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WHAT IS SHEA BUTTER?

Posted by N Brown on

Shea butter is a butter that is extracted from the nuts of the shea (Vitellaria paradoxa) tree.  The shea tree is indigenous to Africa.  Traditionally it has been used for centuries both for the skin as well as for nutrition.  Many grow up in African countries like ghana learning how to extract the shea nut from childhood.    The average shea nut tree lives for up to 200 years! And since the butter is extracted from the nuts, it is an extremely sustainable resource. 

A LONG CALL TO HARVEST

Shea nut trees do not start producing fruit until they are about 10-15 years old with their maximum yields beginning at 20-25 years of age.  This is why it is difficult to grow profitably outside of its natural habitat.  Not only are these trees extremely unique, they are also valuable - providing both nutrition and income for the local villages that grow them.


CERTIFIED FAIR TRADE 

As you can imagine, with the explosion of shea butter in Western markets, the cost of shea butter has skyrocketed both financially and ethically.  For the sake of turning a quick profit, workers are often exploited in the process. Extracting shea butter is hard physical work! This is why I source only fair trade ethically harvested shea butter.  We thoroughly vet all of our suppliers to ensure that they are certified fair trade and that they carry only quality grade A ingredients.  Our unrefined shea butters have a slightly nutty scent to them which is natural of the tree, however they do not smell rancid.  If you have shea butter that smells rancid or has an extremely unpleasant smell, chances are it was harvested from rotten shea nuts.


SHEA BUTTER AS FOOD

Until recently, shea butters primary purpose of export was for chocolates!  Shea nut butter also has anti inflammatory properties as well. Its melting qualities make it an excellent substitute in veggie burgers as it mimics the sensory profile of red meat fat.  


SHEA BUTTER IS RICH IN ANTIOXIDANTS

Rich in phenolic compounds, shea butter has strong antioxidant properties.  Recently there was a study* that identified 10 of these compounds showing that it was similar to green tea and comparable to virgin olive oil.  And this study was done on REFINED shea butter!  Refined shea butter is extracted with hexane for consistency in color and odor.  This suggests that the UNREFINED raw virgin shea butter - which we use in our cloud butter formulation and shea whip - could have EVEN HIGHER antioxidant activity! 



Well there you have it - Shea butter is an amazing ingredient that is full of all kinds of benefits for the skin and body.  I personally love the fact that it heals my skin and the effects are cumulative with my skin appearing more vibrant over time.  I also love the fact that it is non-toxic which is awesome for little hands.  My personal favorite formulation is the Unscented Cloud Butter.  It has a silky whipped consistency and even more added vitamins and ingredients to further enhance shea butters natural healing abilities.