You probably know that many fish contain healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids. It turns out, as indigenous aboriginal people in Australia have known from time immemorial, emu oil is also helpful for a long list of inflammatory conditions. Like fish oil, it too contains a high percentage of essential fatty acids. In fact, 70% of it is made up of a combination of omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 essential fatty acids. It also contains antioxidants and important vitamins, such as vitamin E and A. (Axe, 2016)
Australian aboriginal people have used emu oil for 40,000 years for naturally reducing inflammation in the body, relieving muscle and joint pain, moisturizing the skin and treating skin conditions. Emu oil is also effective for treating burns, migraines, inflammatory disorders of the GI tract – and much more. (Axe, 2016) & (Johnson, 2017)
An example of Australian aboriginal emu art
Research conducted in Australia and the US investigating emu oil’s beneficial effects on arthritis, joint pain, and the treatment of cancer found that the high levels of linoleric acid and oleic acid in it have anti-inflammatory effects as well as having the ability to actively transport other bio-active substances through the lipid layer of tissues such as the skin and stomach wall. This research, along with considerable anecdotal evidence, are of great interest to those looking for natural remedies for a wide variety of health problems. In 2002 the Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia recognized emu oil as a therapeutic active ingredient and listed it on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). (VetPro, undated)
The linoleric and oleic acid in emu oil and its lack of long chain fatty acids also give it a long shelf life. (VetPro, undated)
BENEFITS OF EMU OIL
AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY & ANALGESIC
Emu oil is most widely used for its excellent anti-inflammatory and pain reducing properties.
A study published in Inflammopharmacology presented evidence that topical use of emu oil worked just as well as an anti-inflammatory as oral administration of ibuprofen. Because emu oil decreases swelling and minimizes aching, it helps relieve the symptoms of arthritis, headaches, migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome and shin splints. (Axe, 2016) & (Snowden & Whitehouse, 1997)
“Because of emu oil’s anti-inflammatory properties, it has the power to reduce swelling and a number of skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema. It also stimulates skin cell regeneration and circulation, so it can help those suffering from thinning skin or bed sores, plus it helps to reduce the appearance of scars, burns, stretch marks, wrinkles and sun damage.” (Axe, 2016)
In a review in the journal Nutrition, researchers noted that emu oil’s anti-inflammatory properties may be effective for treating ear inflammations and inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS), and for preventing bone loss caused by chemotherapy. (Jeengar et al, 2015)
LOWERS BAD CHOLESTEROL & RAISES GOOD CHOLESTEROL
The American Emu Association sponsored a research study at the University of Massachusetts to look into whether emu oil can improve the cholesterol ratio in animals. The research, on hypercholesterolemic hamsters, found that emu oil not only lowered the animals’ LDL (bad cholesterol), it also increased their HDL (good cholesterol). “The present study suggests that compared to a diet containing coconut oil, both emu oil and olive oil are capable of reducing aortic early atherosclerosis in hypercholesterolemic hamsters.” (Wilson et al, 2004)
GOOD FOR THE SKIN
Since it contains fat lipids similar to those found in the top layer of human skin, emu oil is easily absorbed into the skin and penetrates deep within the surface. It’s also good for smoothing rough elbows, knees, and heels as well as for reducing itching and the flakiness of dry skin. (Axe, 2016)
Simply EMUzing Emu Oil Soap Bar
Emu oil is bacteriostatic (does not promote the growth of bacteria), hypo-allergenic, and non-comedogenic (has low skin irritation and doesn’t clog pores). (VetPro, undated)
Emu oil is often suggested to cancer patients to help with dry skin caused by radiation treatments. (Johnson, 2017)
BURN & WOUND HEALING
“Because of its painkilling effect, antioxidant levels, and ability to reach deep into the skin, emu oil can be applied to small wounds, cuts, bruises, or burns. It can help ease the pain of minor wounds, and the antioxidants may help protect the skin from additional damage.” (Johnson, 2017)
Before & After – Using Emu Oil to help heal burns
“Researchers in China investigated the effects of topical application of emu oil on wound healing in scalded rats. They found that it has anti-inflammatory activity, possibly in association with decreased levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines in the tissues, and it can promote wound healing by inhibiting local inflammation. After applying emu oil, the swelling and effusion of the burn were alleviated, and there was no evidence of wound infection or adverse effects.” (Axe, 2016)
STRENGTHENS THE GI SYSTEM
“A 2012 study conducted in Australia found that emu oil, when administered orally and topically, possesses significant anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers indicated that it’s able to treat inflammatory disorders affecting the gastrointestinal system. Further research suggests that emu oil is a powerful tool that can be used to treat many conditions that result from inflammation.” (Axe, 2016)
The Australian study cited above, “Emu Oil: A novel therapeutic for disorders of the gastrointestinal tract?”, tested the therapeutic activity of emu oil on the GI tracts of mice. The results showed that emu oil provided partial protection against chemotherapy-induced mucositis, a painful inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes that line the digestive tract. The study results were published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
“Mucositis usually occurs as an adverse effect of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment for cancer. Based on these findings, researchers concluded that emu oil is able to improve intestinal repair, and it can form the basis of an adjunct to conventional treatment approaches for inflammatory disorders affecting the gastrointestinal system.” (Axe, 2016)
“According to some research posted to Pharmacy Today, emu oil may also help treat ulcers. In people who had ulcers, applications of various levels of emu oil had a protective effect. In some cases, the oil even reduced the size of the ulcers. (Johnson, 2017)
“GI diseases and disorders that include ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and NSAID-enteropathy are characterized by intestinal inflammation, mucosal injury, ulceration and malabsorption. As current therapies for these conditions are variably effective, the development of novel treatment strategies is desirable. Emu Oil could therefore represent a safe, renewable and economical alternative to pharmaceutical options in this context.” (Abimosleh, Tran & Howarthy, 2012)
A NATURAL INSECT REPELLENT
Emu oil contains substances called terpenes which disorient many insects. So applying emu oil on exposed skin can keep bugs at bay when you’re outdoors. (Johnson, 2017)
Cockroaches, head lice and kissing bugs (triatomine) are among the insects that can be repelled by terpenes, making emu oil a good natural alternative to pesticides and head lice treatments. (Idea Hacks, 2017)
And, if you do get bitten by an insect, emu oil is also good for soothing the itch or pain.
