10 Really Surprising Facts About Shea Butter (and Can You Put It on Popcorn?!)
Does your mind work like ours? Summer starts turning to fall and your mind turns to . . . butter.
Uh, not literally, but we did start to wonder about this mysterious ingredient that you see in all kinds of cool-weather products, from skin creams, to shampoo, to soaps, to . . . socks!
Yup, shea butter gets touted far and wide, including by us, for its miracle moisturizing and skin-healing properties. At MinxNY, we add it to slippers, slipper socks and boots left and right (literally). And yes, it really does pamper feet amazingly!
But questions remain.
How? Where? Why? And what is shea butter anyway? *Does it have anything to do with the late sports stadium in New York? **And can I put it on my popcorn?
So, we got on the butter trail (or is that the drizzle?) to discover these 10 surprisingly raw truths about shea:
- This “butter” has nothing to do with dairy. It's a fat extracted from the seeds of the Vitellaria paradoxa, or shea tree, a native of West African savannahs that looks like an oak. So, it's really kind of like peanut butter. (We find that rather nutty . . .)
- Speaking of peanut butter, the purest form of shea butter is edible. Chocolate makers sometimes use it in place of cocoa butter. In Africa, it’s used in food preparation.
- In fact, in Africa, every part of the shea tree gets used: The antioxident-rich fruit (that resembles small, green plums and tastes mildly sweet) gets eaten; the fruit and blossoms are used in medicine; and the shea tree’s bark (which supposedly resists termites) is used for lumber.
- Shea butter is still extracted manually (mostly by women) in a painstaking process that involves collecting, cracking, pounding, roasting, grinding, separating and finally molding the dried nuts into a paste. This is no quick fix!
- Perhaps because of this, despite its impressive moisurizing properties, most manufacturers don’t use shea butter in their products, instead opting for cheaper olive and palm oil.
Shea butter is similar to an animal fat, thanks to its stearic acid content of 30-50%. This might be why it gets so easily absorbed into the skin and works so well to moisturize.
- In addition to helping dry skin, wrinkles, stretch marks, acne scars, cellulite, insect bites and eczema, shea butter is used as a treatment for frostbite.
In Nigeria, shea butter is used as a remedy for sinusitis and to relieve nasal congestion.
Shea butter even provides a little sun protection against harmful UV rays, with a natural sun protection factor of SPF 6.
- Turns out, our love of the shea goes way back: In ancient Egypt, it was highly valued as a protector against brutal desert sun and wind. Accounts from Cleopatra’s day mention caravans bearing precious clay jars of shea butter to her. And Cleo wasn’t alone: The Queen of Sheba and Queen Nefertiti were also supposedly big shea fans.
An ingredient that puts us in the company of queens? We say: Time to butter up!
* No, that’s William A. Shea, the man who brought baseball back to New York.
** If you want to melt some 100% unrefined, Grade A shea butter in a double broiler and pour it on popcorn, go ahead!
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