The word “shea” is said to be derived from the tree’s name in Mali’s Bambara language. It is also known as mangifolia, karite nut, galam butter and bambuk butter. Try saying that three times fast!People have been using shea butter for food, and as a beauty product for more than 2,000 years. They say Cleopatra would travel with loads of clay pots containing shea butter for her personal use.
Shea butter is a fat extracted from the African Shea tree grown in Western Africa.The tree can take up to 30 years to produce its fruits at its most productive level. Unrefined, organic, raw shea has not been chemically altered. It can vary in color from ivory to light orange, to ash grey with a greenish tint. Color is not related to quality in the case of shea, where the most important factors are age and storage conditions, not uneven color tone.
Shea butter has vitamins A, E, K and F, and is a versatile, natural beauty ingredient with many uses and ways to apply it.It has a unique scent, which, like the color, varies from batch to batch. No two Shea nuts are alike, which is why batches vary in color and smell. The smell of natural unrefined Shea can be fruity, nutty or smoky and the fresher the Shea butter, the stronger the scent. The scent can be overpowering to some people. But leaving it uncovered for a few days and changing the container helps to lessen the scent if you find it a problem.
Why Choose Organic Unrefined Shea Butter?
Unrefined Shea butter maintains the vitality of the vitamins and minerals present when shea butter is natural. Using heat and chemicals in a refining process degrades the properties most valued in Shea butter as do the pesticides used on non-organic crops, so try to find raw virgin organic shea butter to get the most benefits.
Cosmetic Uses of Shea Butter
Shea butter is a versatile, natural beauty ingredient that can be used in many ways, including:
- lotion bars
- magnesium body butter
- lip balms, hand creams
- healing salves
- cuticle cream
- pregnancy salve to minimize stretch marks
- under-eye wrinkle remover
Storing Shea Butter
Shea butter is fine at room temperature but should be kept sealed and out of direct sunlight. Containers need to be sealed so that moisture does not build up inside the container and ruin your batch. Not requiring refrigeration is a huge plus but it is important to store it so that it remains solid but easy to spread. This means keeping it slightly below room temperature.
Shea Butter as Food
Believe it or not, shea butter is often used as a cooking oil and in foods in many parts of West Africa.Studies have shown shea butter to be an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and to lower cholesterol. As mentioned earlier, shea butter is loaded with vitamins.Try it in your baking recipes in the place of lard or oil, and you can even add some to your smoothie.It is also sometimes used instead of cocoa butter in chocolate making, so if you ever make your own chocolate, give it a try!