- Fights infections & boosts the immune system
- Relieves pain from breast-feeding
- Promotes healthy nails
- Treats ulcers
- As an analgesic massage oil
- As a natural sun screen and treatment for sunburn
- Relieves and reduces hemorrhoids
– (Axe, 2016), (Johnson, 2017) & (Bunton, undated)
“Some veterinarians use emu oil on animals to soothe their irritated skin, help with wound healing and reduce pain. It can be applied topically to the paws of an animal, for example, to reduce joint pain and protect the area from infection. It can even be used to ease the pain of arthritis and flea bites naturally.” (Axe, 2016)
“From a veterinary aspect emu oil provides a pharmaceutical free, natural option in the treatment of wounds, scar tissue and arthritic and painful limbs. There are no other comparable product formulations on the market at this time. The strict restraints in the equine field for the use of drugs during and proceeding competition mean that emu oil products provide a unique treatment regime for the equine athlete.” (VetPro, undated)
And, since emu oil is also good for the GI tract, measures don’t have to be taken to keep the animal from licking it off.
COMPOSITION OF EMU OIL
Emu oil is derived from the fatty tissues of emus (dromaius novaehollandiae). The therapeutic qualities of the oil derive from its unsaturated fatty acids, which make up about 70% of its composition. Studies suggest that its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits come from its high levels of essential fatty acids (omega-9, omega-6 and omega-3) and vitamins, “including:
Oleic Acid — Oleic acid is a monounsaturated, omega-9 fatty acid. It’s a common fat in the human diet that’s been associated with decreased LDL cholesterol and possibly increased HDL cholesterol. In emu oil, the oleic acid helps transport the bioactive compounds into the skin, allowing the oil to absorb quickly when it’s applied topically.
Linoleic Acid — Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated, omega-6 fatty acid. Linoleic acid helps boost skin health by reducing the appearance of sun spots or aging when it’s applied topically. Studies have shown that linoleic acid helps lighten ultraviolet-induced hyperpigmentation of the skin by inhibiting melanin production. (9)
Linolenic Acid — Linolenic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid that helps reduce inflammation, and it’s commonly used to help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease and arthritis. When consumed, omega-3 fatty acids boost brain health and aid growth and development.
“Emu oil is also made up of eicosanoids, which are signaling molecules that exert complex control over many bodily systems. Eicosanoids act as messengers in the central nervous system, and they control growth during and after physical activity, along with inflammation as a result of exposure to toxins or pathogens. Eicosanoids are formed primarily from omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in the tissue of mammals, like the emu.
