Chemical Name : aluminum potassium sulfate
Common Name : Alum, potassium alum, soda alum, ammonium alum and aluminum alum and Tawas.
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Tawas is the tagalog term for alum, a chemically hydrated aluminum potassium sulfate that possesses a specific crystal shape. Tawas or alum (common English name) has a chemical formula KAl(SO4)2·12H2O. It is non-toxic, has somewhat a sweet acidic taste that dissolves easily in water and reacts with acid. There are several types of tawas in the market like potassium alum, soda alum, ammonium alum and aluminum alum, but the more common is the potassium alum that most can buy in botika or health stores and from street vendors near churches in the Philippines.
Tawas or alum has varieties of uses. Tawas has industrial, cosmetic, culinary applications as well as some medicinal and health benefits.
Medicinal Uses for Tawas or Alum
Tawas or Alum used as adjutant in human vaccines
Tawas or alum is used in many human vaccines as an adjuvant based on its ability to enhance the body’s response to immunogens
Antibacterial action of Alum or Tawas
In a study published in “Indian Journal of Medical Research” 1996. Potash alum or tawas was found to inhibit the growth of pathogenic organisms in water that has the potential to cause epidemic. Such as V. cholerae and V. cholerae.
Astringent action of Alum or Tawas
A study published in “Chemical Senses” 1994, identified alum (tawas) as one of the chemical compound that possess high astringency effect comparable or even better than gallic acid and citric acid.
Alum or Tawas used in the Treatment of Hemorrhage
In a study reported in “Ann Chir Gynaecol” 1987, patients suffering from severe hemorrhage from the bladder were subjected to continuous irrigation with 1% alum solution.. Bleeding ceased in 8 patients, and was temporary in only one of these cases. In 2 patients with thrombocytopaenia the treatment failed. No side effects were noticed. Serum aluminum level was measured in one patient and the value was normal.
Tawas Health Benefits
Tawas as deodorant
Tawas is a safe natural way to control body odor or deodorant. Tawas is hypoallergenic, easily washable, it is not an antiperspirant thus it does not clog the skin pores. Tawas works by eliminating the odor causing bacteria so the body would not smell while maintaining the natural way of sweating. Tawas is applied by gently rubbing the crystal in the armpits or feet while the area is damp from showering or washing. Tawas leaves an invisible layer to the areas it is applied. The crystal has no scent and gives 24 hour protection.
Tawas as astringent
Tawas acts as astringent in small cuts to stop bleeding and infection.
Tawas is also used as a soothing agent during or after body hair removals by waxing or shaving.
Tawas is also used to treat hemorrhoids. Tawas powder dissolved in five parts water has been used to shrink hemorrhoids and stop them from bleeding
Powdered alum is commonly cited as a home remedy for canker sores.
Tawas as mouthwash
Tawas is also used as mouthwash to protect against tooth decay and gum diseases. Tawas is used as an ingredient in some toothpaste and commercial mouthwash.
Other uses of Tawas
Industrial Water Purification
Tawas is commonly used in industrial applications as an agent in water purification. Tawas is used in reducing the turbidity or cloudiness of water. When dissolved tawas is mixed with cloudy water, the suspended minerals and particles are attracted together by the action of tawas creating a heavy gelatinous substance that settle at the bottom called precipitates. The resulting clear water above is then ready for further filtration and purification.
In the 1950s, men sporting crew cut or flattop hairstyles sometimes applied alum to their front short hairs as an alternative to pomade. When the hair dried, it would stay up all day.
Alum powder may be used in pickling recipes as a preservative to maintain fruit and vegetable crispness.
Alum is used as the acidic component of some commercial baking powders.
Alum was used by bakers in England during the 1800s to make bread whiter.
Solutions containing alum may be used to treat cloth, wood, and paper materials to increase their resistance to fire.
Alum is also a component of foamite.
Alum is also used in fire extinguishers to smother chemical and oil fires.
Tawas Side Effects, Warnings
Tawas is generally safe for topical use as deodorant, astringent, for mouthwash or for skin and sore wash Tawas is safe for use even for infants, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
Effect of potash alum (aluminium potassium sulphate) on human semen and sperm.
However in a study reported in “Indian Journal of of Physiology and Pharmacology” 1998, different concentration of potash alum solution have different effects on sperm, motility/death and fructose level of the semen. Higher concentration have higher effects.