Shea butter is an off-white fat extracted from the nuts of the African Shea tree. The Shea tree, also commonly known as Karite, grows wildly in several West African countries. It takes the tree around 15 years to begin producing these nuts, and will stay highly productive even at 100 years old, with its highest output around the 50 year mark.
Evidence shows that the use of shea butter dates back to as early as 100AD. It was used primarily cosmetically, as it is very effective in treating dry, damaged, or aging skin and hair. The Africans had such a high respect for the shea tree that they carved caskets out of shea wood for their kings. It is believed that Queen Cleopatra loved shea butter and would travel with many large jars so she could apply it to her skin every day.