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Shea Butter

The fat of the nut of the African Shea tree is the source of Shea butter. The traditional use of the butter is to reduce the appearance of fine lines, scars and stretch marks, and to ease a variety of skin irritations, such as psoriasis, eczema and sunburn. Shea butter is ideal for the topical application of cosmetic and medicinal formulas, because it melts on contact and is readily absorbed into the skin, without leaving a greasy residue.

The healing qualities of Shea butter are due to the presence of several fatty acids and plant sterols, namely oleic, stearic, palmitic and linolenic acids. Shea butter contains several derivatives of cinnamic acid, a compound common to cinnamon and balsam trees. Shea butter demonstrates anti-inflammatory benefits. Shea butter contains vitamins A and E, as well as catechins, plant antioxidants also found in green tea. While it is unclear how well vitamins A and E in raw Shea butter are absorbed, there is evidence to suggest that cinnamic acid esters in Shea fat help to prevent skin damage from ultraviolet radiation.

Shea butter softens and conditions leather and wood, so musicians use it to improve the flexibility of leather tuning straps, and the pitch and timbre of animal skin drums and other percussion instruments. Africans use Shea butter in cooking. In other parts of the world, manufacturers add Shea butter to margarine.

Shea butter is available in different grades, which depend on the extraction method. For best results, unrefined Shea butter, or grade A, is preferred. If you have a known allergy to other tree nuts, you may experience a reaction to Shea butter. Consult your physician or allergist before using this product, if this is the case.

 

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