Drugs A - Z
Shea butter (Vitellaria paradoxa, Butyrospermum paradoxum, Butyrospermum parkii)
Generic Name: Lipids
CategoryHerbs & Supplements
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.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: 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.
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.
TraditionWARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. 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 healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
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.
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.
SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
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
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®).
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, and was peer-reviewed and edited by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com): Tracee Rae Abrams, PharmD (University of Rhode Island); Julie Conquer, PhD (RGB Consulting); Dawn Costa, BA, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Richard Isaac (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Wiwon Kumnerdpun, BS, PharmD (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy); Yen Nguyen, PharmD (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy); Jill M. Grimes Serrano, PhD (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); David P. Tran PharmD (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy); Diem Tran, PharmD (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy); Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD (Massachusetts General Hospital).
BibliographyDISCLAIMER: 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.
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.
Itoh, T, Tamura, T, and Matsumoto, T. 24-Methylenedammarenol: a new triterpene alcohol from shea butter. Lipids 1975;10(12):808-813.
Loden, M and Andersson, AC. Effect of topically applied lipids on surfactant-irritated skin. Br J Dermatol. 1996;134(2):215-220.
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.
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.
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.
Sanders, TA and Berry, SE. Influence of stearic acid on postprandial lipemia and hemostatic function. Lipids 2005;40(12):1221-1227.
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.
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.
Tholstrup, T. Influence of stearic acid on hemostatic risk factors in humans. Lipids 2005;40(12):1229-1235.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.