Common Name: Shea Butter
Latin Name: Vitellaria paradoxa, previously known as Butyrospermum parkii
Shea butter is a fat extracted from the nut of the African Shea Tree. The tree goes by many names, depending on where you are asking, but the English translation comes from the tree’s name in Mali’s language of Bambara, sǐ. The tree is also widely known as the Karité tree, which comes from the word ghariti in the Wolof language of Senegal, and is what shea butter is called in French.
The shea tree grows in over 20 countries across Africa, mostly in the western to eastern Savannah. The Shea fruit consists of a thin, tart, nutritious substance that surrounds a relatively large, oil-rich seed from which Shea Butter is extracted.
Making shea butter is a multi-step process, first harvesting, drying and grinding the nuts, then boiling the resulting powder in water. The oils and fats rise to the top and solidify, leaving us with the final buttery product. It is naturally an ivory colour, though it is commonly dyed yellow with palm oil or borututu root and is widely reputed in the cosmetics industry for its moisturizing and reparative qualities, and used in a wide range of hair and skin products.
The Shea Nut tree has been used for centuries as a source of food and medicine in Africa. Regional trade of Shea butter across West Africa dates back to the fourteenth century, and has been documented to have been imported to Britain as early as 1846. It is even reputed that Nefertiti and The Queen of Sheba were long time users of and Cleopatra’s need for caravans of clay jars filled with shea butter is widely known.
The benefits of this wonderful tree and the products have been incorporated into our Western daily lives and will help improve the quality of our natural lifestyle; not to mention creating financial stability for many West African women.
Parts Used: Oils collected from whole nuts.
Constituents: palmitic fatty acid, stearic fatty acid, oleic fatty acid, linoleic fatty acid, and arachidic fatty acid
Actions: anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, emollient, humectant, antioxidant, uv protection
Shea butter is mostly used in skin and hair care products for it’s superior moisturizing and reparative abilities. Traditionally, shea butter was used by African women to nourish and moisturise their bellies during pregnancy as well as for baby massage.
It is known to relieve tightness and itching from very dry skin helping with “winter itch” and itchy belly during pregnancy.
Its properties promote and protect skin barrier health along with reducing inflammation of the skin. It has an estimated SPF of 5 and is often used as a base for suncare creams.
Shea butter is used in multiple other areas, including reducing scarring for keloids, controlling dandruff, cooking, water-proofing, and even as a nasal decongestant.
Used In: Lip Balm, Baby Creme, Body Butter, Belly Jelly, Hand Creme, Nappy Ointment, Antioxidant Face Creme, Leg and Back Creme, Bio-degradable Soap, Baby Sun Care Stick, Natural Sun Care Cream, and Unscented Sun Care Creme