Shea butter is obtained by pressing and crushing kernels (seeds) from the shea nut tree (Butyrospermum parkii) by pressing. The resultant product is then refined. Crude products are not offered for sale.
The knotty shea nut tree grows in the tropics, either wild or cultivated, to a height of 10-15 m. Locally, it is an important source of fat. The main areas in which the tree is cultivated are the savanna regions of the Sudan and the areas where the Niger and Upper Nile rise. In its native Central Africa, the tree represents a major source of fat, since the oil palms cultivated to the North and farther to the South do not thrive in these regions.
The ovary of the shea butter tree contains yellow to greenish apricot-size berries containing a horse chestnut- size seed (kernel). Whilst birds, elephants and humans enjoy eating the berries, shea butter is obtained from kernels (containing 34-57% oil) that are crushed or ground in a mechanical press. In the past, fat was obtained by crushing the kernels, which were boiled in water. The fats that floated to the surface were then skimmed off. Crude shea butter has a pungent and unpleasant smell and is, therefore, refined. Refined Shay butter has a superb taste. It is a solid, grey-green to whitish fat containing roughly equal, rich proportions of stearic and oleic acid and it has a faint, characteristic smell.
Shea butter is highly valued in its native countries as an edible fat. The exported product is used primarily in the production of soap and candles. The cosmetics industry uses shea butter as a synthetic grease for creams and lotions. In the pharmaceuticals trade, shea butter is used to treat dermatosis, eczema, burns and sunburn.
INCI Name: Butyrospermum Parkii Butter