Shea butter (Butyrospermum parkii) comes from the nut of the African shea tree. It is off-white or ivory in colour and can be used in cooking as well as in body care products.
The traditional process of getting unrefined shea butter is quite involved. The pulp of the fruit must be removed and the nut dried. The outer shell must then be removed. Traditionally this is done by hand with small rocks. The nuts are then crushed, often with a mortar and pestle. Once crushed, they are roasted. Again, traditionally this is done over an open fire. After the roasting, the nuts are ground into a paste and kneaded. Water is added during the kneading process to allow the separated butter curds to float to the top. The curds are melted and slowly boiled to removed the excess water. It then is put into pots to cool and harden.
Such a labour intensive process to produce such a lovely product! I find that shea butter is very soothing to dry skin. It is great to use in products or on its own. It can be found in the lip balms and creams that I make and look forward to using it in future products!