Health benefits of Shea Butter

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Shea butter Quick Facts
Name: Shea butter
Scientific Name: Vitellaria paradoxa
Origin Sub Saharan Africa from Senegal to Sudan, Western Ethiopia and Uganda
Colors Initially green but turning yellowish green or brown at maturity
Shapes Sub globose or elongate berries about 5-8 cm long and 3-4 cm wide
Health benefits Arthritis, Nasal Inflammation and Nasal Congestion, Lowers Cholesterol, Treat Diarrhea, Wound Healing, Insect Bites, Dermatitis, Psoriasis, and Eczema, UV Protection, Anti-aging, Hair care, Reduces scalp irritation, Restores the Elasticity of the Skin, Reduce Razor Irritation and Bumps, Excellent Lip Care, Reduces Stretch Marks, Helps Soothe Skin and Baby Diaper Rash, Prevents Hair Loss, Soothes Muscle Aches, Rheumatism, Cracked heels and cuticles
Shea butter tree scientifically known as Vitellaria paradoxa is a small to medium-sized tree belonging to Sapotaceae (Sapodilla family).  Shea butter is actually a byproduct of shea nuts that are harvested from the Vitellaria paradoxa tree in West Africa. The plant is native to semi acrid and sub humid savannas of sub Saharan Africa from Senegal to Sudan, Western Ethiopia and Uganda. It may also be found in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea and Congo. The shea tree is also known as the “karite tree” (which means “tree of life”) because of its many healing properties. Shea butter is produced through an arduous process of harvesting, washing, and preparing the shea nuts from which oil is then extracted.

Shea nut tree, shea-butter tree, shea tree, bambouk butter tree, galam butter tree, Karite-nut, Shea, Shea butter are some of the popular common names of the plant. There is evidence that food, skin balms, soaps, shampoos, traditional medicines, cooking, and lamp oils have been made with shea butter in Africa for thousands of years. Its use has been documented as far back as the 14th century. Recently, use of shea butter has become prevalent in hair and skincare products throughout North America.

