Thursday, September 29, 2016

Shea Nut Butter Is Good for Your Skin. Could It Be Good for Your Joints, Too?

Shea nut butter has been popular for soothing dry skin and smoothing out wrinkles for generations. A recent study finds it may be helpful for joint pain, too.

Shea nut butter is a heavily promoted product in skin care products. I would know. I've helped to promote it, myself. There's something to be said for promoting a product that provides income for people in places like South Sudan. And when it actually works for skin care, all the better.

The fat in shea nut oil dissolves a group of chemicals called triterpenes, specifically alpha-amyrin acetate, beta-amyrin acetate, lupeol acetate, and butyrospermol acetate, and four triterpene cinnamates, alpha-amyrin cinnamate, beta-amyrin cinnamate, lupeol cinnamate, and butyrospermol cinnamate, not that the names are critical for a working understanding of how they work. Many of these compounds are generally anti-inflammatory. They help the skin avoid the processes that destroy health skin cells when neighboring skin cells are damaged by sunlight. They also suppress certain inflammatory reactions in the skin but not at the expense of immune reactions. Shea butter contains some compounds that kill some viruses.

For several years, researchers in multiple laboratories have been investigating how shea nut butter might relieve inflammation in joints. So far, all the scientific testing has been done with animals in the laboratory, not with people yet, but the results are promising. There is good evidence that shea nut butter relieves pain and swelling, and also protects cartilage. That's important, because NSAID pain relievers stop pain and swelling, but at the expense of cartilage regeneration.

I can't tell you that rubbing shea nut butter on your aching knee absolutely, positively will relieve osteoarthritic knee pain, or that rubbing shea nut butter on your arthritic fingers will make it easier to use your hands. But I can tell you there doesn't seem to be any downside to trying it. You may come out with smoother skin and flexible joints, and usually the same day as you use it.


Shea Nut Oil Triterpene Concentrate Attenuates Knee Osteoarthritis Development in Rats: Evidence from Knee Joint Histology.
Kao JH, Lin SH, Lai CF, Lin YC, Kong ZL, Wong CS.
PLoS One. 2016 Sep 1;11(9):e0162022. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0162022. eCollection 2016.
PMID: 27583436.

Photo credit: By Luluworks ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons,

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