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December 30, 2009

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Shea butter is a good herbal medication that can be used for all sorts of ailments, but do visit the doctor before using it, and I prefer using it with conventional medication too.

This sounds like a very promising study. I do think that the study duration of 15 weeks (<4 months) is quite short. I would like to see this trial followed up by others of longer duration and where they measure liver transaminase levels to determine if it has the potential to cause liver damage. Since this is also a topical product, I would really enjoy seeing a study that compared oral and topical dosage forms, as well as placebo (both oral and topical).

This is a very interesting thought! The blog itself brought up interesting points like the trial's small sample size and the possible bias caused by funding from the pharmaceutical company that produces the product in question. I am actually pretty unfamiliar with the SheaFlex70 product. Is it a capsule for systemic ingestion? I’ve only really seen the topical versions, and I actually know people who say this has helped with some of the symptoms of their arthritis, usually due to the soothing qualities.

I would definitely be wary of investigator bias and small sample size in this study. Take the results with a grain of salt. I do think it is interesting though because I was not aware that shea butter had anti-inflammatory properties. I wonder what the mechanism of action is behind it?

That is an interesting point, Kelly. In the trials, the shea butter formula was actually an oral medication. The SheaFlex70® formula is an isolation of the shea triterpenes, the active ingredient in shea butter.

The company makes the SheaFlex70® from shea butter, so it is a much more concentrated solution – 70% triterpenes to be exact. In contrast, shea butter contains anywhere from 3 to 13% triterpenes.

Another consideration with shea butter lotion is that the active ingredients may not be readily absorbed through the skin.

What if you use a shea body lotion? Would that have beneficial effects, or does it need to contain a higher concentration of shea?

According to the manufacturer’s website many clinical trials are in the works to investigate the use of SheaFlex70 on other conditions including rheumatoid arthritis. A 3 month pilot study based out of Japan has already been started and the full trial is in the works. Other trials are also in the works including an investigation into the use of SheaFlex70 in combination with glucosamine for osteoarthritis. With all the pain that this disease causes, there is really no great drug to help with it, which causes patients to turn to natural/herbal remedies. Glucosamine has shown to be helpful and it will be interesting to see if the combination with SheaFlex70 can bring even greater benefits.

Shea butter has been shown to treat a number of different ailments, from skin problems to bleeding disorders and high cholesterol. This study also suggests it's an anti-inflammatory. Is there a common link between all these properties, or is it just a random constellation of uses? With just one use on skin, it can clear up many skin problems that don't seem to be related. Does psoriasis relate to stretch marks? Scars relate to wrinkles?

It is exciting to see that this study recorded results after only 15 weeks of treatment. However, the main outcome variable were biomarkers from the participants' urine. I would like to know if the participants reported any subjective changes in their symptoms. For example, did they feel less pain after 15 weeks of treatment? If so, for how long did the pain subside post-treatment? If not, perhaps a trial longer than just 15 weeks would be helpful.

I wonder if using shea butter is a double win - for people's health and stability among West African women. Shea trees grow in the Sahel region of West Africa. The local, rural women there are primarily responsible for its harvesting and processing. If more studies come out proving the effectiveness of this medicine, it could mean even more economic stability for these women and their families. Is BSP Pharma aware of this? Is there anything being done to keep shea butter's harvest and processing within the current infrastructure these women have created?

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