Medicinal and Nutritional Benefits from the Shea Tree- (Vitellaria Paradoxa)

Patrick Muotono Izideen MAANIKUU, Kenan PEKER


Shea butter is a solid fatty oil extracted from the nuts of shea (Karite) tree also known as Vitellaria paradoxa or V. nilotica. The tree grows naturally in the wild across sub-saharan savannah belt stretching across West and Eastern Africa covering about 20 countries. The tree has enormous socio-cultural and economic importance to peoples living in its geographic catchment area. Its leaves, stems, roots bark are used in various traditional medicine to treat a variety of diseases and injuries including stomach ache, headaches, fever, jaundice among others. The butter extracted from the fruit is used locally as food and as a cosmetic product for the skin and hair. In recent times there has been an increasing commercial and industrial demand of shea products. This is attributed to the discovery of its importance in the cosmetic and confectionary industries.   Shea butter is used in cosmetic products and in the food industry where it is used as a cocoa butter substitute in the chocolate industry. In Africa where shea butter is produced it is also used as cooking oil. Shea butter is solid at room temperature but quickly melts at around body temperature. The chemical composition of shea butter includes a saponifiable fraction composed primarily of stearic and oleic acids with lesser amounts of palmitic, linoleic and arachidic acids. It also contains a substantial unsaponifiable fraction composed of bioactive substances that are responsible for Shea butter’s medicinal properties. It has sun screening properties and acts as an emollient and skin moisturizer. Shea butter has is also reported to demonstra anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. Consumption of Shea butter has hypocholesterolemic effect and reduces serum and organ protein concentrations.

Keywords: Shea Tree, Shea Butter, Fatty Acids, Chemical Composition, Fruit Pulp.


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ISSN (Paper)2224-3208 ISSN (Online)2225-093X

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