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Shea butter has become quite the craze and can be found in all-natural skin care products as well as those with pesky long-listed labels with chemical ingredients that seem to be counterintuitive to healing the skin. But what is it about shea butter that makes it such a popular ingredient in all-natural lotions? The answer may come by way of understanding a little more about the shea tree itself, in all its glory.
Gifting us with healing properties not only within the kernel of the shea nut, but in the entire tree, the African shea tree has been named a sacred tree by various tribes and communities in Africa and is often used in spiritual ceremonies, as it is believed to have a protective power. Its African name, karite, means ‘tree of life.’ And similar to the way the Neem tree is regarded in India, as the “one tree pharmacy,” the shea tree is used for a variety of purposes by the African people, including healing and sustenance!
We’ve heard little of how the shea tree’s healing qualities go beyond skin deep. And yet, for centuries in Africa, the entire shea tree has been known to impart some form of healing, whether for bodily illness, spiritual protection, or hunger. The roots, leaves, bark, nuts, and seeds have been used for a variety of healing purposes, such as dysentery, parasites, gastrointestinal infections, and skin diseases and wounds. It is the bark that is used for treating cough and leprosy, while the nut butter is used by local healers to treat arthritis, inflammation, nasal congestion, and minor bone injuries.
But what about its use in skin-care products? Studies have shown that this creamy nut butter taken from the tree of life can stand on its own with its emollient, moisturizing, and anti-aging properties. But the benefits don’t stop there. Shea butter has been used for healing burns, skin rashes, rough skin, muscle aches, fatigue, skin allergies, eczema, dermatitis, blemishes, wrinkles, and insect bites!
To get the benefits of shea butter’s natural healing qualities, it is important to remember that not all shea butter is created equal; the more processed, the less healing qualities remain. So whether using it alone or as an ingredient included in your natural skin care products, ensure you are using the unadulterated form of raw, unfiltered shea butter sourced from a reputable company.
And remember that the story behind the shea tree is far more extensive than just a creamy nut meat that provides moisture to the skin. In fact, we may want to consider whether this ‘tree of life’ may actually be the Tree of Life!
Israel, Malachi Oluwaseyi. “Effects of Topical and Dietary Use of Shea Butter on Animals.” American Journal of Life Sciences 2.5 (2014): 303. Web. 28 July 2017.
Karambiri, Mawa. “Diary of a Shea tree.” Bioversity. Bioversity International, 12 Jan. 2016. Web. 28 June 2017.