Benefits of Shea Butter

Benefits of Shea Butter

The beauty of Cleopatra, ancient Egyptians, and the relentless sun and dry winds of the north African deserts attest to the benefits of Shea Butter. It was used by all and was considered a high value commodity that has been tracked back to the ancient times of Egypt. Even the dead were buried in the trees of the source of this magnificent substance.

Shea butter has, through thousands of years, earned an ironclad reputation as an ingredient that has an incredible number of uses from cosmetics and skin care all the way to cooking and woodworking. Here are the reasons why Shea butter has built such an illustrious reputation.

Obvious Uses

Shea butter was used in the times of Ancient Egypt as a crude form of sunblock, creating a layer of butter between one’s skin and the harsh sun, a function that it continues to serve even today. While it may sound counter productive to rub a form of butter on one’s skin to protect it from the sun,  it was not long before its moisturizing effects were discovered. Today shea butter is used in everything from lip gloss and lotion, to conditioners and emulsions. This is due to it’s well noted moisturizing qualities.

Shea butter is capable of numerous healing applications as well. If you have a small wound, such as a paper cut or a skinned knee, applying Shea butter can actually boost the healing process. The reason why Shea butter works so well as a healing supplement is because the moisturizers found in Shea butter are the exact same as the ones already found in the human body, specifically in the sebaceous glands found in human skin. This means that shea butter helps your body repair itself with things that your body already produces.

Unobvious Uses

It would be easy to think of Shea butter as a type of cure-all, however it has numerous uses beyond that of the medicinal realm. The inherent properties of Shea butter have made it invaluable around the world in areas that at first glance seem ridiculous. It would be strange to see a person use a product they use as a moisturizer in cooking but it is not so strange when the product is Shea butter.

Shea butter is used around the world as a cooking oil. It can also be used as a wood varnish. Some people use it as a balm during winter. The layer of shea butter actually works as a buffer between the harsh, cold winds of winter and the skin of the person wearing it.

Vitamins

There is a big difference between being rich and being wealthy. While there are plenty of mineral products that are rich in Vitamin A, Shea butter is absolutely wealthy in it. Vitamin A works wonders on skin and can be massively effective in improving a number of difficult-to-cope-with skin conditions such as blemishes, eczema, dermatitis, bug bites, sunburns, and even frostbite.

In addition to the large amount of Vitamin A there is a significant amount of Vitamin E, though there is not a significant amount of available knowledge as to how effective the Vitamin E content of shea butter is in regards to medicinal or personal care purposes. It is believed that Vitamin E can yield benefits such as anti-aging and an increase in micro-circulation. The exact effects of Vitamin E from shea butter on the body are largely unknown but thus far they appear to be positive.

Not All Butters Are Created Equal

Shea butters, like all natural products, are not of equal measure across the board. In the same way that some chocolates are better than others, Shea butter goes through a classification system that identifies a butter as Class A, Class B, Class C, and Class F.

Class A: Raw or unrefined, extracted using water

Class B: Refined

Class C: Very refined and extracted with solvents like hexane

Class D: This is the lowest grade without contaminants

Class E: Has contaminants

Class F: Almost worthless for any healing properties

If you are concerned about whether or not the Shea butter product you purchased is above Class F all you have to do is look for the Shea Institute’s quality seal. You can find this on virtually every Shea butter product and it should be enough to let you buy a product with confidence as to its quality.

It needs to be said, however, that there are plenty of Shea butter product carriers and manufacturers that like to mess with a good thing and try to “improve” the Shea butter products that they provide. They will add aromatics and other unnecessary ingredients in order to make Shea butter smell more appealing and less nutty.

However, in the process of doing this they are actually robbing the butter of its strength and effectiveness. By including additives in the butter the manufacturer is essentially watering it down. This means that you are probably paying extra money for a shea butter product that smells great and works less than effectively.

The trade off to these lower grade shea butters is that, while they are less effective and less useful than higher grades, there is less of a chance of the shea butter product you use having contaminants. While the risk of having a contaminated batch of shea butter products is relatively low, it would be frustrating to use a batch of full grade Shea butter products only to discover that the batch was contaminated and ineffective.

It needs to be said that there are also many shea butter manufacturers that do not include the seal on all of their products. While that makes it a little more difficult to determine whether the product is Grade A, it narrows it down in most cases to the unfortunate truth that it is of a lesser grade. Lesser grades, however, are still quite effective depending on the needs you have.

The Unrefined Truth

If you want to get the absolute best from your Shea butter experience then you should endeavor to acquire unrefined Shea butter and work with it. Unrefined Shea butter does not go through any of the processing that other Shea butter products do and as a result unrefined Shea butter works much better. When you deal with processed Shea butter there are occasionally manufacturers that mislead their customers by using words like “refined”, giving the false impression that the Shea butter product they are using is somehow more effective.

The truth is that so-called refined Shea butter is repeatedly filtered and has additives inserted into it. Instead of giving you a product that is stronger the filtering process actually breaks down the Shea butter into a less effective version of itself. Using unrefined Shea butter sounds like a prospect that would have unwanted results but the truth is that the only real down side to using it is that many people find the smell of unrefined Shea butter to be unpleasant. The benefits, however, outweigh the downside of the odor.

Application

Shea butter is an extremely versatile product in terms of what it can be used for. It is also versatile in the number of techniques one can utilize it with. The consistency of Shea butter is unique in that numerous methods can be used to apply it. For example, if you want to take a moisturizing bath then simply adding some Shea butter to your bath water is all you need to do. It can also achieve the consistency of shaving cream while giving you relief for the pain that shaving tends to cause.

Cooking With Shea Butter

The prospect of cooking with Shea butter may seem like a strange one but it is actually quite common around the world. Shea butter can be used as a replacement for regular butter and even as a replacement for cooking oil depending on the recipe you are using. Simply place the Shea butter in your cooking pan on medium heat and you will see it begin to melt down in the same manner as butter.

Shea butter is more than an oil replacement, it can also be a main ingredient. One can create a delicious variety of sauces using Shea butter as a base. The thing that you need to keep in mind is that Shea butter has a relatively smoky flavor so you may want to try introducing it into your foods gradually, one meal at a time. This will allow you to get used to that taste instead of the introduction being a jarring one.

It needs to be said that you should be wary of using any Shea butter in your cooking that smells off or does not readily begin to spread while at room temperature. This is a sign that you have a bad batch of Shea butter and you should avoid cooking with it.

Alternatives

It needs to be said that there are more affordable alternatives to Shea butter, however Shea butter has some key advantages over some of those alternatives. The great thing about Shea butter as a lotion is that it is light weight and far less greasy than other moisturizers such as cocoa butter. There’s nothing worse than applying your moisturizer and then having to be careful so as not to touch anything until the greasy feeling wears off. With Shea butter this isn’t a problem because of how close the components are to your body’s naturally produced moisture. It absorbs much more completely than other natural moisturizers.

Sources

http://www.sheainstitute.com/asbi-library/21reasons/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shea_butter

http://www.livestrong.com/article/324195-what-are-the-benefits-of-raw-shea-butter/

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