Nkuto (shea butter) is 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, releasing the shea 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.
It has been established that shea butter’s composition is based on where it is cultivated. The constituents of shea butter are what gives it the health benefits.
Linoleic, palmitic, stearic, and oleic fatty acids, ingredients balance oils on the skin. The oil from the fruit of the shea tree contains about 45 to 50 per cent oleic acid, 30 to 41 per cent stearic acid, five to nine per cent palmitic acid, and four to five per cent linoleic acid. The best shea butter is extracted using cold-pressed methods without added chemicals or preservatives.
Vitamins A, E, and F, antioxidant vitamins 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 nourishes and conditions your skin.
Cetyl esters, the waxy part of the shea nut butter conditions skin and locks in moisture. Food, drug Administration includes shea nut oil on its list of direct food substances affirmed as Generally Recognised as Safe (GRAS).
Anti-inflammatory skin moisturiser, eczema
Many skincare products on the Ghanaian market are loaded with synthetic chemicals which are unhealthy.
Nkuto 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 the butter help to reduce inflammation.
Furthermore, both have anti-tumour-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 moisturiser. For instance, one study recognised 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 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, 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 moisturisers, could help decrease dandruff flakes and reduce the risk of flare-ups.
Relieves windburn, sunburn
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.
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.
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”.
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
The writer is President, Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation.He adheres to strict sourcing, studies and academic papers in his articles, which are for educational purposes only and not medical advice for treatment.