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Facts About the Shea Tree and Shea Butter

Updated on September 1, 2019
Vellur profile image

A graduate in botany, Nithya Venkat enjoys writing about plants that help sustain life on planet Earth.

Shea Tree
Shea Tree | Source

The Shea Tree is also known as Karite Nut Tree. It is native to the Sahel region of West Africa. The botanical name of the Shea Nut Tree is Vitellaria paradoxa. It belongs to the Sapotaceae (soapberry family).

Shea Butter has been used since the times of Cleopatra and Queen of Sheba. Europeans discovered Shea Butter once again about 200 years ago.

The Shea Tree grows naturally in the wild and does not require any irrigation, pesticides or insecticides. They grow in the Savannah regions of West Africa in dense plantations. These trees are resistant to forest fires that occur during the dry season in the Savannahs. Shea Trees are now grown in 19 African countries.

Many countries import Shea Butter from Africa to use as an ingredient in many cosmetic and medicinal products.

Description of the Shea Tree

Shea Tree grows up to 65 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter. It is a deciduous tree with fissured barks. The wood of the Shea Nut Tree is heavy, durable and fire resistant.

The leaves of the Shea Tree are leathery and elliptical in shape with smooth margins. The leaves are found in clusters on the tip of the branches arranged alternate to each other or in whorls.

The flowers are cream colored and are found in clusters. Each cluster has many flowers that are pollinated by insects.

The fruits of the Shea Tree are elliptical shaped drupes that are 1.1 to 2.25 inches in length born on fruit stalks.

Shea Nuts
Shea Nuts | Source
women working to extract shea butter
women working to extract shea butter | Source

How is Shea Butter Processed?

To produce Shea Butter, the nuts are picked from the Shea Tree, cracked, grilled and pounded.The pounded nuts are then boiled in water till the oil rises to the top. The oil is then scooped out and allowed to cool. Once the oil cools down, it becomes thick and butter-like in consistency.

Shea Butter is cream in color and has a soft, thick consistency with a nutty smell. Shea Butter is rich in vitamins, minerals and fatty acids that help to moisturize and rejuvenate the skin.

Role of Shea Butter in Skin Care

Shea Butter is very good for the skin. It has an anti-aging effect on the skin. It has essential fatty acids that keep the skin moisturized and maintains the elasticity of the skin.

Shea Butter stimulates the growth of new skin cells and increases blood circulation to the skin. It protects the skin from the UV rays of the sun and prevents wrinkle formation. It also protects the skin from free radical damage.

Shea Butter has vitamin A, vitamin E that is important for healthy skin. It spreads smoothly on the skin and is absorbed by the skin very easily. Shea Butter does not clog the pores and allows the skin to breathe.

Shea Butter -

  • relieves dry skin
  • relieves dry scalp
  • evens out skin tone
  • softens hard skin
  • reduces acne
  • prevents after shave bumps
  • prevents the formation of stretch marks
  • reduces blemishes and scars

Shea Butter
Shea Butter | Source

Interesting Fatcs

  • the wood of Shea Trees was traditionally used to make coffins for kings
  • Shea Butter is also known as woman's gold
  • it takes about 25 years for the Shea Tree to produce a large number of fruits
  • Shea Tree is an important cash crop of the African nation

Healing Properties of Shea Butter

Shea Butter is very effective in healing –

  • burns
  • sores
  • scars
  • dermatitis
  • psoriasis
  • dandruff
  • stretch marks
  • insect bites
  • sun burns

Shea Butter also helps to ease skin conditions like, eczema, dermatitis and skin allergies. Shea Butter is used in many cosmetic beauty products because of its valuable properties.

Shea Tree and Agroforestry in West Africa

Shea Tree plays an important role as a food crop and a cash crop in 16 countries of the Sub-Saharan Africa.

Agroforestry refers to the practice of growing trees or shrubs along with crops or along with animal farming systems that benefit the environment and also help the farmers to earn extra income.

In the Northern Benin region in West Africa, farmers growing organic cotton in their fields and grow Shea Trees along the borders. The leaves that fall from the Shea Tree enrich the soil of their fields.