Shea Nut Facts

Name Shea butter
Scientific Name Vitellaria paradoxa
Native Semi acrid and sub humid savannas of sub Saharan Africa from Senegal to Sudan, Western Ethiopia and Uganda. It may also be found in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea and Congo
Common Names Shea nut tree, shea-butter tree, shea tree, bambouk butter tree, galam butter tree, Karite-nut, Shea, Shea butter
Name in Other Languages Akan: Nkuto
Arabic: Zabida  (زبدة), oum kouroum, lulu
Bamoun: Sap
Bangangté: Kekombichop
Basque: Karite
Baya: Kol
Catalan: Karité
Czech: Máslovník africký
Dutch: Shea tree
English: Bambouk-buttertree, Galam-buttertree, Karite-nut, Shea, Shea butter, Shea-buttertree, Sheatree, Shea Butter Tree
Esperanto: Buterarbo
Finnish: Voipuu
French: Arbre à beurre, Karité, arbre à beurre d’Afrique
Fula: Balire,kareje
German: Schibutterbaum, Karitébaum, Butterbaum, Afrikanischer; Galambutterbaum,  afrikanischer Butterbaum
Honduras: Tango
Italy: Albero del burro
Japanese: Shiābatānoki (シアーバターノキ)
Lithuanian: Afrikinis sviestmedis
Macedonian: Masleno drvo (маслено дрво)
Persian: درخت روغن قلم
Polish: Masłosz Parka
Portuguese: Carité, Cárei, árvore-da-manteiga-de-shea
Russian: Shi (Ши)
Spanish: Butirospermo, Árbol montequero
Swedish: Sheasmörträd
Plant Growth Habit Deciduous, small to medium-sized deciduous tree
Growing Climates Open sites, parkland savannah, wooded savannahs and clear forests
Soil Grows on a variety of soils, such as clay, sandy clay, sand, stony soil and laterites. It prefers colluvial slopes with moderately moist, deep soils, rich in organic matter. Plants can also succeed in poor, lateritic soils
Plant Size Usually 7–15 m (23-49 ft.) tall, but has reached 25 m (82 ft.) and a trunk diameter of 2 m (6.5 ft.)
Bark Bark conspicuously thick, corky, horizontally and longitudinally deeply fissured. It is dark gray to blackish colored and helps to protects older trees against bush fires. Slash pale pink, secreting white latex, as broken twigs or petioles
Leaf Leaves in dense clusters, spirally arranged at the end of stout twigs. They are covered by thick bark showing numerous leaf scars. Petioles are 5-15 cm long, leaves oblong.
Flowering season December to early August
Flower Flowers are white or creamy-white, about 1.5 cm in diameter and subtended by scarious, brown, ovate or lanceolate bracteoles, which are abscised before flower opening.
Fruit Shape & Size Subglobose or elongate berries about 5-8 cm long and 3-4 cm wide, with persistent, yellowish calyx lobes; fleshy pulp with white latex
Fruit Color Initially green but turning yellowish green or brown at maturity
Fruit Weight Weighing 10-50 g
Seed Single seed of variable form, up to 4.5 cm long, brown, shiny, scarred all the way up; whitish almond
Plant Parts Used Fruits, seeds, fat, leaves, flowers, roots, bark, wood, nut oil
Season May and August and harvest from June to September
Health Benefits
  • Arthritis
  • Nasal Inflammation and Nasal Congestion
  • Lowers Cholesterol
  • Treat Diarrhea
  • Wound Healing
  • Insect Bites
  • Dermatitis, Psoriasis, and Eczema
  • UV Protection
  • Anti-aging
  • Hair care
  • Reduces scalp irritation
  • Restores the Elasticity of the Skin
  • Reduce Razor Irritation and Bumps
  • Excellent Lip Care
  • Reduces Stretch Marks
  • Helps Soothe Skin and Baby Diaper Rash
  • Prevents Hair Loss
  • Soothes Muscle Aches
  • Rheumatism
  • Cracked heels and cuticles

Plant Description

Shea butter tree is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree that normally grows about 7–15 m (23-49 ft.) tall, but has reached 25 m (82 ft.) and a trunk diameter of 2 m (6.5 ft.). The plant is much branched, dense, spreading with round to hemispherical crown. Bark is conspicuously thick, corky, horizontally and longitudinally deeply fissured. It is dark gray to blackish colored and helps to protects older trees against bush fires. Slash pale pink, secreting white latex, as broken twigs or petioles. The plant is found growing in open sites, parkland savannah, wooded savannahs and clear forests. It grows on a variety of soils, such as clay, sandy clay, sand, stony soil and laterites. It prefers colluvial slopes with moderately moist, deep soils, rich in organic matter. Plants can also succeed in poor, lateritic soils.


Leaves in dense clusters, spirally arranged at the end of stout twigs. They are covered by thick bark showing numerous leaf scars. Petioles are 5-15 cm long, leaves oblong. Juvenile leaves are rust-red and pubescent, later coriaceous, glabrous and dark green, shining, 12-25 cm long and 4-7 cm wide, leaf margin wavy and bent.


The flowers develop in the axils of scale leaves, at the extremities of dormant twigs, from buds formed 2 years previously. Inflorescence is a dense fascicle 5-7.5 cm in diameter, at the end of a flowering twig, each usually containing 30-40 flowers, though 80-100 have been recorded. Individual flowers are white or creamy-white, about 1.5 cm in diameter and subtended by scarious, brown, ovate or lanceolate bracteoles, which are abscised before flower opening. Flowering normally takes from December to early August.


Fertile flowers are followed by subglobose or elongate berries about 5-8 cm long and 3-4 cm wide, with persistent, yellowish calyx lobes; fleshy pulp with white latex. They are yellow-green or yellow colored. Fruits consist up to four shiny oval or round red-brown seeds surrounded by a fragile shining shell with a large, round, rough hilum on a broad base.

