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Shea Butter, with its slightly smoky smell and silky feel on the skin, is extracted from the seeds of Vitellaria paradoxa tree native to West Africa. It is a godsend for the people of this region who have been using it for cosmetic, nutritional, and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. They use it to protect their skin and hair from the drying effects of Sub-Saharan climate. There’s evidence that it had played an important part in the beauty regimen of Cleopatra of Egypt in the first century BC.
Shea butter is still extracted manually by a painstakingly long process that involves the collection, cleaning, segregation, drying, and pounding of the dried nuts into a paste. The fat-rich seed paste is then mixed with water and agitated by hand to separate the butter which rises to the top in the form of curd. This top layer is collected, and then purified by melting it into butter oil and then filtering it out and cooling. The resultant butter is off-white in color and may contain brownish specks unless the filtering process is not meticulous.
It is best to choose the natural product over the refined ones although it may not look very appealing and may have some tiny bits of the seeds. But it is as natural as you can get. If the characteristic smell doesn’t appeal to you, bleached and de-scented butter may serve your cosmetic purposes. But such chemically extracted and refined products may not offer all of the health benefits Shea butter is known for.
Two fatty acids oleic acid and stearic acid constitute the major part of Shea butter. The stearic acid content can be as high as 30-50%, making this vegetable butter very similar to animal fat. That could be one of the reasons why it is readily absorbed into the body and functions as a refatting agent. It has some amount of linoleic acid and linolenic acid too, both essential fatty acids which offer some additional nutritional benefits.
Read more about shea butter at naturallivingideas.com