By adopting the practice of Agroforestry the farmers in Benin earn money in two ways - one by selling organic cotton, and another way that they earn money is by selling Shea Nuts, and Shea butter.


© 2014 Nithya Venkat


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    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      4 years ago from Dubai

      aesta1 thank you for your visit and am glad you came to know through this hub.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I like using Shea but never knew where it came from. Good I came across your hub.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      teaches12345 thank you and am happy you now appreciate Shea Butter even more.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      After reading your article, I have a new appreciation for this ingredient in my lotions. What a fascinating read!

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      AudreyHowitt thank you for stopping by.

      tobusiness thank you for your visit.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Very interesting information. I knew about some of the benefits of Shea butter but I now know a lot more.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      6 years ago from California

      I am glad I stopped by this morning. What a fascinating hub--so good to know!!

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      Hi cclitgirl! yes we can help a lot of people by buying Shea Butter, thank you for stopping by. Thanks for the vote and share.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      What an awesome write up! I didn't know all this about the shea tree, but man, I feel like we could really help a lot of people by buying shea butter, not the mention the environment. Voted up and shared.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      DDE thank you for the visit. Thanks for the vote up too.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I know of shea butter and this opened my knowledge to know about shea trees a very useful hub. Informative and such a helpful hub in great detail. Voted up and interesting.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      Eiddwen thank you and am glad you came to know.

      midget38 thank you for the visit and share.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Wonderful......great info, Nithya. Sharing!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      No I did not know but I certainly do now thanks to this great hub. Voting up, sharing and wishing you a great day.


    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      ologsinquito thank you.

      rajan jolly thank you.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      6 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Interesting facts about shea tree and shea butter. Thanks for sharing.

    • ologsinquito profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      This is very interesting. I'm always trying to learn more about natural remedies, and I'm not that familiar with shea butter or where it comes from.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      Inspired Heart thank you for reading and leaving a comment.

    • Inspired Heart profile image

      Yvette Stupart 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      I don't know the Shea tree, but the Shea butter seems to be a wonderful by product with it's healing properties and skin care uses. Thanks for the information, Vellur.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      always exploring thank you, Shea Butter is available in your place too.

      Alicia C thank you, Shea Butter is great for the skin.

      Faith Reaper thank you for reading and for the vote.

      words55 thank you and am glad that you came to know about the properties of Shea Butter.

    • word55 profile image

      Al Wordlaw 

      6 years ago from Chicago

      This is very interesting. I've heard of Shea Butter but now I know of its properties. Sounds like a good butter I'd want around.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      6 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, I really love shea butter! What a fascinating hub here about the shea tree.

      Up and away


    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love shea butter. Thanks for sharing the interesting information. I'm very glad that the shea tree is grown as part of agroforestry!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I have never heard of shea butter. It's amazing how it is made. I watched the video. The women worked so hard to get it started. You always bring something new for us to see. Thank you. This is very interesting. Can you buy this product in America? I will look for it.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      tramvaj thank you and do check out Shea Butter.

      RachelOhalloran thank you and am glad my hub changed the way you look at Shea Butter.

      Jackie Lynnley thank you for stopping by and your appreciation.

      billybuc am glad you came to know about this wonderful tree, thank you for stopping by.

      rebeccamealey am glad you came to know about Shea Butter, thank you.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Boy, have I learned something. One, I didn't know Shea butter came from a tree, and two, I didn't know it had been around since Cleo's time. Thanks!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I did not know that...but then I've never heard of that tree, so I can be excused for not knowing. :) Great information my friend.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      6 years ago from the beautiful south

      You just make me want to run out and buy some Shea Butter lotion! I probably will. Terrific job explaining and making it appealing. ^+

    • RachaelOhalloran profile image

      Rachael O'Halloran 

      6 years ago from United States

      This was interesting to know. I'll never look at my jar of Shea Butter the same way again. I knew it was good stuff, I just didn't know how good. Voted up. :)

    • travmaj profile image


      6 years ago from australia

      Such an informative and interesting hub. I'm impressed by the Shea tree and will definitely be checking out Shea butter. Thank you.


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