History of Shea Butter

The shea tree has naturally inhabited West Africa for centuries, extending from Senegal to Sudan and up to the foothills of Ethiopia. African history documents mention jars of a rich butter used for skin and hair care being transported during Cleopatra’s reign. Even the Queen of Sheba is said to have used it!

The tree was used to make coffins for the early kings in Africa, and the butter extracted from the nuts was used for its healing and skin care properties. The tree is also considered sacred by many tribes in Africa. It is still extensively used in Africa to protect the skin and hair from the harsh sun and dry winds. While kneading the extracted oil with the hand was popular earlier, advancements in technology have led to different methods, such as clay filtering and using hexane for the final extraction of shea butter. Few tribes also blend it with palm oil and use it for cooking purposes. This is mostly seen in Northern Nigeria.

Health benefits of Shea Butter

Shea butter, which refers to the pale solid fat substance, obtained from the seeds of a shea tree, has biochemical effects that make it appropriate for healing the skin. Shea butter can actually heal cracked and blemished skin. Apart from healing small wounds on the skin, shea butter is also very effective in dealing with skin rashes. Apart, shea butter can also address other skin problems like dermatitis, bites, burns and poison ivy irritation.  Listed below are some of the common health benefits of Shea butter

1. Arthritis

Arthritis is a chronic joint complaint that is often related with increasing age, obesity, and trauma. It can be very painful for people who suffer from it. The pain is continuous and disturbs basic movement and the quality of life in an arthritis patient. The unsaponifiable material of shea butter is mostly composed of triterpenes. These compounds have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Its usage by arthritis patients has shown excellent results in alleviating the swelling and pain.(1), (2)

2. Nasal Inflammation and Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion is often a result of inflammation of the inner linings of the nasal passages. The anti-inflammatory compounds of shea butter can reduce this inflammation and clear your nostrils. Research conducted to test the efficacy of shea butter concluded that the participants experienced nasal congestion clearance in just 90 seconds. (3)

3. Lowers Cholesterol

As we mentioned previously, shea butter is edible and is used by peoples in Africa for food preparation. Including shea butter to your diet helps to lower cholesterol in the blood. This butter is rich in stearic acid, a type of saturated fatty acid that was shown to reduce lipoprotein and plasma cholesterol levels. (4)

4. Treat Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a symptom of many ailments and can also occur just by itself. It can be treated using a wide range of medicines and herbal concoctions. There is increased demand these days for the addition of shea butter to dietary-aid products that are being formulated for diarrhea treatment. This is based on the traditional usage of shea butter for its anti-diarrheal properties. (5)

5. Wound Healing

Shea butter has skin moisturizing properties, and these are accompanied by healing properties because of the wide variety of phytonutrients it contains. Wounds, cuts, and abrasions are healed quickly with regular application of shea butter. It gets easily absorbed into the deeper layers of the skin, where it supplies all the essential fats and nutrients while enhancing the cell repair function by increasing microcirculation. (6)

6. Insect Bites

Due to its high content of vitamin A, it encourages healing and disinfection and calms skin allergies like poison ivy and insect bites. The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties accelerate the healing process. Insect bites are often prone to developing an infection, and this can be prevented by using shea butter on it. (7)

7. Dermatitis, Psoriasis, and Eczema

Conditions like dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema cause the skin to become dry, flaky, patchy, scaly, and/or itchy. We need an ingredient that works as a deep moisturizer and alleviates the inflammation to treat them. Shea butter suits this profile perfectly. It is considered as an excellent moisturizer for eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis because of its efficacious emollient and humectant properties. The anti-inflammatory properties of this thick butter can be used for lessening the swelling and itching. Doctors often recommend shea butter to people suffering from these skin ailments as it is safe and well tolerated.(8), (9)

8. UV Protection

Shea butter acts as a natural sunscreen by providing protection against the ultraviolet radiations of the sun, though the level of protection offered may be variable. Cinnamic acid, found in shea butter, is a compound that provides UV protection, and the SPF ranges from 6-10 depending on the butter’s quality. It is not recommended to use shea butter alone as a sunscreen as its SPF is considered to be low to provide ample protection from the harmful rays. Shea butter is best used after sun exposure to soothe the skin and also reverse the oxidative damage caused by the sun. (10)

9. Anti-aging

Several studies have found that shea butter helps cell regeneration, minimizes signs of aging, and boosts collagen. Many of these benefits are also credited to amyrin.

