Karite butter, more popularly known as Shea Butter, is a natural fatty substance derived from the nuts of the Shea (Butyrospermum parkii) Tree, which grows only in the tropical regions of West and Central Africa.
Butyrospermum parkii, also called Mangifolia tree, begins to bear fruit after about 15 years of growth — and can take up to 30 years to yield a quality harvest of nuts that contain a high content of irremovable fatty acid. This irremovable fatty acid property gives Shea Butter its distinct therapeutic qualities and benefits to the skin that are far superior to cocoa butter or other vegetable butters.
Depending on the source of the nuts used, Shea Butter’s color varies anywhere from pale yellow to cream and ivory white. And since Shea Butter is a natural product, its quality, appearance and smell may be different from batch to batch, depending on where it originated and how it is extracted or refined.
History and Origin
Though Shea Butter has gained popularity in recent years, its application is far from a recent discovery. In fact, Africans have been using Shea Butter for several centuries to revitalize their skin and hair and to protect them from the sun, wind and salt water.
In addition, Africans also use Shea Butter as a cooking lard, waterproofing wax, for hairstyling and candle making, and as a medicinal ingredient for ointments. African makers of traditional percussion instruments also use Shea Butter to improve the resilience of wood and leather binds.
Shea Butter is extracted by cracking the shea nuts, then drying, grilling and grinding the kernel. The resulting powder is then boiled in water for hours until an oily substance rises and solidifies at the surface, creating the Shea Butter.
Shea Butter Properties
Shea Butter is a compound fat that possesses many non-saponifiable elements (constituents that cannot be fully turned into soap by an alkali treatment). It is normally solid at room temperature but quickly melts at around body temperature.
The skin also easily absorbs Shea Butter without a greasy after feel, and because it contains many of the fatty acids needed to maintain skin’s moisture and elasticity, Shea Butter makes a superior additive to soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, lotions, massage oils, and moisturizers like our very own natural facial moisturizers, which are all rich in certified organic Shea Butter.
Loaded with vitamins A and E, Shea Butter protects the skin against environmental and free radical damage, and contains both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory qualities. Plus, it is packed with a high content of cinnamic acid (a substance that helps shield the skin from harmful UV rays), creating a gentle, completely natural sunscreen.
Uses and Benefits
In medicine, Shea Butter has been recognized as a topical anti-inflammatory, helpful in treating arthritis. It also contains a chemical known as stigmasterol, (aka “the anti-stress factor”), which is said to ease symptoms of rheumatism. Moreover, studies show that Shea Butter can be used as a nasal relief by applying it to the inside of the nostrils.
However, what has made Shea Butter so in-demand today is its amazing benefits to the skin, which Africans have widely celebrated for thousands of years. Shea Butter can be used to support healing of burns, wounds, scars, eczema, psoriasis, dandruff and stretch marks. It also helps minimize wrinkles and delays the signs of aging by deeply moisturizing the skin, boosting cell regeneration and improving micro-circulation. In addition, some of the health and beauty benefits of Shea Butter include:
- Supports healing of wounds, blemishes and rashes;
- Eases skin peeling after tanning;
- Alleviates itching due to dryness;
- Softens rough, cracked skin on feet (especially the heels);
- Protects against environmental elements;
- Prevents bumps and irritation after shaving;
- Helps restore skin’s suppleness;
- Maintains lustrous, healthy-looking hair.
It is pretty obvious that the numerous benefits of Shea Butter make it a wise choice when looking for skin care products that are the most beneficial to your skin, but the benefits of Shea Butter-rich products don’t stop at skin and hair care.
When personal care manufacturers like Alchemilla purchase Shea Butter as a raw material, they also assist communities in Africa, and especially women in business in those communities, who depend upon this wonderful natural resource for their livelihoodcontain certified organic Shea Butter may be found at our Butyrospermum parkii Herbarium page.