Human subjects

Thirty-three subjects, 18 males and 15 females, were used. They consisted of staff of the College of Medicine, members of their families and friends. Their ages ranged between 12 and 50 years. They all suffered from nasal congestion which accompanied mainly rhinitis of the allergic seasonal type.

Within 6 h, or known to have been on antibiotic medication up till at least 3 weeks previously, was rejected. In this way, conditions like sinusitis, for instance, were excluded from the experiments so as not to delay appropriate treatment, and the study was thus confined primarily to symptomatic relief of nasal congestion. All the subjects had moderate to severe or complete nasal blockade. Mild cases, where breathing through the mouth was absolutely unnecessary, were rejected. Some of these later developed into the moderate. The 33 subjects were allocated randomly to three treatment groups, notably, the test group which was treated with shea butter, the control group treated with xylometaxoline, 0.1 % solution, and the placebo group treated with white petroleum jelly 8.P. (Vaseline).
Immediately moderate to severe nasal congestion was established, about 2-4 g of shea butter or petroleum jelly was quickly applied to the interior of the nose of each subject by means of the subject’s right index finger after the nail had been cut quite short. The outside of the nose was wiped clean of any excess shea butter or petroleum jelly, using tissue paper. The application to the nostrils was repeated as soon as congestion set in again. In the control group, with the head held well back, 2-3 drops of xylometazoline were dropped into each nostril and the head held in that position until the taste of the nasal drops was felt in the mouth. As soon as congestion returned, the drops were applied again in the same way.

In all the subjects in the test group, i.e. the one that received shea butter, the airways cleared within 0.5-1.5 min of application. Breathing became easy and normal and remained so for 5.0-8.5 h. Congestion did not recur after 12-24 h with two to four applications of shea butter.

In nasal congestion, there is inflammatory oedema of the upper respiratory mucosa (nose and larynx) accompanied by airways obstruction. Drugs commonly used for the symptomatic relief of this condition are mainly vasoconstrictors usually administered as nasal drops e.g. naphazoline (Privine), xylometazoline (Otrivin). These drugs do give relief but are not without undesirable effects. They irritate the nostrils and cause ischaemia of the nasal mucous membrane which later gives rise to secondary hyperaemia and further inflammatory oedema, i.e. a rebound or reactionary congestion. This tends to perpetuate the use of the drugs with consequent damage to the nasal mucosa.

With shea butter, 2-4 applications only were needed and the congestion was completely cleared in 12-24 h, no rebound congestion, or damage to·the nasal mucosa developed.

It seems clear from these results that shea butter, as a nasal decongestant, is superior in potency and duration of action to conventional nasal drops typified by zylometazoline.

Shea butter is also free from those undesirable side-effects associated with conventional nasal drops. Thus, its action is fairly prompt, and the effect reliable and prolonged. It neither irritates the nasal mucosa nor does it cause ‘rebound’ congestion. Its oily and greasy nature notwithstanding, it may well become a widely accepted nasal decongestant.