The depths of Shea Butter and its applications.

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An Image of soft raw shea butter in a bowl held by a young lady by

Shea Butter has recently become popular to the western world in recent years due to the internet and global trade. They have been sold in a variety of ways, ranging from refined skin moisturizers to being mixed in with other products containing oils and fats. But what is Shea Butter and what is it primarily used for?

Shea Butter comes from the tree, whose Latin name is Vitellaria paradoxa or Butyrospermun parkii, and this was traditionally used to treat worms, ulcers and diarrhoea. However, this traditional treatment of West African origin was decocted from the bark of this tree (Jiofack et al, 2009). Shea butter is actually made from its seeds.

The seed of the shea fruit is used to extract the butter. Traditionally it was used in Africa to make sauces and to allow people to fry food. It was a useful and nutritious fat that was safe for human consumption. There were other uses for this fat such as providing soaps, medicine, and caring for the skin and hair of the ancient peoples (Ziba & Yameogo, 2002).

The majority of the fats in this butter consist of oleic and stearic acids. There are small amounts linoleic, arachidic, and palmitic fatty acid that are present as well (Maranz et al, 2004). The texture and consistency of the butter can be relatively hard or soft depending on the ratios between oleic acid and stearic acid. Oleic acid is unsaturated and is named after Olive oil, which makes this butter soft. Stearic is saturated and can be found in tallow/animals fats, which make this butter harder in room temperature settings (Mensink, 2005)

Shea Butter is a great at absorbing ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which allows it to be a beneficial agent for sun screening. It helps to protect, moisturise and give nutrients for extreme temperatures during cold and hot seasons (Maanikuu & Peker, 2017). 

Other benefits within the modern world include cosmetics which comes a root word that involves decoration. Beauty standards are important to all genders, and this has not changed from ancient times. This butter is important in terms of caring for the hair, hence why many Africans are still using this through the medium of creams and other cosmetic products (Nwachi & Ogba, 2022).  

In the meta-analysis, done by Maanikuu & Peter (2017), they found that the stearic and saponin contents of shea butter may combat against high cholesterol levels. In my opinion, this research is a good argument against demonizing saturated fats. Not all saturated fats should be treated the same and not enough studies are done to prove that they are bad for your overall health. 

If you want to read more on Maanikuu & Peter’s (2017) study, where they list more benefits, click here.

To look other blogs similar to this page, regarding health and natural substances, click here.


Jiofack, T., Fokunang, C., Guedje, N., Kemeuze, V., Fongnzossie, E., Nkongmeneck, B. A., … & Tsabang, N. (2009). Ethnobotanical uses of some plants of two ethnoecological regions of Cameroon. Afr J Pharm Pharmacol3(13), 664-84.

Maanikuu, P. M. I., & Peker, K. (2017). Medicinal and nutritional benefits from the shea tree-(Vitellaria Paradoxa). Journal of Biology, Agriculture and Healthcare7(22), 51-57.

Maranz, S., Wiesman, Z., Bisgaard, J. ve Bianchi, G. (2004). Germplasm resources of Vitellaria paradoxa based on variations in fat composition across the species distribution range, Agroforestry Systems, 60 (1), 71-76.

Mensink, R. P. (2005). Effects of stearic acid on plasma lipid and lipoproteins in humans. Lipids40(12), 1201-1205.

Nwachi, L. O., & Ogba, I. E. (2022). Acceptability of Locally Made Cosmetic Product: A Study of Shea Butter in Ebonyi State Nigeria. International Academic Journal of Management & Marketing Annals.

Ziba, M. L., & Yameogo, M. F. (2002, March). The Benefits of Shea to Rural Households, Communities and Nations. In INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP ON PROCESSING AND MARKETING OF SHEA PRODUCTS IN AFRICA (p. 76).

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