BENEFITS OF SHEA
The benefits of the Shea fruit can never go unnoticed. The tasty fruit has a thin nutritious pulp around a large, oil-rich nut, which is the ingredient for making Shea oil. It is also rich in vitamins A E and K, antioxidants and contains five fatty acids; oleic acid, linoleic acids, palmitic, stearic, and arachidic acid. Additionally, the oil extract is rich in Vitamin D, which is a good source of calcium and potassium.
FROM THE SOURCE
Grows in: Dry Savannah belt of West and South
Source & Processed: Ghana
Packaged & Labelled: Norway
TRADITIONAL USE OF SHEA
For its multipurpose use, Shea butter has turned out to be a household name in many African homes and skincare products across the globe. For starters, the nutmeats can be eaten fresh or roasted like almonds. Secondly, its long shelf life makes it commonly used in villages for frying, baking, and in sauces.
Apart from being edible, traditionally, Shea butter and oil has been known to maintain the skin and keep it clear and healthy, besides preventing premature wrinkles and facial lines by restoring elasticity to the skin hence reducing the ageing process.
It is also friendly to a baby’s skin. Frequently, it is used for massaging the body of babies after their daily baths because it is deemed pure and contains natural moisturisers and vitamins that give babies smooth skin.
WHAT IS THE SHEA TREE?
A Shea tree or vitellaria, is a tree of the family Sapotaceae. The shea tree is a traditional African food plant that naturally grows in the dry Savanna of West and South. It has two subspecies: Vitellaria Nilotica found mainly in East Africa and Butyrospermum Parkii, which is found only in West Africa. It grows across the African continent in countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Chad, to mention a few.
The Shea tree is a deciduous small to medium-sized tree that reproduces naturally (by seed) and averages a height of up to 15-25 m. A shea nut tree will start to bear fruit once it clocks 15 to 20 years, reaches the peak of production at 25 years, and can live as long as 200 years. The leaves are tough and clustered at the ends of branches. The bark is dark, thick, and deeply cracked into squares.
The Shea tree grows in areas with annual rainfall between 400 and 1,800 mm but can withstand multi-year droughts as well as the usual 6 to the 8-month yearly dry season. The flowers bloom during the dry season; they provide nectar for honey bees and can be harvested, fried, and eaten. During the rainy season, ripe fruits fall to the ground making it easy for harvest.
The inner seed or nut has a smooth, thin, brown outer covering that protects the nutritious nut. A single tree typically produces 15 to 20 kg of fruit; together, the nuts inside those fruits weigh around 3 to 4 kg and contain 1.5 to 2 kg of fat.
Extracting the edible oil from shea nuts is a long and tiring process. First, the fruits are collected from under the trees. The flesh is either eaten or removed by fermentation. The nuts are cleaned, then boiled long enough to prevent germination. They are then roasted or dried in the sun for 5 to 10 days. At this stage, dried seeds can be sold or stored for later processing.
Most exported shea is sold in dried nut form, and the oil is extracted industrially. Selling at this point makes sense for small-scale farmers because it is during a busy time of the agriculture cycle when labor is at a premium.
PUBLISHED SHEA RESEARCH
Citation: Kao J-H, Lin S-H, Lai C-F, Lin Y-C, Kong Z- L, Wong C-S (2016) Shea Nut Oil Triterpene Concentrate Attenuates Knee Osteoarthritis Development in Rats: Evidence from Knee Joint Histology. PLoS ONE 11(9): e0162022. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0162022