Shea Butter is the oil from the nuts of wild Shea trees (Vitellaria paradoxa) scattered throughout the wooded savanna of West and Central Africa. Shea Butter has been used for centuries in Africa and is completely enmeshed within the history and culture of the West African savanna. Shea Butter is mentioned in almost all African historical documents, including a reference as early as Cleopatra’s Egypt, which mentions caravans bearing clay jars of Shea Butter for cosmetic use. Funeral beds of kings were carved in the wood of old Shea Trees, and Shea Butter has always been a staple of African pharmacology.
Indigenous Knowledge for Skin Care
Unrefined Shea Butter
In addition, refined Shea Butter has usually been extracted from the shea kernels with hexane or other petroleum solvents. The extracted oil is boiled to drive off the toxic solvents, and then refined, bleached, and deodorized, which involves heating it to over 400 deg F and the use of harsh chemicals like sodium hydroxide.
Shea Butter extracted in this manner still contains some undesirable
solvent residues, and its healing values are significantly reduced.
Antioxidants or preservatives such as BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) or
BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) may be added as well. The end result is
an odorless, white butter that may be aesthetically appealing, but lacks
the true moisturizing, healing, and nutritive properties of true
traditional Shea Butter
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