10. Hair care

Shea butter also has a lot of potential in the hair care world. While shea butter hasn’t been extensively studied or reported on in scientific journals, related butters and oils have been researched with animal and human subjects.

11. Reduces scalp irritation

Shea butter’s anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce redness and scalp irritation by providing healing effects without clogging the pores. Additionally, as a natural product, it’s safe to use on all types of hair, even hair that’s damaged, dry, or color treated.

Raw shea butter isn’t the only hair care solution available. Certain over-the-counter hair care products (especially conditioners) also contain shea butter. The role of conditioners in overall hair health includes strengthening hair fibers, lubricating cuticles, and reducing frizz.

12. Restores the Elasticity of the Skin

Non-saponifiable matter and vitamin F in this butter are vital ingredients for maintaining the skin’s elasticity. Shea butter also improves the production of collagen in the skin. Thus, its application restores the natural elasticity of the skin besides hydrating, softening, and beautifying it. Restored elasticity also ensures reduced wrinkles and blemishes.

13. Reduce Razor Irritation and Bumps

Shaving hair using razors can often leave your skin irritated and itchy. It might even develop bumps post shaving as a result of the irritation. Shea butter can help reduce this as it moisturizes and soothes the irritated skin. You can also apply the butter a day prior to shaving to smoothen the skin and hair. This will make the shaving process easier and faster and doesn’t leave any irritated spots behind.

14. Excellent Lip Care

Shea butter is easily absorbable and offers extra moisture and nutrients that the lips need during the cold season and dry weather conditions. Thus, it acts as a perfect lip balm and is also effective for treating dry and chapped lips. When applied, it forms a barrier on the lips and retains moisture in the skin.

15. Reduces Stretch Marks

Shea butter is often used as a base in ointments or creams prepared commercially for stretch mark treatment. It can dramatically prevent and reduce stretch marks formed during pregnancy due to weight gain and/or weight loss. These marks are formed when the skin stretches beyond its elastic capacity. The application of shea butter will restore the natural elasticity of the skin and also improve collagen production. It is a natural emollient. Daily massage of the affected area with this skin healing butter can lighten stretch marks.

16. Helps Soothe Skin and Baby Diaper Rash

Unrefined shea butter is an excellent natural moisturizer that is devoid of chemicals. Thus, it is ideal for baby care as besides being gentle and soft on the skin, it is particularly adapted for the delicate and sensitive skin of babies. It can be applied after a bath and also used for healing eczema or diaper rash on the skin of babies and toddlers

17. Prevents Hair Loss

Fatty acids of shea butter condition the scalp and hair. It provides numerous essential nutrients that improve both scalp and hair health. These, in turn, will make your hair follicles stronger and reduce hair fall and hair loss. Another important property of shea butter that can prevent hair loss is its anti-inflammatory properties. Scalp conditions can be treated by these compounds, thus reducing hair loss. Your hair will grow thicker and have a natural shine when you use shea butter.

18. Soothes Muscle Aches

Muscular pain often results from an inflammation at the affected site due to exertion or a muscular ailment. Traditionally, shea butter has been extensively used in Africa to relieve muscle aches and soreness. Even though there is no solid proof for this, feedback from people who have used shea butter to massage the affected site showed that they noticed a reduction in the swelling as well as the pain.

19. Rheumatism

Rheumatism is often characterized by joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness. Pain and swelling can also be present just in the muscles or the fibrous tissue. It is used as an ointment on the parts of the body affected by rheumatism to relieve the swelling and pain. Its anti-inflammatory properties are of key importance here as rheumatism is basically an inflammatory disease.

