The first thought that comes to mind when people see the word “butter” is the dairy product. The one that is made by churning dairy cream until it thickens into butter. However, we can learn from peanut butter that not all things that are called “butter” actually contain milk or dairy. This article will specifically explore whether shea butter contains milk/dairy or if it is dairy-free.
Shea Butter is Dairy-Free
Shea butter does not have milk. Dairy milk comes from cows or other mammals such as sheep, goats, or water buffalo. Shea butter is not derived from an animal. It comes from the nuts of shea trees.
The typical process to make shea butter involves collecting the shea nuts, washing them, and then drying them to reduce their moisture content. The nuts are then crushed, roasted, and ground to form a paste. The paste is then whipped and then warm water is added to the paste. This water releases the fatty butter to the water’s surface. The butter is then collected, heated, and stirred again to form the shea butter.
There are different variations from the above on how it is made but you get the idea. You’ll notice that no dairy milk is added during the process to make shea butter. While we tend to associate the word “butter” with dairy, there are several examples of products that have “butter” in their name but do not commonly contain dairy. Some examples include apple butter, almond butter, cocoa butter, and coconut butter.
Shea Butter and Tree Nut Allergies
Shea butter is derived from a tree nut. People who have allergies to tree nuts should be cautious about using products with shea butter. However, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, there do not appear to be any reports of allergic reactions caused by shea butter. Allergic reactions seem to be rare or potentially not even possible from shea butter.
Be sure to read the ingredients of shea butter before you buy it if dairy or other allergens are a concern for you. While you should be confident that most shea butters are dairy-free, there certainly could be products out there that indeed have dairy or potentially other unwanted ingredients. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer or simply do not use the product if you have concerns.
WebMD. (n.d.). SHEA BUTTER: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1512/shea-butter.
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