Shea butter is a solid fatty oil that is derived from the nuts of Karite trees (also known as Mangifolia) predominantly found in Africa (grows wild in the equatorial belt of central Africa between Gambia and Sudan where oil palms do not grow because of insufficient precipitation). The Karite tree bears the fruits and the nuts inside the fruits contain shea butter. The nuts are then crushed, boiled and manipulated in order to extract a light colored fat, which is commonly referred to as shea butter. Pure shea butter resembles lumps of hard caramel ice cream. Being edible, shea butter is often used in food preparations, but it has gained huge popularity in the western world due to its widespread use in several beauty products such as lotions, cosmetics, shampoos, conditioners and many more.
What Is Shea Butter?
The main components of shea butter include oleic acid, stearic acid, linoleic acid and others. It gets absorbed quickly into the skin as it melts at body temperature. Shea butter may be refined or unrefined. Raw or unrefined shea butter is the purest form of shea butter which is most natural and least processed. Since it is extracted manually, it is able to retain its vitamins, minerals and other natural properties. Refined shea butter, on the other hand, is the processed form of butter.
Shea Butter Benefits For Health
Shea butter exhibits several health benefits particularly for the skin and hair. It is used in a variety of cosmetics and medicinal formulas in combination with other botanical ingredients. Some of the health benefits of shea butter are given below.
1. Healing Qualities:
Shea butter is known for its healing properties, which can be attributed to the presence of several fatty acids and plant sterols such as oleic, palmitic, stearic and linolenic acids. These oil-soluble components do not undergo saponification or convert into soap on coming in contact with alkali. Shea butter is more non-saponifiable than other nut oils and fats, thus imparting it a great healing potential for the skin. Raw unrefined shea butter is effective for curing skin rashes, skin peeling after tanning, scars, stretch marks, frost bites, burns, athletes foot, insect bites and stings, arthritis and muscle fatigue.
2. Antioxidant Qualities:
Shea butter contains plant antioxidants such as vitamins A and E, as well as catechins. The vitamins A and E protect the cells from free radicals and environmental damage. The cinnamic acid esters in shea fat helps in preventing skin damage from ultraviolet radiation.
[ Read: Benefits of Beetroot Juice ]
3. Anti-inflammatory Properties:
Several derivatives of cinnamic acid are found in shea butter which exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Research has proved that in addition to its anti-inflammatory benefits, lupeol cinnamate found in shea butter prevents the development of tumours. Its anti-inflammatory properties render it beneficial for improvement of skin conditions.
Shea Butter For Skin
Being rich in precious constituents such as unsaturated fats with a large proportion of non-saponifiable components, essential fatty acids, vitamins E and D, phytosterols, provitamin A and allantoin, shea butter is considered a super food for skin. It has been used since time immemorial for skin care, baby care and for consumption. In fact, the legendary Egyptian queen Nefertiti owed her beauty secrets to shea butter which further demonstrates its goodness for skin. Given below are its various benefits for skin.
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