Magadi trona. This substance is used in east and central africa to help tenderize foods and shorten cook time similarly to the use of Akanwu. Interestingly, there are numerous studies on the negatives of use of Magadi. 

Is Akanwu safe to Consume?

Research has shown Magadi when used in food, decrease the protein content as well as the mineral content of the food. Minerals lost particularly include iron and zinc. Some forms of Magadi are high in fluoride which have been linked to dental fluorosis, though I doubt Akanwu also has high fluoride levels. Studies specifically done on sodium sesquiscarbonate added to chicken feed showed this compound to be toxic leading to kidney impairment. And studies specifically done on akanwu  added to ukwa and beans show that it also decrease protein content of both food items.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed the safety of Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Sesquicarbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate and determined that these ingredients were Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for direct addition to food. This really means they have found slight negative effects that are probably negligible, but really they don't know.


Take home message: As there is no way in determining what specifically akanwu is unless research is done to do so, with the research out there on similar compounds and the typical use of alkaline salts around the world one can infer that use of Akanwu in foods may not be particularly healthy. But without further research there is no way to substantiate the health effects of Akanwu. I would suggest one use akanwu sparingly if it must be used at all. We as Nigerians know that Akanwu in excess gives a runny stomach, so this alone tells you it is not fully digestible or alters the digestibility of food it is added to.

In short, use Akanwu sparingly!

After consulting with my mother, I was informed that akanwu is also used for stomach ache, and also ash from part of the palm nut or fruit is used similarly as akanwu in eastern nigeria. My mother also believes akanwu is predominantly potassium, though I found more cited as sodium.....

Good news for those of us in the diaspora, Akanwu is now available for purchase on amazon.

CLICK HERE to buy.


1. Nielsen J, Dahi E: Fluoride exposure of East African consumers using alkaline salt deposits known as magadi (trona) as a food preparation aid. Food Additives and; Contaminants 2002, 19:8, 709-714

2. Olapade A, Umeonuorah U: Mineral, vitamin and antinutritional content of african breadfruit (treculia africana) Seeds Processed with Alum and Trona. IOSR Journal of Environmental Science, Toxicology and Food Technology 2006, 5: 71-78

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Post a Comment


  1. beautiful info on akanwu. keep it up

  2. Nice infor.was considering using it on my hair but am not so sure anymore...

  3. Thank you for caring for others. In other words telling us what we know already it is not really good for us.

  4. You might be more credible if you went natural with your hair. Dont be offended, just that if a black woman is touting natural food, natural health, health and wellness, she better keep it natural,100%. I know your natural hair is beautiful, embrace it, let it reach for the stars. But thank you for the info though. Well written, keep it up. Always happy to hear about herbs and healing products I was unaware of.

  5. thanks, i am sharing this info on www.fooddoctors.com.ng and credit you in return

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Bloom I appreciate your search for truth and also looking backwards to help us all look forward! This salt was also perhaps used to make soaps -- ask your mother -- Soaps when speaking chemically will dissolve fat (cholesterol) -- I do not believe we need anything more than simple laws of Chemistry to optimize our well-being and Chemistry is actually easy by comparison and FULL of Truth not details and belief of Biology. Cholesterol is not bad -- stored cholesterol is bad -- to get rid of stored cholesterol we need soap in our bodies -- Our bodies are not necessarily failing as much as the design is being overwhelmed by so many Chemistry challenges our bodies are facing. I hope you write more and provide us all with more truth

  8. We would appreciate an extensive qualitative or quantitative Evidence Based research on this item because most of the conclusions here are based on hypothesis and spill overs.

    1. The proof you seek is in how you search for truth on the internet and what sources you will accept. In the USA the standards for medicine and science are PubMed or PubChem -- PubMed & PubChem are all government accepted studies....these have all the numbers and truth you seek....when you search a topic type in "Akanwu scholarly" or "Akanwu Chemical composition"to get science or industrial based results --often times you find that research medicine will repeat many known truths year after year and that Applied medicine simply cannot use it because Applied medicine does not practice prevention as a business model -- not evil but they do not get paid until you present illness -- the things that caused the illnesses are BIG things not little things -- but they focus on the small spot where the big system broke --- I think you will get what you seek in this way --the highest institutions clearly idenitifying these violations of the laws of Chemistry and Biology BUT applied medicine choosing NOT to incorporate these wholly known and accepted truths due to Pathology Business model -- it does however give you restored faith in our wonderful researchers.......

  9. We would appreciate an extensive qualitative or quantitative Evidence Based research on this item because most of the conclusions here are based on hypothesis and spill overs.

  10. interesting description! I never in nature have yet to meet this kind of salt. I think you need to think about their preferences

  11. Nice post. Pls conduct more research and save more life.

  12. Akanwu is the thing that is extremely nutritive and I am sure that if you try it you will want to do it again.

  13. Please is the research not out yet? I really want to know the name (english)of akanwu..