What Is Shea Butter ?

Cup of shea butter with shea nuts
Photo by Luisa Puccini, c/o www.123rf.com

Shea butter is derived from the nut of an African trea, Butyrospermum parkii (Vitellaria paradoxa) and is one of the most ubiquitous ingredients in skin care, hair care and any other ‘care’ product you might care to think of. We might also call it karite butter.

The tree grows throughout west and central Africa and grown wild in groves. Attempts to cultivate the tree have not been successful.

The healing properties can be put down to a myriad of components including several different fatty acids and plant sterols. The main ones are oleic, stearic, palmitic and linolenic acids. One of the main features of these oil-soluble fatty acids is that in the presence of alkalis such as soap they do not saponify meaning they do not become soap. The non-saponifiable fraction is highest in shea butter. The solid fat is extremely smooth with a pale yellow colour.

Shea butter also possesses interesting derivatives of cinnamic acid which is found in all sorts of important plants with health benefits. We also find catechins and other antioxidants which are common to green tea. Cinnamic acid esters are believed to prevent skin damage from ultraviolet radiation as well as soothing sunburn, rashes, eczema and dermatitis.

In a medical context, shea butter is valuable for treating and healing the skin. It is often used to smooth out wrinkles, sooth chapped skin, reduce irritation from razor cuts and ameliorate skin irritations. The butter is also used to treat chapped lips, flaky skin and reduce the abrasions of elbows and knees.

Shea butter contains vitamin A & vitamin E which helps protect the fatty acids.

Nutrition Facts

Amount Per  

Calories 884
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 100 g153%
Saturated fat 47 g234%
Polyunsaturated fat 5 g
Monounsaturated fat 44 g
Cholesterol 0 mg0%
Sodium 0 mg0%
Total Carbohydrate 0 g0%
Dietary fiber 0 g0%
Sugar 0 g
Protein 0 g0%
Vitamin A0%Vitamin C0%
Calcium0%Iron0%
Vitamin B60%Cobalamin0%
Magnesium0%
*Per cent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

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