Shea butter comes from the nut of the karite shea tree that is indigenous to Africa. Raw, unrefined shea butter contains vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A and E, as well as essential fatty acids. It has a creamy color and a very distinct smell. It has been used for centuries for its moisturizing, anti-inflammatory and antiaging properties.
Shea butter has the ability to soothe, hydrate and balance your skin. It is used as a moisturizer for dry skin and eczema, as a dry scalp treatment, for chapped lips and to help soften cracked dry skin on heels, elbows and knees. It is important, according to the American Shea Butter Institute, to make sure unrefined shea butter is used. Raw shea butter maintains its therapeutic qualities and will keep your skin moist and supple, whereas refined, processed shea butter loses almost all of its healing properties. Dr. Robyn Tisdale Scott, a clinical pharmacist, concurs with the American Shea Butter Institute, supporting the claim that unrefined shea butter reverses dry skin in about three days.
Shea butter has natural anti-inflammatory properties that have been known to heal scrapes, cuts and burns; relieve sunburn and rashes; take the sting out of insect bites; and ease the pain from muscle fatigue and arthritis. A study published in a 2010 issue of the "Journal of Oleo Science" by Toshihiro Akihisa and colleagues found that shea fat has significant anti-inflammatory properties. The study showed a remarkable reduction of inflammation in mice suffering from edema. After being given shea fat compounds, the inflammation was reduced by over 45 percent. Another study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology by the Department of Pharmacology at the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos concluded that shea butter is an effective nasal decongestant. Participants were given two to four applications of shea butter in the nasal cavity, and within just 12 to 24 hours they showed no signs of inflammation, congestion or nasal damage.
Shea butter has been used for centuries as a wrinkle reducer. Shea butter contains essential fatty acids, along with vitamins A and E, which are imperative to maintaining your skin's elasticity and suppleness. In a clinical study done by Frank Renard, Ph.D., shea butter was found to have significant antiaging properties and was proven to help rebuild and rejuvenate collagen. Participants in this study were given shea butter to use as a balm to massage on their skin for four to eight months. The results showed clearer, brighter skin; less wrinkles; and even less sun damage.
- PubMed U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Anti-inflammatory and chemopreventive effects of triterpene cinnamates and acetates from shea fat.
- Woman By Nature: Benefits of Shea Butter
- BJCP: Preliminary studies on nasal decongestant activity from the seed of the shea butter tree, Butyrospermum parkii.
- PR LEAP: Natural Skin Care Tips: Unrefined Organic Shea Butter Vs. the Refined, Bleached Version
Kimberly Riggins has been writing in the health and wellness industry for over 15 years. Certified as a personal trainer at age 17, she also holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology, a Master of Science in holistic nutrition and certification as a holistic health counselor. Her background includes weight training, yoga, nutrition, weight management, body image issues and eating disorders.