Friday, May 31, 2013

Shea Butter and it many uses...

Shea butter is so wonderful for the skin, which is why it is in so many skincare products and so recognizable.
Shea-Karite Tree

The Shea-Karite tree grows wild in the savannahs of west and central Africa.   It takes 15 years before a tree will bear the nuts that the shea butter is harvested from and about 30 years before the tree will produce quality nuts.   It is commonly referred to as the “tree of life” because of its many uses.   The nuts, root and bark are used for food and medicine.  Shea butter and it use dates back to the Egyptian queen Nefertiti and the Queen of Sheba.  The Shea tree is so revered it is forbidden for anyone to cut down or damage a Shea tree and, thanks is still given to it in many religious ceremonies.

Shea butter is an all natural product that varies in quality, appearance and smell.  This all depends on where the tree is grown and how the butter is extracted and refined.  Shea butter is solid at room temperature but will quickly liquefy near body temperature. It is best to store Shea butter in a cool, dry place.  Refrigeration is not required.

Unrefined Shea Butter

Refined Shea Butter
Raw or unrefined shea butter is creamy in color like whipped butter and has a nutty smell to it.  Refined Shea butter is white and the smell has been removed.   If you buy refined shea butter make sure it is filtered through clay and is not refined using hexane or other solvents.  Unrefined shea butter smell will diminish over time and in about 2 or 3 years it will lose it nutritional value.  If the butter begins to have a bad odor it is probably too old to use or has gone rancid.   
Shea Nut
Women are usually responsible for the process of making Shea Butter. This process takes place in the rainy seasons from May to August when the Shea nuts are harvested. Shea nuts are extracted from the fruit by crushing and boiling. Shea nuts are picked, cracked, grilled and pounded to extract the butter which is then boiled in water until the fresh shea butter rises to the surface. It is then scooped into gourds and left to cool and set. This many sound easy but it is very labor intensive.   Traditional extraction is a very long process.  It can take between 20-30 hours to extract 2.2 pounds, but through this process, shea butter retains more of its nutritional, skin care and medicinal benefits.

Some benefits of Shea Butter…

  • Soothing for many skin issues like eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis
  • Helps with premature facial lines and wrinkles.
  • Helps protect against the sun
  • Contains five essential fatty acids, (a major amount coming from stearic and oleic acids), phytosterols, vitamins E and D, allantoin and vitamin A.
  • Stimulates collagen production.
  • It helps with cracked and peeling skin
  • Great as a skin moisturizer
  • Helps with dry scalp
  • Aids in diaper rash
  • Soften skin on feet
  • Helps with stretch mark during pregnancy
  • Absorbs quickly without leaving a greasy residue
  • Helps restore elasticity to skin
  • Restores luster to hair
Not all Shea trees produce the same quality of butter. The varieties found in Northern Uganda and the Southern Sudan are of better quality but are very expensive due to political reasons and civil unrest in the areas.  Trees that produce a lower grade of butter that cannot be used in cosmetics or food are still put to good use.  This butter is commonly used as lamp fuel, candles, lubricants and weather-proofing. 

If you have never used Shea Butter it is worth giving it a try.  Make sure you do your research on the quality of Shea Butter you are purchasing.

No comments:

Post a Comment