Within Ghana and in most parts of West Africa, destruction of the shea tree is prohibited because of its immense benefits as a valuable source of food, medicine and income for the local population.
Some traditional uses of shea butter include treatment of very dry skin, eczema, blemishes, skin discolorations, scars, stretch marks and wrinkles. It is also used as massage oil for babies and adults alike, and also a relaxer for stiff muscles due to it containing anti-inflammatory, emollient and humectant properties.
Shea oil which is obtained from the shea nuts is used as cooking oil in the northern part of Ghana, as well as oil for the locals to light up their lamps at night. The skin of the shea nut is eaten and the bark of the tree is also used as a prophylactic against certain childhood illness and minor scrapes and cuts. The dry shell of the nut when burnt acts as an effective mosquito repellant. In fact even the residue left after the butter has been collected during the extraction process is used as organic manure by the local farmer’s for their crops.
Shea butter is so good for the skin because of its high content of palmitic, stearic, oleic and arachidic non saponifiable fatty acids. Recent years has seen increased use of shea butter in many products. Examples of which can be seen in leading skincare beauty creams, lotions, soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners, massage oils, lip balms and so on.
Commercially it is now widely used in cosmetics as a moisturizer, salve or lotion. The chocolate industry has been known to use shea butter mixed with other oils as a substitute for cocoa butter. Other uses include being used as a waterproofing wax and in candle making.