Butyrospermum parkii or Vitellaria paradoxa - Sapotacées.
The Shea tree
The Shea tree belongs to the Sapotacea family. It grows naturally in the African wild, within a geographical area stretching from Mali to Su.
Le karité est un arbre trapu de 12 à 20 mètres de hauteur avec des branches épaisses, courtes dont le liège s'oppose aux feux de brousse. Les feuilles isolées, grandes sont groupées à l'extrémité des rameaux. Son système racinaire est très tortueux, il prévient l'érosion et favorise l'association avec d'autres cultures.
It has an estimated life span of some 200 - 300 years. Only in its 50th year does the tree reach full maturity and maximum fruit producing capacity.
Between 5 and 15 kg of unshelled kernels can be counted per tree per year.
The egg-shaped, dark green shea fruit
grows together in bunches. Each fruit encloses 1 or 2 brownish seeds with a large elliptical slit containing a kernel rich in oil.
The fat content of the seeds accounts for 45-55% of their weight.
The annual yield per ha can reach 9 to 17 tons of fresh fruit. 50 kg of fresh fruit produce 20 kg of dried kernels and 4 kg of butter.
The fruit is gathered from June to September.
In the African method for making shea butter, the fruit is fermented and washed to separate it from the pulp. The seeds are then pounded into a paste before being thrown into boiling water.
When cool, the oil from the kernels floats on the surface and can easily be skimmed off.
This task is generally performed exclusively by women, which explains why it is called "women's gold".
The fat - or shea butter
- is commonly sold on the market in the form of blocks or balls.
Composition of Africajou shea butter
Shea butter is composed of saturated and unsaturated fatty acid glycerides.
Unsaponifiable matter between 8% and 10%. The shea seed has one of highest levels of unsaponifiable matter
- Palmitic acid: 3 to 7 %
- Stearic acid: 35 to 45 %
- Oleic acid: 40 to 55%
- Linoleic acid: 3 to 8%
Protein: 0.7 to 1.3 g (per 100 g)
Properties of Shea butter
Shea butter has nourishing, smoothing and anti-inflammatory properties.
The unsaponifiable matter is composed of large amounts of triterpenic alcohols which account for its anti-inflammatory activity.
Trials as a nasal decongestant have been very successful. When applied to the nostrils, shea butter reduces congestion due to colds.
Administered as a treatment for eczema or shingles, it helps heal the skin. Before or after sport, shea butter ensures good muscle tone, and can also be used for massage in the event of sprains or dislocated joints. It is an effective defense against the cold and sore throats. It contains vitamins A, E and F.
Properties and traditional usages of Shea butter
In Africa, shea products are sold as sun-dried nuts, as a paste of crushed kernels (kadanya), as blocks of shea butter or as canned margarine.
From the legendary beauty of Nefertiti to ancestral African recipes, shea butter has been used for thousands of years for its extraordinary skin healing virtues.
Shea butter holds a place of choice among household products.
- It is employed as a foodstuff like palm or peanut oil, but also as a traditional treatment in cosmetics, dermatology and pharmacopoeia.
- It is frequently used to make ointments or poultices.
- It has emollient and healing effects on the skin. As a result of a practice known as "khessal" (lightening of the skin), the skin of African women frequently becomes damaged. They turn to shea butter to repair it.
- Shea butter relieves muscular aches and pains, as well as rheumatism.
- It is used in soaps, candles and as a coating to preserve and rain-proof huts.
Culinary Usage of shea butter
In Africa, shea butter is a staple of the indigenous diet. It is incorporated as a fat into African dishes and sauces, and used for frying.
In Europe, the food industry makes use of it to manufacture chocolate, sweets and margarine. It brings unequalled creaminess to these products.
Cosmetic Usage of shea butter
Véritable soin régénérant, revitalisant, réhydratant, le karité est aussi un remarquable antirides. Il lutte contre les cheveux secs, fragiles et les vergetures.
In cosmetics, shea butter is used for:
- Hair care: shea butter nourishes, protects and stimulates hair growth. The ideal care product for brittle, dry, fragile and damaged hair, it can be used as a mask or a lotion.
- Face care: shea butter protects, moisturizes, improves skin elasticity and fights the effects of aging. It is a superb anti-wrinkle agent.
- Lip care: shea butter moisturizes and protects, especially during periods of harsh cold. It is also used as a lip balm or gloss.
- Skin care: Anti-stretch-mark or post-depilatory products containing shea butter are remarkably effective. To moisturize your skin, you can put a spoonful of it into a warm bath. Likewise, it is an excellent product to apply before and after tanning along with your usual sun screen to ensure a smooth and even tan.
It is also an excellent massage product that ensures good muscle tone
before and after doing sports. Aching limbs may be relieved by rubbing sore spots with shea butter at least twice a day.