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Table of Contents > Herbs & Supplements > Shea butter (Vitellariaparadoxa, Butyrospermumparadoxum, Butyrospermumparkii) Print

Shea butter (Vitellariaparadoxa, Butyrospermumparadoxum, Butyrospermumparkii)


Also listed as: Vitellariaparadoxa, Butyrospermumparadoxum, Butyrospermumparkii
Related terms

Related Terms
  • 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.

Evidence Table

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. GRADE *

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.


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 for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)

Tradition / Theory

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.


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.


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 (

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Itoh, T, Tamura, T, and Matsumoto, T. 24-Methylenedammarenol: a new triterpene alcohol from shea butter. Lipids 1975;10(12):808-813.
  4. Loden, M and Andersson, AC. Effect of topically applied lipids on surfactant-irritated skin. Br J Dermatol. 1996;134(2):215-220.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Sanders, TA and Berry, SE. Influence of stearic acid on postprandial lipemia and hemostatic function. Lipids 2005;40(12):1221-1227.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Tholstrup, T. Influence of stearic acid on hemostatic risk factors in humans. Lipids 2005;40(12):1229-1235.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (

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.

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