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In its purest form, shea butter is edible and can be used as cooking oil. Shea fruit is also edible, and sometimes chocolate companies replace cocoa butter with shea butter in the production process. Note – most of the shea butter we purchase is for external use only. Many companies mix their shea butter with other products but still say “shea butter” on the label, so read your ingredients to be informed!
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Shea Butter is the ivory-colored fat that is extracted by crushing and boiling the nuts grown by the shea tree, which grows in the savannahs of west and central Africa. Shea nut trees can be found in 19 different African countries.
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Cleopatra used shea butter, and there is mention of caravans of clay jars filled with shea butter for her use. It’s also said that shea was beloved by the Queen of Sheba and Nefertiti .
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The word “shea” is said to be derived from the tree’s name in Mali’s Bambara language. What we call “shea” is also known as mangifolia, karite nut, galam butter and bambuk butter, amongst other names.
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Shea butter is a truly multipurpose product. It’s said to help reduce or heal wrinkles, stretch marks, acne scars, poison ivy, insect bites, psoriasis and age spots. It’s believed to heal skin allergies and outbreaks, and in Nigeria, it’s rubbed around the nostrils to alleviate congestion and sinus issues. Whipped shea butter helps for scalp issues, offers a measure of sun protection, and helps to seal in moisture for natural hair. Non-food grade or cosmetics-grade shea can be used for making candles, and for fuel for lamps.
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