Origins of Shea Butter

If you've used Shea Butter before, even if you don't know whats in it, you know it's rich. Shea butter reflects the richness of West Africa and how nature has the medicine for everything we need, including healthy skin.

The growth of shea trees is exclusive to sub-Saharan West Africa in the savannas, particularly in Burkina Faso.

Its abundance extends from Senegal to Ethiopia and Uganda. You might surprise yourself to know that it stretches across savanna over nearly a thousand-kilometer area across 19 countries of the African continent. Namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, IvoryCoast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, SierraLeone, SouthSudan, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, and Guinea.

Although slow in its initial growth, the shea tree has a good fruit-bearing life span of 15–20 years! The fruits will seem to you of a shape of a large plum and its egg-shaped nut with the kernel that produces the fatty shea butter.

shea tree

A survival tool for many families

Working in harmony to make shea butter, the story starts with the women rise early to pick shea nut, which falls from the trees in the wild. They face the risks of snake bites while walking miles and miles, and then cooking is an exhausting big day, but for them, this is survival. Locally, they use the butter to manufacture soap, treat wounds, soften skin and hair, and cooking oil.

In Ghana and Nigeria, they use it in African black soap as a major ingredient. But the demand is growing as the global brand stores the butter as an ingredient in chocolate and beauty products. Despite its order in the international market, people here feel the women are not benefitting from their hard work. So, what needs to change? If we have a completely transparent market with a marketplace where we know the shea's price, you could have better transparency, better competition, and maybe more finance at the end. From the centuries-old tradition, these women are making a little money today. But they still hope for a future where all the hard work will be rewarded.

GreenBody sources shea butter from West Africa

The Shea tree is a traditional plant of food on the African continent. This tree has proven to have the potential to improve nutrition, foster rural development, boost food supply in the "annual hungry season," and support sustainable land care. Shea butter is a mixture of five essential fatty acids: stearic, linoleic, palmitic, oleic, and arachidic.

In the shea kernels and butter, the proportions of stearic and oleic acids differ with the species. Ugandan shea butter has a high oleic acid percentage and is liquid. The fatty acid content of West African shea butter is much more variable than Ugandan shea butter. Variability may increase even locally, and a tree that produces hard butter can grow with nuts that make soft butter.

They collect nuts from a wide coverage area for production, so shea butter consistency also varies. Interestingly, within West Africa, the Mossi Plateau region of Burkina Faso has a higher average stearic acid content in its shea butter. Which is usually harder than shea butter from other West African areas.


GreenBody Butter

100% Pure, Natural Hand Whipped African Shea Butter, Coconut & Castor oil 


  • Restores natural glow
  • Anti-inflammatory & Anti-aging
  • therapeutic massage balm
  • Promotes cell renewal
  • Relieves Eczema, Acne & dermatitis


  • West African Shea Butter
  • West African Raw Coconut Oil
  • Cold Pressed Castor Oil
  • Organic Essential Oil Blend for healing benefits and scent
  • "Blessed" variety contains Blessed Oil

Shea butter production from nuts in Burkina Faso

Let me introduce you to a place with the largest reservoirs of shea trees and produce the greatest amount of shea butter worldwide, i.e., Burkina Faso. The shea tree, Vitellaria paradoxa, is very popular in Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa. The Burkinabe villagers call it “women’s gold” as the village women collect the nuts of shea tree after which they are processed. They crush, grind, and cook it to yield shea butter. Widely used as a moisturizer in beauty products, soaps, lotions, etc.  Do you know shea butter is edible? they use it in food preparation like chocolate.

Shea butter production supports the economy of Burkina Faso

Shea nuts play a very important role in the economy of Burkina Faso. After cotton and livestock, it is the third most important export of the country.  The most notable centers of shea butter production are areas in the provinces Sissili and Ziro. The shea tree grows profusely in the wild without any special attention or nourishment. they distribute exclusively in Burkina Faso, where it is a means of economic sustenance to rural women. In Burkina Faso, it is the exclusive entitlement of rural women is 300,000 to 400,000. In the local language, it is known as "Si" [shi].

shea butter process

Women's empowerment in Burkina Faso

Women of Burkina Faso have traditionally played a major role in extract shea butter. From collecting shea nuts to its final processing to make shea butter. You will be impressed with the hard work they do for all this process. Unluckily, the shea trade's improved economic conditions did not permeate to benefit them. As a result, their involvement remained restricted to their local markets.

The export earnings were increased due to shea butter's use in cosmetics (for lotions, soaps, creams, and other products) by reputed firms such as L'Oréal, The Body Shop, and L'Occitane en Provence. UNIFEM monitors these exports to make sure that benefits flowed directly to local women involved in the industry. As a result, shea butter exports for L'Occitane recorded an increase from 60 tonnes to 90 tonnes in a year.

A greater share reaching the women involved in its production. The women are also involved in the trade to produce a better-quality product using advanced methods. The quality of butter made had declined in the recent past due to misappropriate handing. This women empowerment process has given "a sense of self-respect among the workers. The women producers earned the respect of their family and the right to speak out in the community.

lavender body butter

Know your Source & Build Relationships​

If you're on the market for quality Shea Butter products, researching the source can turn your purchase into power that uplifts African communities. Companies like GreenBody Wellness know the source, history, and quality of their ingredients because they know the farmers, the land and continue to build a bridge of trade between the US and African Diaspora.

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