Wood ashes are ancient STEM.
Wood ashes are the result of burning wood. Yes, it’s true.
Wood ashes were responsible for a lot of scientific advances in history.
A lot of useful chemicals sit underground.
We can either dig holes and mine for the chemicals, or we can harvest these chemicals from the trees that bring the chemicals out of the ground through their roots. Trees contain the chemicals of the ground they grow in.
We can recover these chemicals by burning the wood and processing the ashes.
Wood ashes are important to human civilization. Let me share a few things people have done with wood ashes through the years. Sometimes, wood ashes have to be processed to be useful, but sometimes, wood ashes are useful as just as they are.
Wood ashes were scattered in the corners of ancient homes and barns to discourage insect-pests.
Chickens infested with certain bugs will roll in wood ashes to drive out the pests.
Wood ashes were used to polish fine silver and get spots out of fabrics.
Ashes were used as a whitener/bleach.
Wood ashes turn acidic soil more alkaline, to suit certain crops, like asparagus , beans and tomatoes.
Wood ash was used as an antiseptic..
Wood ash was and is used as a fertilizer.
When you see a fertilizer label that says ‘K 10’, it is 10% potassium, which can be recovered from wood ashes.
Potassium is a fertilizer, which works apart from ash’s ability to change pH level. Wood ashes do both things.
Wood ash was used as a colorant in ancient tattooing, and as an ingredient in tanning hides, in some cultures.
When tanning hides, pre-industrial people used the nearest, natural products that worked the best,
were the most abundant, and the easiest to acquire.
American natives used the alkaline in wood ashes to preserve and treat corn, make it more palatable and store-able as ‘hominy’, The alkaline in the wood ashes killed some toxic things in the corn. It also helped release the B-3 vitamin called ‘niacin’. Niacin-deficiency is called ‘pellagra’. Look it up.
A lot of white settlers suffered from pellagra when they ate only untreated corn.
When ashes are wetted, the drained-off liquid evaporates to a paste or solid crystals.
The result is called ‘Potash', which contains a strong alkaline called 'lye’.
Lye is an important chemical.
Here is a short list of things that lye, in different forms, is used for:
soaps, anticoagulant medicine, drain cleaners, batteries, epoxy resin, paper production,
refining aluminum ore, and electroplating.
The chrome on your car bumper is possible because of lye.
Of course, the lye in your grandpa's anticoagulant blood medicine is a lot more diluted in than the lye in drain cleaners.
And we let the chemistry-experts decide the proportions, eh?
People throughout history have cooked lye with animal fat to make soap.
Nordic lutefisk (preserved fish) is made with a lye-based process.
Nordic people also soak 'Reindeer Moss' in wood ash or potash to temper its acidity before eating it.
The potash washed out of wood ashes is also used to make glass.
Potash was an important part of the economy of early America, and wood ashes were valuable because of the chemicals they contained. Homesteaders with heavily-treed farms could often get the land cleared for free.
Men would cut and burn the trees for the ashes they would recover, then sell.
Wood ashes are amazing.
Eric J. Rose
some info from: https://practicalselfreliance.com/wood-ash-uses/