20. Cracked heels and cuticles

Summer is around the corner and that means sandals and fresh pedicures! No one should have to suffer from crunchy toes and feet, and nothing makes your hands look more unattractive than dry, hard cuticles. Try the sock method at bedtime for your feet. After showering, dry your feet then give yourself a nice foot massage with the shea butter. Slip your socks on so that by morning your feet will be soft and moisturized. For your cuticles, try keeping a small container of shea butter with you at all times so that you can moisturize your hands with it after every time you wash your hands, keeping your hands and cuticles soft.

Potential Side Effects And Risks 

Now that you’re well familiar with the health benefits of shea butter, it’s time to know if it has possible side effects and risks. Primarily, there are no specific documented cases of allergies caused by shea butter products. In fact, shea butter is believed to be safe for all skin types since allergy to shea butter may be non-existent or rare due to the small amount of protein in this tree nut product. 

However, if you start experiencing inflammation and irritation, it’s best to discontinue using shea butter products on your skin. In case of swelling, severe pain, and difficulty breathing after using, seeking immediate medical attention is necessary for proper treatment. 

Making Shea Butter

The nuts are first sorted and parboiled, and then left to dry in the hot sunshine for up to one week. When the shea nuts are completely dehydrated, they can either be stored for several weeks or months, or they go to the next step of shea butter production.

Crushing the dried nuts, either with a wooden pestle, or, in more sophisticated operations, a special press causes the nuts and the kernels to be separated. Next, the kernels are roasted in large metal pots and processed through a grinder, which results in a brown colored paste. This paste is processed a second time. The labor-intensive procedure continues with the mixing and kneading of the kernels after some water has been added. While this step of the shea butter making production goes on for several hours, it’s a vital step as this is what creates the shea butter itself. It’s still unrefined, but many people prefer the natural shea butter to the more refined versions. Also, there are places in Africa that have various types of shea refining machinery, allowing the shea extracting process to remain easier for all parties involved. For instance, the shea butter is filtered by a natural cold process method that strains the shea butter of any debris such as gourd pieces, dirt, leaves, etc. Most shea butter that is refined in Africa is usually free of hexane solvents that not only bleach and remove many of the vitamins and minerals, but also can remain in the finished product.

Unrefined Shea Butter

This type of shea butter has a wide range of colors and some differences in textures. Generally, unrefined shea butter is that which has been filtered [hopefully]and possibly refined at least once in the most natural cold process method. Beige, light or dark green, gray or dark tan is the colors that unrefined shea butter can end up. The green colors come from shea nuts that are less mature than the beige colors. Shea colors are also dependent upon the time of year the nuts are harvested and processed, along with the region in which the shea nuts are selected from.

While most unrefined shea butter maintains all the vitamins, especially vitamin A and E, and minerals, it also retains its aroma. The scent of unrefined shea is what discourages a lot of people from trying this healing butter, as it can be a rather earthy combination of smoky and nutty. The aroma, while being somewhat strong, depending upon the shea butter and your sense of smell, does disappear after it has been applied to your skin within a matter of minutes. Unrefined shea butter’s texture can vary from smooth and creamy; think commercial smooth peanut butter, to hard, waxy and/or chunky, such as a crunchy peanut butter.

So, if you plan to purchase an unrefined shea butter product, you should look at some reliable websites. Many digital shops offer a wide range of shea butter products that suit your needs. 

However, with several options available in the market, choosing the best one can take time. If you’re struggling to find the right product in Australia or wherever you may be, go to your preferred search engine and use keywords like ‘buy shea butter Australia online’ on the search tab. This way, you can get more accurate results and narrow your options. From there, you can pick the appropriate organic unrefined shea butter online. 

Refined Shea Butter

Actually there are two categories here: Ultra-Refined and Refined. The first type is usually white to cream colored, has no discernable nutty/smoky scent, and is smooth and creamy. The difficulty with ultra or even refined shea butter is in knowing whether that product has been commercially refined to remove its minerals and vitamins with a hexane solvent. Also, shea butter can be bleached to make it appear even lighter. One way to determine a shea butter’s authenticity is to see if it has been cold-pressed, sometimes called cold-processed or expeller-pressed.

