Published: 2016-12-21

Anti-inflammatory activity of fatty extract of Vitalleria paradoxa Kernel (Shea butter) and pattern of its clinical use in arthritis in Enugu, South East Nigeria

Muoghalu GU., Akah PA, Okoye TC, Ezenyi IC, Ibeneme S., Okoli CO


Background: The fatty seed extract of Vitellaria paradoxa Kernel (Sapotaceae) commonly called “Shea butter”, is a popular remedy for arthritis in west Africa. This study investigated the knowledge, prevalence and pattern of use of Shea butter in clinically diagnosed arthritic patients as well as its effects on acute (topical and systemic) and chronic inflammation in rodents.

Methods: Knowledge, prevalence and pattern of use were determined using pre-tested questionnaire in clinically diagnosed patients whereas the anti-inflammatory activity was studied using xylene-induced mouse ear edema, carrageenan-induced rat paw edema, formaldehyde-induced arthritis in rats and cotton pellet granuloma test in rats.

Results: The results showed that of the 164 respondents, 94.1% know about Shea butter and 59.6% have used it mainly as a massage ointment once or twice daily. However, 73.7% of the users combine this remedy with analgesics to achieve relief. The pharmacological tests showed that topical application of Shea butter inhibited acute edema of the mouse ear. Systemic oral administration caused significant (p<0.05) suppression of the development of systemic acute edema of the rat paw in a non-dose related manner. Twice daily topical application of Shea butter significantly (p<0.05) inhibited the edematous response to formaldehyde arthritis whereas once daily administration was not effective. Shea butter also caused a significant (p<0.05) non-dose related inhibition of granuloma tissue formation on implanted cotton pellets.

Conclusions: These findings provide a scientific rationale for the use of Shea butter in treatment of disorders of inflammation in traditional medicine.


Anti-inflammatory, Shea butter, Vitellaria paradoxa

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