Business, Eco-friendly, Environmentalist, Green, Health, Nature

Shea Butter, Savior of Skin and People

Shea Fruit TREEAID
First, the women must harvest the Shea fruit.
Image: TREEAID / Flickr CC

The women who work in Larabanga, Ghana get up early.  Their day starts at 4:00 a.m.  That’s what it takes to do the type of work they do.  They pick Shea fruit, which they later transform into Shea butter that gets shipped all over the world.

Theirs is dangerous, arduous work.  The women wade through tall grasses known for stinging ants and poisonous snakes.  Despite the fact that the grasses come up to their waists, the women labor on.  When asked if they can shake the fruit from the 30-foot tall trees, the women say that will only make spoiled butter.

Instead, the process involves looking for fruit that has already fallen from the trees.  Those are the ripe fruits.  Who knew that Shea butter came from a fruit?

Cracking shea nuts
After the fruit is harvested, women must boil the pits, dry them in the sun, and then crack them to retrieve the seeds inside.
Image: Shutterstock

The women work for the Global Shea Alliance, a nonprofit organization that helps train West African women to produce high-quality Shea butter to sell to large corporations like Jergens.  It is considered a good job.

If you have ever used Shea butter, you know that it feels like silk and keeps your skin feeling smooth all day.  It is all-natural and is a completely renewable resource.  You can feel good about the planet when you purchase it.

The production process is a little complicated.  The pits from the fruit are boiled and then dried in the sun.  Afterward, the women crack the outer shell and take out the kernels to roast and grind.  They add water to the paste, which is then pounded by hand so the fat rises to the top.   The women boil the fat in a large batches so the water evaporates.  The remaining liquid is then stirred with a wooden spoon creating a creamy butter.  It then cools and hardens into the product you may buy at the store.

Shea butter and nuts
After the kernals have been roasted and ground, a paste is pounded by hand and boiled down to creamy Shea butter.
Image: Shutterstock

Knowing there is an all-natural product made completely by hand feels good.  It’s also a relief to know that, although the women get up early and work hard, they are being properly compensated.  Their families are not starving, and gives women there the opportunity to work at a good wage.

Many will tell you that Shea butter is truly a cure-all.  According to the women, Shea can soothe cuts and scrapes, cure rashes, erase the itchiness of bug bites and make a fabulous moisturizer and hair conditioner.  The fatty acids in the Shea make it ideal for many an ailment.

Just thinking about it, my seasonal dry skin is begging me for some right now.


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