Frequently we see Shea Butter listed as an ingredient in body creams. It is touted to soften the skin but what is it and where does it come from?
Pure Shea Butter is a moisturizing agent containing protein and minerals and can be used over the entire body including the scalp. To make it more appealing, some Shea Butter producers add natural scents such as grapefruit, mint, lemon, and vanilla.
Where does Shea Butter originate?
In Northern Ghana and many other areas of sub-Saharan Africa, the Shea Tree grows to a height of 40 to 65 feet with short thick branches and a grayish bark. It takes about fifteen years to produce its first fruit and only reaches full maturity after twenty-five to fifty years. Once a year it produces fruit and is very resistant to bush fires.
How is it made?
The tasty Shea fruit grows in abundance and is eaten by humans as well as birds. Once ripe, the fruit falls to the ground where it’s gathered and consumed. The nut in the centre of the fruit is dried in the hot sun and then cracked and separated from its shell.
The crushed nuts are roasted in huge pots over an open wood fire and then ground into a smoother paste. Water is gradually added, and the paste is mixed well by hand to help separate out the butter oils.
Shea Butter is ladled off the top of the pot and put in a cool place to harden. It is creamy or golden yellow in its natural state, and is traditionally formed into balls.
It is a real benefit to women.
It is the women and children of the villages who gather and process the Shea Nuts that eventually become Shea Butter. Made in the traditional way it is hot grueling work, but provides an income for many families and an opportunity for their children to attend school.