Raw Shea Butter

Nkutu (Shea Butter) originates from the shea tree, Butyrospermum parkii, also called Vitellaria paradoxa. Shea butter is made from the nuts found on the tree by removing the outer shell. The nuts are crushed by hand so that they can be slowly roasted in the butter. It is smooth in texture and does not liquefy at room temperature; however, it will soften in your hands, making it easy to apply.

In making shea butter,  Price, A(2022), notes that the butter is kneaded by hand in a large basin of water to separate the oils, also known as the fatty acids. These fatty acids are what provide restorative properties making it one of the best options for skin care and more. To get the final product, the shea butter is removed from the top and cooled until it hardens.

Shea butter has been used for topical purposes for centuries and some believe that unrefined shea butter was even used by Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba! Today, shea butter for skin and hair usage is extremely popular, which is why you’ll find it so commonly an ingredient in cosmetic products.

Price further noted that the pure variety is edible and in African countries, it’s often used in food preparation along with other oils. Sometimes raw African shea butter is used in place of cocoa butter, but if you compare the tastes of shea butter vs cocoa butter, they are quite different. Shea offers a mild, nutty flavor.

Shea Butter Composition

It has been established that shea butter composition is based on where it is cultivated. The constituents of shea butter are what give it health importance such as:

  • linoleic, palmitic, stearic, and oleic fatty acids, ingredients that balance oils on your skin. The oil from the fruit of the shea tree contains about 45–50 percent oleic acid, 30–41 percent stearic acid, 5–9 percent palmitic acid, and 4–5 percent linoleic acid. The best shea butter is extracted using cold-pressed methods without added chemicals or preservatives.
  • vitamins A, E, and F, antioxidant vitamins that promote circulation and healthy skin cell growth. It has relatively high amounts of saturated fatty acids (like MCT oil) when compared to other plant-sourced lipids, such as grapeseed oil, olive oil, and canola oil.
  • triglycerides, the fatty part of the shea nut that nourishes and conditions your skin
  • cetyl esters, the waxy part of the shea nut butter that conditions skin and locks in moisture

The Food and Drug Administration includes shea nut oil on its list of direct food substances affirmed as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).

Anti-inflammatory Skin Moisturizer, eczema

Many skincare products on the Ghanaian market are loaded with synthetic chemicals which are unhealthy. Nkutu or Shea butter is a natural ingredient that works as a good skincare product. For instance, one study( Akihis et al. 2020) found that shea nuts and shea fat (shea butter) help to reduce inflammation. Furthermore,  both shea nuts and butter have anti-tumor-promoting compounds called cinnamate esters (which are also found in cinnamon).

Another by Ho et al.(2015) suggests that shea butter could work just as well as medicated creams in treating eczema.


Shea butter is an excellent moisturizer. For instance, one study recognized in Price's article attests to the fact that raw shea butter can encourage tissue cell regeneration and soften the skin, which can help to decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The study published in The American Journal of Life Sciences reported a clinical study involving 30 volunteers in which shea butter reduced many signs of aging. In another clinical study for dry, delicate, or aging skin, 49 volunteers applied shea butter twice daily and found that it averted photo aging.  This is why shea butter is most often found in many natural anti-aging facial products.

 Moisturizes Both Scalp and Hair

Price Annie's (2022) article explained that shea butter can also be used for hair and scalp conditions as it helps to seal in moisture, conditioning the scalp, alleviating dandruff, and providing overall protection from harsh climates — much like how coconut oil works for hair.

One study( Campo et al. 2017) found that West African shea made hair significantly more resistant to breakage.

Another, Micali et al. (2018) found that shea butter when used in combination with other moisturizers, could help decrease dandruff flakes and reduce the risk of flare-ups.

Relieves Windburn, Sunburn, and Harmattan Dry Skin

Price Annie's (2022) article also explained that raw shea butter is good to deal with itchy harmattan skin. Its moisturizing qualities penetrate deep into the skin, providing more moisturizing benefits and in addition averting windburn. Shea butter is also good for cracked and dry heels, hands, rough elbows, and knees.

For those using sunscreen agents, the best option is the local shea butter. This is a much healthier, nourishing choice because most sunscreens are loaded with harmful chemicals that penetrate the skin and enter the body. Price notes: “While the SPF of this sunscreen is only about 6, it can provide some protection more naturally and is perfect underneath makeup. It’s a shea butter moisturizer and sunscreen in one! Shea butter is also great for applying if you do get a sunburn”. 

Another study(Carayanni et al. 2011) suggests that shea oils could be beneficial for superficial (first-degree) skin burns, such as sunburn. This is because the shea’s anti-inflammatory components may reduce redness and swelling. Its fatty acid components may also soothe the skin by retaining moisture during the healing process. Though, the researchers in this study established that the use of shea butter, aloe vera, and other natural products is common, more research is needed to assess their efficacy.

Could Reduce Stretch Marks

For those concerned with stretch marks, Nkutu is the best alternative as it averts this condition.  Furthermore,  shea butter helps deal with stretch marks due to its natural vitamin A content. Price has this to say:   “Because of its amazing healing properties and hydrating qualities, shea butter may reduce the appearance of stretch marks and another scarring. Some people also use it to naturally improve the appearance of cellulite by smoothing and softening the skin”.

Averts Diaper Rash for Babies

Due to its inflammatory and antifungal properties that can help fight off yeast, Shea butter is considered a diaper rash ointment for babies. It also enhances blood circulation promoting cell regeneration while providing improved collagen production.

For instance, one study( Ayankunle et al. 2012) held the view that oral doses of shea bark extract can lead to decreased antimicrobial activity in animals. This means that shea bark could indicate possible antibacterial benefits in humans. Due to this, some held that topical application may decrease the amount of acne-causing bacteria on the skin.

Price notes: “Both cell regeneration and collagen production are important to healing diaper rashes quickly. Since most children are exposed to a large number of chemicals through the numerous products found on the shelf, this is the perfect DIY diaper rash solution to help avoid those chemicals and ensure comfort and rapid healing for your baby”

Arthritis Pains, Nasal Congestion

Kao et al.(2016) study on shea oil concentrate found that it can help reduce inflammation while also protecting joints from further damage. Although this study focused on knee joints, these potential benefits could extend to other areas of the body.One old study (Tella, A. 1979) suggests that shea butter may help alleviate nasal congestion. When used in nasal drops, shea butter may reduce inflammation in the nasal passages. It could also help reduce mucosal damage, which often leads to nasal congestion.These effects could be beneficial when dealing with allergies, sinusitis, or the common cold

Take Home

Studies have affirmed that Nkutu(Shea butter)  reduces arthritis pain,  helps alleviate nasal congestion, and fights skin diseases such as eczema. It has also been established shea butter's inflammatory and antifungal properties can help fight off yeast, hence, considered a diaper rash ointment for babies. Also, women concerned with stretch marks can use just Nkutu instead of wasting monies on other treatments to deal with stretch marks. Finally, Nkutu is a natural sunscreen agent we have in Ghana. Many companies are transforming our local Nkutu into an international brand and one such quality brand is Shea Sentials Ghana.

The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, President, of Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation. E-mail:  Contact shea sentials Ghana(0249188306


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Toshihiro Akihisa, Nobuo Kojima, Takashi Kikuchi, Ken Yasukawa, Harukuni Tokuda, Eliot T. Masters, Aranya Manosroi, Jiradej Manosroi(2020) Anti-Inflammatory and Chemopreventive Effects of Triterpene Cinnamates and Acetates from Shea Fat. Oils and Fats. Volume 59 Issue 6 Pages 273-280

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.