Extracting Shea Butter Traditionally
Depending on methods passed down from generations, various families in West Africa have their own traditional methods of extracting shea butter. The basic process is the same in most families. Shea Nuts, the fruit of the Shea Tree is picked, cracked, grilled and pounded to extract the butter. It is then boiled in water for a number of hours until the fresh shea butter rises to the surface. It is then scooped into gourds and left to cool and set. This is all done by hand. This process has been done for centuries. Although this process does not produce mass shea butter, it is still the best way to extract because there is no need for chemicals or synthetic agents to be added to extract the butter. This is called Unrefined Shea Butter or Raw Shea Butter.
Extracting Shea Butter by Pressing
An expeller type press is used to crush the nuts of the shea butter. The shea nuts are pushed against the metal press. The movement is similar to a meat grinder. Then the shea butter is squeezed out of the nut by pressure. The end result is Unrefined Shea Butter or Raw Shea Butter.
This method is used by many African women these days because it helps them organize and produce more shea butter in less time. It does not involve any chemicals. It is simply a faster way of extracting without compromising the pure unrefined shea butter. This process cuts at least 3-5 hours off the traditional extraction time.
Extracting Shea Butter using Solvent
The Shea Butter is removed from the Shea Nuts by dissolving the shea nut with a chemical called Hexane at temperatures of about 56-65 degrees. Traces of the solvent remains in the shea butter. Sometimes left over shea butter from the Pressing method are mixed with the left over from the Solvent method and sold as “Unrefined Shea Butter” So ask questions if you do not trust your shea butter source.
Traditional uses of Shea Butter
Before 100% Pure African Shea Butter was introduced to the world, it was used for many other purposes besides cosmetics. Traditional healers have used shea butter for centuries to treat their patients. Shea butter is also used during certain traditional ceremonies to prepare certain dishes. It is also used for spiritual cleansing.
Despite its popularity today, traditional uses of shea butter are being preserved because a vast number of people in Africa and elsewhere around the world are using African shea butter for its intended purposes. In some households, shea butter is used to prepare dishes. Many people from all walks of life have used unrefined African shea butter for their skin & hair. They have experienced the benefits of shea butter first hand.
The Bottom Line
No matter how shea butter is manipulated in the commercial industry, the fact remains that the traditional way of extracting shea butter yields unrefined shea butter which is still by far the most beneficial to skin & hair. Some get confused by the words “Unrefined Shea Butter” UNREFINED simply means NATURAL, CRUDE, or COLD PRESSED. It means NOT PROCESSED, NO CHEMICALS!