Shea butter has been used for centuries as an ingredient in cosmetics that soothes, conditions and softens the skin, as it has anti-inflammatory and healing properties. The shea tree, also known as shi tree or vitellaria is native to West Africa. The tree can live for up to 300 years; however, it produces its first fruit when it reaches maturity, which can take 20 to 30 years. The shea fruit that grows on the tree has a nutritious pulp that encompasses a large oil-rich nut, from which shea butter is extracted.
THE GHANAIAN PEOPLE AND FAIR TRADE FUND
Shea butter has had a significant impact on the quality of life for women in Ghana. The company producing the shea butter employs 35 members of staff, who are supported by 3,000 women from 29 groups across Northern Ghana. More than 9,600 additional women help supply the shea nuts used in the butter. All the women are beneficiaries of the Fair Trade fund, which has been used for projects vital to the women, their families and Ghanaian communities, including —construction of kindergarten facilities, distribution of mosquito nets, rehabilitation of broken boreholes, construction of community household toilet facilities and the creation of a new water tank and underground reservoir.
HOW THE OIL IS PRODUCED
Shea butter is produced by removing a fatty extract from the shea nut, which is derived from the shea fruit. Before this can take place, the pulp has to be removed to gain access to the shea nut. The nuts are removed, washed and left to dry, eliminating the moisture. The nuts are then crushed, roasted and transformed into a dark brown paste. By hand, water is added to the paste and whipped so that it can mix well. The paste is then washed several times with distilled water to purify it, before boiling commences. As the paste is boiled, the fat rises to the top and is skimmed off. The oil settles to the bottom and is left to cool and harden into shea butter.
USES AND BENEFITS OF SHEA BUTTER
Naturally high in vitamins A, D, E, and F, and because of its high concentrations of fatty acids, shea butter is an excellent ingredient to use in cosmetics. With anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, shea butter can help reduce skin disorders and improve damaged hair and skin.