Just below the Great Sahara Desert lies a broad swath of the African Savannah lands. Outside of the rainy season, this is one of the harshest, driest, dustiest places on earth. Brutal sun, wind, and the Hamatan dust take a terrible toll to exposed skin.
Women of this region long ago learned how to extract an oil from the kernel of the nut of the Shea tree. Because it is solid at room temperature this became know as shea butter. While most people use shea butter as a valuable food oil, a few women and men began rubbing it into their skin at night.
In January and February of 2004, my partner Sandy Lincoln and I did a survey of shea butter extraction techniques and marketing methods in Upper Guinea for USAID. We met, and talked with hundreds of people. Every once in a while I would spot a person who looked younger than everyone else. It was hard to place their age. I would single out these people and asked if they rubbed shea butter into their skin. They would often hesitate and blush – it was their secret!
Fresh shea butter made by traditional methods is full of all kinds of botanical goodies like allantoin (found in aloe and comfrey), and circuminoids (anti-cancer compounds found in cumin) and catechins. We recommend applying shea butter at night, so it has time to soak into the skin. Use as lip balm, ointment, salve base, soap additive, wrinkle cream and more.
Useful for burns, all dry and irritated skin conditions (except for Poison Ivy, Oak etc., which contain irritating oils that need to be removed with Tea Tree Castile Liquid Soap). Recommended for wrinkle smoothing and prevention, and for the treatment of sun damaged skin.
Please remember that rare individuals with both a Type B Latex allergy and a Nut allergy can react to shea butter. Vermont Soap in Middlebury, VT has developed a process to remove the irritating latex from the oil thus rendering it hypo-allergenic. Always test new products on your inner forearm for a half hour to test for reactivity.