“The oil contains vitamins E and A, both contributing to its ability to heal the skin and reduce inflammation. Vitamin E serves as a natural anti-aging agent; it strengthens the capillary walls in the skin and helps improve moisture and elasticity. Vitamin E also helps balance cholesterol and fight free radical damage. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that plays a critical role in maintaining healthy skin and reducing inflammation. Vitamin A also boosts the immune system, helping fight conditions like the common cold, cough or flu.” (Axe, 2016)
AMERICAN EMU ASSOCIATION
Organizations such as the American Emu Association have certification programs ensuring that the emu oil we buy is pure and that the emus have been well cared for. “100% pure emu oil” has been fully refined to be the most effective and is the type of emu oil that is studied for its beneficial effects. (Johnson, 2017)
You can find much more information on emu oil, its therapeutic uses, and where to get it on the American Emu Association‘s website.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF EMU OIL
“There are also different types of emu oil, based on different levels of filtration and processing. Most emu oils will go through full processing in order to reduce bacteria and contaminants. Some emu oils are refined more than others in order to create higher contents of fatty acids. (Johnson, 2017)
“Emu oil is known to be hypoallergenic because its biological makeup is very similar to that of human skin. It’s so popular because it does not clog the pores or irritate the skin. If you have sensitive skin, apply only a small amount of it first to be sure that your skin won’t have an allergic reaction. Emu oil is known to be safe for internal use as well, as it contains beneficial essential fatty acids and vitamins. Studies show that adverse effects are uncommon.” (Axe, 2016)
See Does Emu Oil Have Health Benefits? The Research Reviewed if you want to look at scientific papers and reviews about the health benefits of emu oil. (Ristevski, 2018)
A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH EMUS & THEIR OIL
First, a personal encounter with emus in Australia:
Emus are known to be unfriendly, if not downright hostile to humans. They’re very large … up to 6.2 ft tall and weighing in at 79-88 lbs. Like ostriches, their larger ratite cousins, they are unable to fly. Their stride is about 3.3 ft when they’re walking and as long as 9 ft when they’re at full gallop – and they have been recorded at 31 mph while sprinting. They have bright orange eyes which they use to stare at humans and their toe claws are capable of eviscerating animals.
In Australia, I heard tales of emus pestering people, even trying to peck at a baby in a pram.
On a family visit to Canberra, my 10 year old son and I were visiting Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, a large park that’s home to a variety of Australian animals, including emus. As we were crossing a field, a large emu silently walked up behind us, gave an unblinking orange eyed stare, and started to chase us. We ran, aware that the bird could easily catch and hurt us if it wanted to. Other visitors turned to watch, seemingly unconcerned. We were both laughing hard at this suddenly ridiculous turn of events while looking over our shoulders to see if the giant bird was still in hot pursuit.
Decades later, using emu oil:
There used to be a vendor at the Union Square Greenmarket who sold ostrich eggs. He also carried Re-Leve, an analgesic made with 99.85% pure, refined emu oil. When I broke both bones in my wrist recently, I did lots of physical therapy after the bones had fully set but still have some annoying tingling and numbness in the fingers of that hand that both my PT and orthopod think is from swelling around the ulna that impinges on the nerves passing through the carpal tunnel.
Remembering that emu oil is said to be good for reducing inflammation and pain, I started using the leftover Re-Leve on my injured wrist and found it somewhat helpful. So I also started using it on both knees (also injured) and on some red itchy patches of skin. The itchy patches immediately started drying up and stopped itching and the areas of bursitis on my knees have much improved.
That Re-Leve (the one I have came in a plastic pump bottle) must be at least 8 years old so I invested in a bottle of pure organic, refined emu oil and am using it twice a day now on these troublesome places.
Australian 100% Pure Organic Refined Premium Emu Oil by Tropical Holistic
EMUS IN INDIANA
And then there was our Chicago neighbors’ emu story:
One pleasant late summer day my lovely neighbors, Marshall and Irene Patner, decided to spend the afternoon in the country. As they were tooling around a country road in northern Indiana, they spotted a farm stand selling ripe tomatoes. When they got out of their car, they were surprised to see a pen full of emus back by the barn.
Marshall to the farmer: “Where’d you get the emus?
Farmer (in a voice conveying “stupid city people”): “At the Swap O Rama.”
Marshall (wondering to himself): “What exactly do you trade to get emus?”
EMU TANGO: EMUS (AND AN OSTRICH) VS WEASEL BALL
Abimosleh, S.M., Tran, C.D. & Howarth, G.S. (2012). Emu Oil: A novel therapeutic for disorders of the gastrointestinal tract? Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 27, 857–861. See: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1440-1746.2012.07098.x
American Emu Association. (Undated). See: https://aea-emu.org
Australian Government, Department of Health. (2018). Therapeutic Goods Administration. See: http://www.tga.gov.au
Axe, J. (2016). Emu Oil Benefits Skin & Treats Skin Conditions Naturally. See:
Bunton, N. (undated). Fun in the sun with confidence. See: https://wwwhttps://www.purpleemu.com/skincarev53.html
Idea Hacks. (2017). 12 Emu Oil Benefits To Help You Revitalize Your Hair & Skin. See: https://www.ideahacks.com/emu-oil-benefits/
Jeengar, M.S. et al. (2015). Review on emu products for use as complementary and alternative medicine. Nutrition, 31:1, 21–27. See: https://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/S0899-9007(14)00195-6/abstract
Johnson, J. (2017). Everything you need to know about emu oil. Medical News Today. See: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/315535.php
Re-Leve. (2017). See: http://releveyourpain.com
Ristevski, S. (2018). Does Emu Oil Have Health Benefits? The Research Reviewed. Healthy But Smart. See: https://healthybutsmart.com/emu-oil/
Snowden, J.M. & Whitehouse, M.W. (1997). Anti-inflammatory activity of emu oils in rats. Inflammopharmacology, 5:2, 127-32. See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17694361/
VetPro. (undated). Emu Oil. See: http://vetpro.co.nz/emu-oil/
© Copyright 2018. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.