Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Raw, Unrefined Shea Butter

Awhile back I was reading one of our favorite magazines, The Backwoodsman, The Magazine for the twenty-first century frontiersman. This is a DYI magazine, lots of articles are written by the readers. There's always an article on woodlore, some simple recipe (once a recipe for Grandaddy's gunpowder), how-to articles on lots of very useful items--anyway, a great magazine. In the July/August 2007 issue was an article on raw shea butter which said that the raw shea butter still had its medicinal and curative properties, unlike refined shea butter. I was intriqued, and wrote to the source given for purchasing the stuff. I bought a pound of this raw nut butter and I've been really pleased with it ever since.

This stuff is great for dry skin, for hands that have been working in a garden all day. It will take away the sting and itch of bug bites (almost as good as plantain salve), it is a good conditioner for hair as well. It can be used for diaper rash, scars, stretch marks, sunburn, small wounds, athletes' foot, treatments of the symptoms of psoriasis and eczema, and so on.

The raw butter is a sort of clay color, taupe or brownish yellowish tan. It smells a bit nutty, and it's texture is like a salve. It is solid, but will liquify on contact with your skin. If the shea butter you have is white or smells floral, then it is refined shea butter and not the natural product.

I really like the stuff. I have used refined shea butter, but I've been reading that cosmetics and fragrances are an area that the FDA doesn't watch carefully if at all. Not that I trust the FDA, but while cosmetics are regulated, fragrances are not--and that means any damn chemical, carcinogenic or otherwise, can be used to create those lovely smells. In an attempt to avoid all that crap--human bodies are NOT made to absorb all these nasty chemicals and we are better off without them--I wanted to try the raw butter.

Here's some good information from an article on raw vs. refined shea butter:

More commonly found in retail outlets, refined shea butter goes through an entirely different production cycle than its natural counterpart. In an effort to speed up the extraction process, increase profits and alter the smell and texture of shea butter, most manufacturers have adopted a refining method which destroys much of the natural integrity of the shea nut. In this process, the seed oil is extracted from the kernels using a highly flammable, gasoline-like chemical known as Hexane, which usually remains in the product in trace amounts.

Side effects from exposure to hexane include dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea, weakness, unconsciousness, and abdominal pain. Production by-products containing trace amounts of hexane are commonly sold as animal feed, and excessive amounts of hexane are thought to cause anemia in livestock – transferring to the meat consumers’ purchase. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Hexane compounds are carcinogens and are classed as a hazardous substance. Hexane also poses a serious environmental threat – implicated as a polluter and producer of harmful ozone build-up and air pollution when vented into the atmosphere during the flash-off (burning) cycle of manufacturing.

The side effects and environmental concerns surrounding the use of hexane are serious problems of refined shea butter production, yet other aspects of this refining process are equally as damaging to consumers. To remove the characteristic nutty smell of shea, the extracted oil is exposed to 450 degree heat and sodium hydroxide and carbonate chemicals are added. To change the texture and appearance of the product, it moves through an acid-treated filter and is bleached. Known carcinogens (BHT & BHA) are added to refined shea butter to enhance the shelf-life of the finished product.

“Refining shea butter removes natural essential fatty acids, valuable proteins and important minerals, leaving consumers with a questionable, ineffective and potentially dangerous product. In no way similar to refined shea butter, raw shea butter is significantly richer in vitamins, phyto-nutrients and UV absorbing factors. Raw shea is more difficult to find [than refined shea butter], but is well worth the effort,” states Killey.

(Hmmmm. That's probably more quote than is allowed under fair use...)

I purchased my raw butter from Body by Shea. These folks have an email, but no webpage. Contact them at rrakestraw@woh.rr.com. Alternatively, you can google raw shea butter and find lots of other places to buy it. I bought a pound of the unrefined butter for $12--and that's a lot of wonderful skin cream for not a lot of money!

A neighbor of ours, Fred, has had a persistent problem with a rash on his forehead. Just couldn't get rid of it. He had tried purslane cream, hydrogen peroxide, other skin creams, ointments, etc. I gave him some of the raw shea butter and it cleared the rash up right away.

OK, I grant you skin cream is not your most important prep item. But I guarantee that women will want to have something like this, no matter if the world is falling apart. Wall Street crashes and zombies are rampaging.... It will probably be an excellent barter item as well. Raw shea butter has the added goodness of its medicinal/curative properties, and can be helpful in a host of situations. You might want to check it out.

BTW, I won't do many posts like this--commercial stuff to purchase. But this is a good product and kind of hard to find, and I thought readers might be interested in knowing about it.


Anonymous said...

Can you tell me how long unrefined shea butter will keep and how it should be stored?

Patricia said...

It can be kept at room temperature, although if it is really warm, then the butter might turn to liquid form, melting from the solid. That hasn't happened with mine.

I'm not sure how long it will keep--my impression is for at least a year and maybe longer. I'll look into it and leave a comment here when I find out.

Patricia said...

This is from the article on raw shea butter linked in the post:

" Because of several naturally-occurring antioxidants, raw shea has an indefinite shelf-life; however, refined shea has a maximum two-year shelf-life. "

I'm not sure how long "indefinite" is--sounds like it could last forever...

Survival Chick said...

Oh wow, this is such a great idea. I purchase the over the counter shea butter, but NEVER considered raw! Thanks for the helpful post and link!