The Refined shea, which ranges in color from white to beige, is sometimes referred to as gently refined, has had some of its vitamin/mineral properties removed in the process of refining, but it does retain a bit of a beige or light tan color and nutty aroma. The texture can be either creamy or chunky.

The ideal shea butter would feel creamy and smooth and be absorbed into your skin quickly. Also, the nutty and/or smoky scent should be lighter. Shea butter can be mixed with fragrances and essential oils to completely change the aroma, making it sweet, spicy, fruity, floral, herbal, etc.

Traditional uses and benefits of Shea butter

  • Shea Butter is used for topical medicines against rheumatic and joint pains, wounds, swellings, dermatitis, bruises, and other skin conditions.
  • It is also useful as relief from nasal congestion and rhinitis.
  • Leaves are used to treat stomach pain and headache, and as eye bath.
  • Ground roots and bark are used to treat diarrhea, jaundice, and stomach ache.
  • Bark infusions have antimicrobial properties and are used against dysentery.
  • Shea butter may relieve nasal congestion better than conventional nasal drops.
  • They are applied as eyewash to counteract spitting-cobra venom.
  • Bark decoction has been used in baths to facilitate childbirth and stimulate lactation among feeding mothers.
  • Powdered roots are used against liver cancer, stomach pains (gastritis), female infertility and ascites.
  • Cold macerated or decoction tender leaves treat jaundice, relieve nausea, constipation, diarrhea and stomach bloating.
  • Bark is used superficially or in decoction, it is used for medico-magic purposes and is used in the treatment of madness, fevers, constipation, schistosomiasis, amoebic dysentery, coughing etc.
  • Leaf ash kills lice.
  • Shea butter is traditionally used in medicines, particularly for the preparation of skin ointments, and is used to treat inflammation, rashes in children, dermatitis, sunburn, chapping, irritation, ulcers and as a rub for rheumatism.
  • Roots and root bark are ground to a paste and taken orally to cure jaundice, or are boiled and pounded to treat chronic sores and girth sores in horses.
  • Bark infusion is used as an eyewash as a footbath to help extract jiggers, and to neutralize the venom of the spitting cobra.
  • Infusions have been taken for the treatment of leprosy in Guinea-Bissau.
  • Macerated with the bark of Ceiba pentandra and salt, infusions have been used to treat cattle with worms in Senegal and Guinea.
  • In northern Ghana the leaves are used in medicine for the treatment of stomach ache especially in children.
  • Leaves are also used in a mixture with other leaves in a traditional mixture to produce a vapor which is used to bath persons for the treatment of fevers and headaches.
  • Leaves when soaked in water turns to a soapy and frothy liquid which is used to bath the head of persons suffering from fever.
  • İn cases of eye problems a leaf decoction can be used as treatment.
  • Roots of the shea tree are used by locals in Northern Nigeria as chewing sticks for cleaning the teeth.
  • Roots are also combined in mixture with the bark in traditional medicine for the treatment of jaundice, diarrhea and stomach pain.
  • Root bark is boiled and pounded and used for treating chronic sores in horses.
  • It is also used to heal skin rashes and inflammation in children, sunburn, dermatitis, ulcers, chapping, irritation, and is also used on the skin to treat rheumatism.
  • Roots as well as the bark of shea tree are pounded to make a paste and ingested for treating jaundice.
  • In Cote d’Ivoire people prepare a decoction from the bark of shea tree and use it in a bath with a view to assist childbirth.
  • Decoction is also drunk by nursing mothers to promote breast milk secretion.
  • People in Nigeria consider this concoction to be deadly. An infusion made from the shea tree bark is used in the form of an eye wash, a footbath to facilitate extraction of jiggers, and also to counteract the venom of a spitting cobra.
  • In Guinea-Bissau, people have also used the infusion internally for treating leprosy.
  • It is also effective in healing bruises, wounds, swellings and several other problems related to the skin.
  • Traditionally, people have been using shea butter to get relief from inflammation inside the nostrils.
  • The roots of shea tree are used for cleansing the teeth as well as promoting oral health.

