Shea Butter – Ancient Queen of the African JungleLanre Tunji-Ajayi B.Sc; H.I.D; H.I.S May 1, 2011
For centuries, Africans, Indians, and other ancient cultures have grown to love the land, tending their farms and grazing their animals with no help from fertilizers, pesticides or hormones. What we now call organic is simply nature’s intended way for humans to live. The Magnifolia tree, originating from the sub-Sahara region of Africa, is one of nature’s most resilient trees that defy cultivation, the use of pesticides, fertilizer and other artificial growth techniques. Being true to nature, it springs up without being planted, while thriving and flourishing on tropical rain and sunlight.
Every year this tree produces an edible fruit (shea fruit) which is known by different names in different languages. The English word shea comes from ‘s’í, the tree’s name in the Bamana language of Mali. The Yoruba people of Nigeria, West Africa, call the tree Igi mi and the derived butter – òrí Amó – which is extracted from its nut by crushing and grinding the nuts, boiling the ground paste and scooping the good oil as it rises to the surface of the cooking pot. The resultant shea butter varies in colour from light yellow to olive to ivory. This natural fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) is consumed in the diet of natives, and is also widely used in cosmetics as a moisturizer, salve or lotion.
Why the buzz around shea butter? More and more consumers are seeking healthy alternatives for their family’s skin care regimen, and numerous studies conducted in laboratories across Europe and Africa support the therapeutic use of shea butter in the treatment of skin disorders.
The bioactive substances in shea butter include antioxidants such as tocopherols (vitamin E) and catechins (also found in green tea). Other specific shea butter compounds include triterpene alcohols, known to reduce inflammation; cinnamic acid esters, which have some capacity to absorb ultraviolet (UV) radiation; and lupeo, which prevents the effects of skin aging by inhibiting enzymes that degrade skin proteins. Shea butter also protects skin by stimulating production of structural proteins by specialized skin cells.
Shea butter extract is a complex fat that contains unsaponifiable fats – oil soluble components that cannot be fully converted into soap by treatment with alkali. This oil soluble content, when analyzed, contains various elements such as Oleic Acid (35%-60%), Stearic Acid (20-50%), Linoleic Acid (3-11%), Palmitic Acid (2-9%) and a few traces of Linolenic Acid and Arachidic Acids (1).
While Shea butter is an excellent skin food, the benefits are to be found only with pure, unrefined shea butter. Once the butter is refined or bleached, most of its nutrients and benefits are gone. (Commercial hexane extraction of shea butter yields a huge amount of butter with less physical labour involved; but it carries a risk of hexane spillage and carcinogenic affects of such spillage.) So it is highly recommended that consumers purchase the natural, hexane-free pure shea butter extracted the traditional way.
All Naturals Cosmetics Inc. is the first Canadian company to market 100% purely unrefined shea butter for topical use to alleviate arthritis, joint pain, as well as symptoms of psoriasis and eczema. And their Afrikan Naturals shea butter skin lotions are steadily rising in popularity as the public seeks high quality therapeutic skin care that is safe for the whole family. More consumers are recognizing what nature has intended all along – be organic, just nature’s way
(Consumers should also know that shea butter is organic by nature, and certifying shea butter as organic may be a good marketing strategy but unnecessary exercise.)
Look for Afrikan Naturals products in health food stores across Ontario. For more information, see advertisement on page 66, contact All Naturals Cosmetics Inc. at (705) 719-2750, or visit their website at www.allnaturalscosmetics.ca
(1) Shea butter from different regions of the Sub-Sahara has different values and the general range is presented herein.