Shea butter (Vitellariaparadoxa, Butyrospermumparadoxum, Butyrospermumparkii)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
Butyrospermum paradoxum (C.F. Gaertn.), Butyrospermum parkii (G. Don) Kotschy, catechin, epicatechin, epicatechin gallate, epigallocatechin, epigallocatechin gallate, gallic acid, gallocatechin, gallocatechin gallate, oleic acid, phenolics, quercetin, saturated fatty acids, shea butter seed husks, shea kernels, shea nut butter, shea tree, stearic acid, sterols, stigmasterol, tocopherol, trans-cinnamic acid, triglycerides, triterpene alcohol, unsaturated fatty acids, Vitellaria paradoxa (C.F. Gaertn.).
Shea butter comes from the nut of the shea tree, which grows in West Africa. It has been used for centuries in Africa for various skin protecting effects.
Shea butter has been marketed as a skin and hair moisturizer and as a treatment for a variety of skin conditions including acne, burns, chapped lips, dry skin, eczema, psoriasis, scars, stretch marks, and wrinkles. It has also been used as a cream to relieve arthritis and rheumatism and to heal bruises and muscle soreness, however, there is questionable evidence to support these uses of shea butter.
Based on human study, shea butter may be effective for relief of nasal congestion, lowering cholesterol levels, and for blood thinning.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
In clinical trials, shea butter was shown to reduce blood clotting after meals. Additional studies are needed to confirm these findings.
Limited evidence suggests that shea butter may relieve nasal congestion. More research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Lipid lowering effects (cholesterol and triglycerides)
In clinical trials, shea butter was shown to lower increases in lipids after eating. Additional studies are needed to confirm these findings.
*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
Acne, allergic skin reactions, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, arthritis, bruising, burns, chapped lips, dandruff, diarrhea, dry skin, headache, inflammation, jaundice, muscle soreness, rash, rheumatic diseases, scar prevention, skin conditions, skin inflammation, stomach ache, stretch marks, wound healing, wrinkle prevention.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (18 years and older)
For lipid lowering and blood thinning effects, a diet consisting of shea butter has been used.
For nasal congestion, shea butter has been applied to the skin.
Children (under 18 years old)
There is no proven safe or effective dose in children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid with a known allergy or sensitivity to shea butter. People with latex allergies should ask about the presence of latex in some shea butter formulations.
Side Effects and Warnings
Shea butter may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Avoid in patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding due to lack of safety evidence.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
Interactions with Drugs
Shea butter may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
Shea butter may add to the effects of anti-inflammatory drugs, antirheumatic drugs, lipid lowering drugs, and nasal decongestants.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Shea butter may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
Shea butter may add to the effects of anti-inflammatory herbs or supplements, antirheumatic herbs or supplements, lipid lowering herbs or supplements, and nasal decongestants.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Berry, SE, Miller, GJ, and Sanders, TA. The solid fat content of stearic acid-rich fats determines their postprandial effects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(6):1486-1494. View Abstract
Di Vincenzo, D, Maranz, S, Serraiocco, A, et al. Regional variation in shea butter lipid and triterpene composition in four African countries. J Agric.Food Chem. 9-21-2005;53(19):7473-7479. View Abstract
Itoh, T, Tamura, T, and Matsumoto, T. 24-Methylenedammarenol: a new triterpene alcohol from shea butter. Lipids 1975;10(12):808-813. View Abstract
Loden, M and Andersson, AC. Effect of topically applied lipids on surfactant-irritated skin. Br J Dermatol. 1996;134(2):215-220. View Abstract
Maranz, S and Wiesman, Z. Influence of climate on the tocopherol content of shea butter. J Agric Food Chem. 5-19-2004;52(10):2934-2937. View Abstract
Maranz, S, Wiesman, Z, and Garti, N. Phenolic constituents of shea (Vitellaria paradoxa) kernels. J Agric Food Chem. 10-8-2003;51(21):6268-6273. View Abstract
Mital, HC, Adotey, J, and Dove, FR. The study of shea butter. 3. Comparative assessment of antioxidants and release of medicaments. Pharm Acta Helv. 1974;49(1):28-30. View Abstract
Sanders, TA and Berry, SE. Influence of stearic acid on postprandial lipemia and hemostatic function. Lipids 2005;40(12):1221-1227. View Abstract
Tella, A. Preliminary studies on nasal decongestant activity from the seed of the shea butter tree, Butyrospermum parkii. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1979;7(5):495-497. View Abstract
Tholstrup, T, Marckmann, P, Jespersen, J, et al. Fat high in stearic acid favorably affects blood lipids and factor VII coagulant activity in comparison with fats high in palmitic acid or high in myristic and lauric acids. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994;59(2):371-377. View Abstract
Tholstrup, T. Influence of stearic acid on hemostatic risk factors in humans. Lipids 2005;40(12):1229-1235. View Abstract
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017