The scientific community has very little input regarding shea butter and its benefits. However, there are hundreds of thousands of people who swear by it. So if you are a believer in alternative medicine and value peoples’ experiences, you may want to start eating shea butter.
What is Shea Butter?
Shea Butter is a fat extracted from the nut of the Shea tree. The Shea tree is found in the wild from West to East Africa. It naturally grows in more than 21 countries of the African Continent.
They’ve been extracting butter from the fat since the 14th Century. However, it only entered the international market in 1846, when it was imported to Britain for the first time.
Shea butter is widely used for cosmetic purposes but can also be an edible oil for food preparations. It is prepared from two kernels present in the seed of the shea tree, which are then processed to extract the butter. It is available in the market in Raw and refined form with both varying properties and benefits.
Raw Shea Butter
Raw Shea butter is extracted with a conventional West African process without heating and extra chemicals. This butter is rich in Vitamin A, E, and fatty acids. It is ivory in color and has a strong smell, which can be reduced by blending the butter with essential oils. It is widely used around the globe for its benefits for the skin.
Refined Shea Butter
Refined Shea butter is extracted using high heat and chemicals, changing its chemical properties. It’s white because of the extraction process.
One of the downsides of this type of shea butter is that 75 percent of nutrients naturally found are lost due to the involvement of heat during extraction.
Benefits and Uses
Shea butter is widely used by the cosmetic industry and has multiple benefits, from skin acne to hair dandruff and many other conditions. Although there is limited scientific research into it, many people have experienced several benefits by using it.
Globally, it is used for the following purposes.
The cosmetic industry mainly uses Shea butter for skin and hair products. Soap and oil manufacturing businesses also use it. Shea butter absorbs quickly into the skin and melts at body temperature, just like coconut oil. It reduces skin swelling and replenishes the lipids of the skin.
Shea butter is believed to have a lot of medical benefits and is used in anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial lotions. Because of its limited capacity to absorb UV rays, it is also used in sunscreen moisturizers. It has a natural SPF of 6-10.
It is being used to treat nasal congestion and joint pain relievers in Africa.
Shea butter is also used for cooking in many parts of the African continent. Due to its waterproofing properties, it is used for increasing the durability of wood and leather straps.
Also, it is used as the main ingredient in candle making.
The chemical makeup of shea butter offers a lot of nutrition benefits, and as per the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) database entry, 100 grams of shea butter has:-
|Mass||Percentage of daily req|
|Total Fat||100 gram||153 %|
|Saturated Fat||47 gram||234 %|
|Total Carbohydrates||0 mg||0%|
|Dietary Fiber||0 mg||0%|
Is Shea Butter Safe to Eat?
It is considered safe to eat shea butter by mouth, and one may gain few health benefits if consumed in limited quantities. However, it is hard to find any recipe which includes shea butter unless someone is looking for an African flavor.
As this butter is extracted from seeds, some vegan cooks prefer to replace oils and butter from animal sources with shea butter.
The Nutritional Makeup
Shea butter provides monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce LDL cholesterol. Lower LDL levels in the body can reduce the risk of heart-related diseases. They also help the body in maintaining and developing human cells.
Shea butter contains a lot of saturated fats as well, which are not considered healthy fats. Saturated fats cause higher levels of cholesterols in the body resulting in various blood and related heart diseases.
Shea butter is believed to provide a good amount of Vitamin E to the body, but according to USDA, it gives no minerals and vitamins, including proteins.
Downside of Shea Butter
No clinical or scientific studies have been done on shea butter, but doctors do believe that people with tree nut allergies should avoid using shea butter to avoid any allergic reactions.
Where Do These Benefits Come From?
Shea butter has very limited eating benefits, but topical use of this butter is believed to have a number of benefits. These benefits are present due to the following chemical makeup:-
Oleic, Linoleic, Stearic, And Palmitic Fatty Acids
Due to the presence of these fatty acids, shea butter is believed to balance oils on the skin.
Vitamin A, E, and F
According to USDA, shea butter contains no vitamins, but many fans around the globe believe that the presence of antioxidant vitamins promotes healthy cell growth on the skin by promoting blood circulation.
Triglycerides And Cetyl Esters
The skinny and waxy part of the shea nut improves and nourishes the skin.
How To Store Shea Butter
Shea butter has a life of around 18-24 months if stored with care in an airtight jar or container. It should be stored in a cool and dry place away from the stove to avoid extra heat. If it has a smoky or pungent smell, it is no longer safe to be consumed orally or topically.
Although there is minimal scientific evidence available to support the claim that there are multiple health benefits associated with topical use of Shea butter. A few examples include prevention against acne, reducing inflammation and muscle soreness.
It is considered safe to be taken by mouth in limited quantities but has an insufficient body of evidence to support its oral use. Shea butter has zero carbohydrates and is extracted from plant seeds; therefore, it provides an excellent alternative to vegetarian people.
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