Shea is a West African tree from the seed of which is extracted shea butter, which is used in cosmetics. The common names are from shétoulou, "tree butter", in the Senegalese language and ghariti in the Malian language. The genus name means "butter seed". The tree is also called Vitellaria paradoxa and Butyrospermum parkii; the latter species name is from Mungo Park, who learned of the tree while exploring Senegal. According to Delta, which lists both genera, the splitting of Sapotaceae into genera is unclear.
Traditionally in West Africa shea butter or vegetable butter are extracted from its fruit (called nuts) by crushing and boiling. This substance is edible. It is consumed in traditional cuisine and used in the chocolate industry as a substitute for cocoa butter.
Shea butter is known especially for its cosmetic properties as a moisturizer and emollient of skin. Because of these properties, it is used in numerous cosmetics today.