Culinary Uses

  • Mature fruits are eaten fresh and flowers are made into fritters.
  • Kernel of the seed consists of a vegetable fat known as shea butter.
  • High quality shea butter is consumed throughout West Africa as a cooking fat.
  • It is used for pastries and confectionery because it makes the dough pliable.
  • Fruit pulp is first removed for food, or by fermentation or boiling.
  • Seeds are then boiled and later sun- or kiln-dried.
  • In spite of their slightly laxative properties, mature fresh fruits are considered an important local food.
  • They are commonly eaten in savannah regions because they ripen during the land preparation and planting season.
  • The pulp has a sweet flavor.
  • Flowers are also considered important local foods.
  • Reddish latex which exudes from deep cuts in the bark is used as a chewing gum.
  • Butter is used in local food for making sauces and fried foods.
  • The pulp is also used in pastry.
  • Fresh leaves are used to pack food.
  • The fleshy pulp is sweet and is eaten as food.
  • The pulp is also used to make jam.
  • The bark of the shea tree is boiled and taken as a beverage.
  • The pulp is also made into wine.

Selection and Storage Tips

Shea Butter Buying Tips

Keep these pointers in mind when buying shea butter

  • Look for the raw or unrefined version of shea butter.
  • Ensure that the butter has come from a reliable source or company that believes in ethics, fair trade, and is environment-friendly.
  • Check the shea butter’s smell. It should be a little nutty or earthy. Any plastic-like or chemical scent indicates that it is not an unrefined version.
  • If possible, try on a small amount of shea butter on your arm. It should be soothing and moisturizing.
  • As far as the color is concerned, it ranges quite a bit when it comes to the unrefined version.
  • Make sure the butter you are planning to purchase is not ivory-colored as a lighter color indicates that it has gone through the refinement process of bleaching.

How to Store Shea Butter

The best way to store 100% shea butter is to store it in a cool environment in an airtight container. Keep it away from the sun. Quite often, vitamin E is added to shea butter to increase its shelf life. On an average, 100% shea butter has a shelf life of two years. If you sense an acidic/rancid smell, it might be time to throw it away.

Shea Butter Recipes

Body Butter Lotion



  1. Melt the coconut oil and shea butter in a double boiler.
  2. Mix well and let it cool down for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add almond oil and mix well.
  4. Place this in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. The oils should start to solidify a little.
  5. Once the natural solidification process has started, whip the oil blend using a hand mixer or a kitchen aid mixer until you get a thick, creamy consistency.
  6. Transfer this to an airtight container and keep it aside. Allow it to set.
  7. Use as and when required to moisturize the body.

Lavender Mint Lip Balm


  • 2 tablespoons raw shea butter
  • 1 tablespoon beeswax
  • 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
  • 6-7 drops lavender oil
  • 6-7 drops peppermint oil


  1. Melt the shea butter, beeswax, and coconut oil in a double boiler.
  2. Let them cool down slightly and then add the essential oils.
  3. Mix thoroughly and pour the concoction into small jars or lip balm tins.
  4. Leave aside until the contents set.
  5. Use once or twice a day as a regular lip balm.

Other Uses

Fodder: Shea-nut cake is increasingly used for livestock and poultry feed. Leaves and young sprouts serve as forage. Sheep and pigs eat the sugary pulp of ripe fruit that have fallen to the ground.

Apiculture: The tree is much sought after for placing hives in traditional apiculture. Vitellaria furnish the bees with a great quantity of nectar and pollen.

Fuel: Excellent-quality firewood that burns with a fierce heat. Charcoal is not good quality, however; it burns rapidly and is friable and, although it provides enough heat for domestic use, is not suitable for iron-working. The sticky black residue from fat extraction can also be used as a substitute for kerosene when lighting firewood. Due to its value as a fruit tree, it is seldom cut for fuel.

