Food Science and Technology Project Topics

Comparative Study of the Physico-chemical Properties of Shea Butter and Moringa Oil

Comparative Study of the Physico-chemical Properties of Shea Butter and Moringa Oil

Comparative Study of the Physico-chemical Properties of Shea Butter and Moringa Oil

Chapter One


The main objective of the study includes the following:

  • to extract the oil from moringa and shea seeds
  • to examine and determine the physicochemical properties of shea butter and m. Olivera.



Shea Butter (Vitellaria paradox C.F. Gaertn.)

The shea tree also known as karite tree is classified in the family Sapotaceae and comprises two species known scientifically as Vitellaria paradoxa (formerly as Butyrospermum paradoxa) and Vitellaria parkii. The name Butyrospermum which actually means “butter seed” gives a good description of the seed because butter is obtained from the seed after processing. The shea tree grows naturally in the wild across a 5000 km wild belt of savannah in West and East Africa stretching from Senegal in the West to Kenya and Uganda in the East covering the land area of about 20 countries. The shea tree population of East Africa is the subspecies nilotica, which produces the more liquid type of shea fat; this is due to its higher oleic acid content in the kernels (e.g. up to 50 to > 60 % in Uganda) (Carette et al., 2009). The sub-species paradoxa is more common in the West Africa region.

The most important product obtained from the shea tree is the shea fruit which contains between 20% to 50% edible fat (Carette et al., 2009). The tree is also a very important component of the natural ecological system. It is a deciduous tree which grows wild in the savanna regions. The shea tree can survive on minimal annual rainfall of about 400-500mm, temperatures of about 30 degrees celcius to 45 degrees celcius, and relative humidity of less than 10%. A shea tree has an average height of about 13 metres (Hall  et al., 1996).

Traditional uses of the shea tree

The shea tree has immense economic and social value to the communities in which it grows. All parts of the tree have one or more uses. The leaves of the shea tree contain saponin which makes it lather in water and hence is used in washing. In northern Ghana the leaves are used in medicine for the treatment of stomach ache especially in children. The leaves are also used in a mixture with other leaves in a traditional mixture to produce a vapor which is used to bath persons for the treatment of fevers and headaches. The leaves when soaked in water turns to a soapy and frothy liquid which is used to bath the head of persons suffering from fever. İn cases of eye problems a leaf decoction can be used as treatment (Agyekwena, 2011). In the production of the dawadawa, the most common and widely used local spice in northern Ghana, the leaves of the shea tree are used as a preservative (Agyekwena, 2011).

The shea fruit is a green oval shaped fruit which ranges in size from 2cm to 5cm in diameter. The shea fruit is made up of a green epicarp, a fleshy pulp or mesocarp and a realtively hard shell or endocarp which encloses a shea kernel or embryo. The fleshy pulp is sweet and is eaten as food. The pulp is also used to make jam (Agyekwena, 2011).

The pulp of the shea fruit is a rich source of some micro nutrients including ascorbic acid (196.1mg/100g), in comparison with an orange, which contains only 50mg/100g. Shea nuts contain 1.93mg/100g of iron and 36.4mg/100g of calcium. The B group vitamins is also a constituent of the shea fruit pulp. The pulp also contains a high sugar content made up of glucose, fructose and sucrose equally distributed and constitute up about 3 to 6 percent. Even the flowers of the sheanut tree are consumed by some ethnic groups that make them into edible fritters (Agyekwena, 2011).

The roots of the shea tree are used by locals in Northern Nigeria as chewing sticks for cleaning the teeth. The roots are also combined in mixture with the bark in traditional medicine for the treatment of jaundice, diarrhea and stomach pain. The root bark is boiled and pounded and used for treating chronic sores in horses. The roots are mixed with tobacco to produce poison among the Jukun ethnic tribe in Northern Nigeria. The bark of the shea tree is boiled and taken as a beverage. This beverage is claimed to be able cure diabetes in some communities in Ghana (Agyekwena, 2011).

In some West African countries including Senegal and Guinea, infusions of the bark which are crushed together with the bark of Ceiba pentandra and salted are used to treat worm infestations in livestock. In Guinea Bissau a range of sicknesses ranging from diarrhea and dysentery to gastric problems and even leprosy have been treated with bark infusions. In the Ivory Coast, child delivery is eased by the use of a bark decoction in baths during labour. This decoction is also believed to boost the flow of milk and hence is drunk by lactating mothers. A bark infusion is used as an eye wash against venom of the spitting cobra because it has the capacity to neutralize the venom. It is used as foot bath to extract jiggers in Ghana (Agyekwena, 2011).

The shea tree produces latex. This latex is used traditionally in a mixture with palm oil to produce glue. Latex from shea nuts contain between 15 to 25 percent carotene which is not appropriate for use in the commercial production of rubber according to present technology. The shell or husks of the shea nut is used in the purification of water. It has the ability to remove substantial amounts of heavy metal from aqueous solutions. The shell is pounded and made into paste that is used in northern Ghana for plastering traditional mud houses. This treatment serves as decoration whiles promoting the lifespan by making them impervious and reducing their rate of absorption of moisture (Agyekwena, 2011).





The samples and materials used for this study were raw Shea nuts and Moringa oleifera seeds. Shea nuts and M. oleifera were purchased from the main market (Oja Oba) in Owo, Ondo State. The oils was processed in the processing laboratory of Food Science and Technology, the chemicals and glass wares used in extracting the oil from M. oleifera and Shea nuts were obtained from Chemistry Laboratory of Food Science and Technology, Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, Ondo State, Nigeria.




Table 2: Physicochemical Properties of Shea butter and Moringa oil





This research work compared the physicochemical properties of Shea and moringa butter. The physico-chemical properties of moringa oil can compare with Shea nut butter favorably with excluding the melting point and iodine value of shea butter which was found to be greater than that of moringa oil with a value of 10.15g/100g (iodine value) and 62oC (melting point). Therefore, it can be concluded that both Shea butter and moringa oil can be suitable substitute for other oils in any industrial application.


Based on the results observed from this research work, it is therefore recommended that further research is needed to see the effects of environments over a period of time on the physicochemical and chemical properties of Shea butter and moringa oil.


  • Abalaka, M.E., Olonitola, O.S. and Onaolapo, J.A. (2009). Momordica charantia using Wistar rats to determine safety level and usefulness of the plant ethnochemotheraphy. Int. J. Appl. Sci. 3:1-6
  • Addaquay, J. (2004). The Shea Butter Value Chain-Refining in West Africa, USAID-WATH, USA, 1-36.
  • Adomako, D. (2005). Prospects for the development of the shea nut industry in Ghana. Ghana Cocoa Res. Inst. Tech. Bull. 11:1–12
  • Agyekwena, B.(2011). The Shea Nut Tree – The Wonder Tree, Accra, Ghana,
  • Akhter, S., Halim, A., Sohel, S.I., Sarker, S.K., Chowdhury, M.H.S. and Sonet, S.S. (2008). A review of the use of non-timber forest products in beauty care in Bangladesh. Journal of Forest Research. 19(Leone  et al., 2015): 72-78.
  • Akinwale, A., Modu, S., Maisartu, M., Zainab, M. and Bilkisu, U. (2012). Effect of feeding various concentrations of shea oil on some biochemical parameters in normal albino rat, Bulletin of Environment, Pharmacology & Life Sciences, 1 (2), 14-17.