Beauty Pages

The first reference to Shea Butter

Mungo Park
Mungo Park

As I have said before, shea butter is one of the ingredients I recommend in hand creams.

I have been busy lately researching an e-book on shea butter.  In the course of this I came across the first reference to shea butter in Western literature – though it was of course already well known in Africa for many centuries before this.  It comes from Life and Travels of Mungo Park in Central Africa published in 1795, and I though it worth sharing on this blog for people who like me always want to know the historical background to anything.

“The Negro slave merchants, as I have observed in the former chapter, are
called Slatees; who, besides slaves, and the merchandize which they
bring for sale to the whites, supply the inhabitants of the maritime
districts with native iron, sweet smelling gums and frankincense, and a
commodity called Shea-toulou, which, literally translated, signifies
tree-butter. This commodity is extracted by means of boiling water from
the kernel of a nut, as will be more particularly described hereafter; it
has the consistence and appearance of butter; and is in truth an
admirable substitute for it. It forms an important article in the food of
the natives, and serves also for every domestic purpose in which oil
would otherwise be used. The demand for it is therefore very great.”

More about shea butter in my e-book about it.

Shea Butter e-book

Shea Butter e-book

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