Timber: Wood brownish-red, darkens readily on exposure; strong, hard, heavy, durable, resilient, and weathers and wears well. Despite its hardness, it saws and planes well, takes an excellent polish, and glues, nails and screws well, but pre-boring is advisable to prevent splitting. Wood is used in engineering structures, house posts and support poles, also in ship building, for shingles, stakes and fencing, sleepers, medium and heavy-duty flooring, joinery, seats, household utensils, durable platters and bowls, pestles and mortars and tool handles. It is termite resistant.

Latex or rubber: Latex is heated and mixed with palm oil to make glue. Latex obtained from the bark of the trees could be used as a chewing-gum base, but it does not have a very pleasant taste. Washing improves the taste but detracts from the chewing quality of the gum. The sap has been used traditionally to prepare punctured drums.

Tannin or dyestuff: Ashes from burnt wood are commonly used as the dye.

Lipids: Shea-butter tree is an important oil-producing plant, especially as it occurs where other such plants are rare. It is also useful in soap making, but it is unique in having a high fraction of oil (8%) that does not convert into soap; this fraction has numerous medicinal qualities.

The sticky black residue that remains after the clarification of butter is used for filling cracks in hut walls.

Wax: The high melting point of the fat reduces it especially suitable for candle manufacture.

Poison: Waste water from traditional shea-butter extraction is believed to keep white ants away. Traditionally, shea butter, at a rate of 5 ml oil/kg of seed, has been shown to protect Vigna subterranea against Callosobruchus maculatus.

Root-bark extract (100 ppm) is effective against Bulinus globosus; when mixed with tobacco, the roots are used as a poison by the Jukun of northern Nigeria. Infusions of the bark have selective antimicrobial properties, being effective against Sarcina lutea and Staphyllococus aureus.

Other Facts

  • Fruiting commences 10-15 years after planting but full production occurs at 20-30 years.
  • It is used for cooking, pastries, and confectionery, and as an excellent substitute for cocoa butter.
  • It is also used in cosmetic products, soap, and candles.
  • Wood is moderately heavy and resistant to termites.
  • Bark yields reddish latex which is used as a chewing gum, or made into glue and balls as toys.
  • Tree is also planted for soil and water conservation purposes as well as for environmental protection.
  • It is used for poles, house posts, rafters, flooring, utensils, and furniture.
  • It is also an excellent fuel wood and can be made into charcoal.
  • Many cosmetic products, especially moisturizers, lotions and lipsticks, use it as a base because its high unsaponifiable matter content imparts excellent moisturizing characteristics.
  • It is used in toothpastes and other oral hygiene products, in shampoos, lipsticks, cosmetic lotions and creams, and other cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.
  • Shea butter is also very suitable for making candles because of its high melting point.
  • As a waterproofing agent, shea butter is used as daubing for earthen walls, doors and windows.
  • Black sticky residue, left after oil extraction, is used to fill cracks in walls and also as a waterproofing material.
  • Press cake and the husks remaining after oil extraction are potential fertilizers and fuels.
  • Leaves, soaked in water, produce a good lather for washing.
  • Reddish latex which exudes from deep cuts in the bark is made into glue, chewing gum and balls for children’s games.
  • Musicians use it to repair drums.
  • Only unproductive and unhealthy trees are cut for timber.
  • Wood is used for poles, house posts, rafters, flooring, domestic utensils and furniture.
  • It is an excellent fuel wood, burning with great heat, and a source of charcoal.
  • It then produces nuts for up to 200 years.
  • The average yield is 15 to 20 kilograms (33-44 lbs.) of fresh fruit per tree, with optimum yields up to 45 kilograms (99 lbs.).
  • Each kilogram of fruit gives approximately 400 grams (14 oz.) of dry seeds.
  • Fruits and cakes are also used as livestock feed.
  • Infusions of the bark which are crushed together with the bark of Ceiba pentandra and salted are used to treat worm infestations in livestock.







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