Shea Butter Not Likely to Cause Allergic Reactions

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People with tree nut allergies, take a deep breath — it’s very unlikely you’ll have a reaction to products containing shea butter.

Known for its soothing properties, shea butter is a common ingredient in moisturizers, soaps, baby wipes, hair conditioners, nipple creams, and lip balms — especially those labeled “organic” or “natural.” Shea butter is said to have “remarkable healing properties for various skin ailments,” as well as natural anti-inflammatory agents.

People with tree nut allergies have traditionally been told to avoid contact with shea butter, because shea nuts are tree nuts — sort of the same way you wouldn’t rub almond butter all over yourself, right?

When someone has a tree nut or peanut allergy, it’s actually the proteins that trigger a reaction. However, a research team at Mount Sinai School of Medicine has discovered that shea butter contains less than 1/30th the amount of protein as cashews.

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Further testing showed that the human immune system does not recognize shea butter as a nut protein, and will “likely not” cause an allergic reaction.

Of course, it’s impossible to say that no one with a tree nut allergy will react to a product containing shea butter. But the director of pediatric allergy at John Hopkins University approved of the study, and agreed that the likelihood of anyone reacting to shea butter is small.

A team from the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln pored through clinical literature from all over the world, and found “no evidence to indicate that any allergic reactions have ever been reported to shea nut butter.”

The program also couldn’t find any evidence of allergic reactions to shea nuts in food products. It’s sometimes mixed with other oils as a substitute for cocoa butter, or found as an ingredient in French chocolates.

But, as always, your mileage may vary, so please check with your doctor.

What’s your experience been with shea? Use it or avoid it?

H/T Nut Free Ninja

Heather Laura Clarke, a contributing writer at Scratch or Sniff, lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her high-school sweetheart husband, seven-year-old son, and five-year-old daughter. She writes for newspapers and magazines across Canada and the U.S., and blogs about her family life at Heather's Handmade Life. Follow her adventures on Twitter or Instagram.

4 Comments to Shea Butter Not Likely to Cause Allergic Reactions

  1. Kate

    I’m definitely going to ask our allergist about this. Exciting possibility!

    • It is exciting, Kate! Hopefully makes it easier for families to find lotions and creams, since shea butter is in so many products.

  2. Leigh

    I’m not allergic to all tree nuts, just walnuts, and I’ve never had a problem with Shea butter. This is fantastic info for those like my mom who is allergic to all tree nuts! I will pass it along so she can check with her allergist.

    • Thanks, Leigh! There are probably a lot of people with tree nut allergies who have been avoiding shea butter!

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