With the now widespread availability of natural products on the internet and even in local Target stores, it’s very easy to get in the habit of crowding bathroom shelves with commercial, store-bought products. I can remember a time when just plain old Shea butter was the moisturizing staple of choice.
Shea butter was one of my staples, and really still is but now it’s mixed in the various products that I use. But just ‘plain old’ Shea butter can be used on your hair and body, and for those who don’t particuarly like the smell, it can be easily mixed with scent as well.
Shea butter originates from the Karite Nut tree, also called the Mangifolia tree, found in the semi-arid savannahs of West and Central Africa. The Karite Nut tree, also called the “tee of life” can live for 300 years and almost all parts of the tree have some practical use. The bark is an ingredient in traditional medicines against certain childhood illnesses and minor scrapes and cuts. The shell of the nuts can repel mosquitoes.
The fruity part of the nut, when crushed, results in a vegetable oil that can be used in soap-making, cooking, and skin and hair care. The oil extracted has a relatively high melting point and is used in rural areas in the making of foods, traditional drugs and cosmetics. Shea is mainly exported as smoked kernels and can be used as an extender in chocolate as its properties are similar to cocoa butter.
Although in the last few years, Shea butter has become popular in the US, it has been used by the women of West Africa for centuries. Shea butter can also help to protect the skin against the damaging effects of the sun, while repairing cellular degeneration. It contains vitamins A and E, and has demonstrated both antimicrobial (kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, or protozoa), and anti-inflammatory properties.
In most parts of West Africa, destruction of the Shea tree is prohibited because the nut provides a valuable source of food, medicine, and income for the population. In fact, Shea butter is sometimes referred to as “women’s gold” in Africa, because so many women are employed in the production of Shea butter.
Shea butter may also help treat skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis; however, keep in mind that you should always consult a physician or dermatologist about serious or persistent skin problems. Shea butter is not recommended for people with nut or latex allergies.
As the many moisturizing hair/body products that I have purchased over the last few months run down, I am going to make a commitment to go back to basics and replace them with good old Shea butter, then I’ll have tons more room on my bathroom shelves as well as more money in my pocket.