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Emu Oil

Scientific Name(s): Dromaius novaehollandiae
Common Name(s): Emu

Clinical Overview

Use

Emu oil is primarily used topically for its anti-inflammatory effects; however, clinical trials are lacking. Limited studies have evaluated topical applications of emu oil in burns and other dermatological conditions.

Dosing

Emu oil has most often been studied as a topical application, but clinical trials are lacking to determine dosing frequency or duration.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Clinical trials and case reports of adverse reactions are lacking.

Toxicology

Research reveals no information regarding toxicity of emu oil.

Source

The emu is 2 m tall, the second tallest member of the ratites group of flightless birds, which also includes the ostrich, rhea, kiwi, and cassowary. The birds are thought to have been introduced into the United States in the 1930s as zoo animals and are now bred for commercial use. The oil is obtained from subcutaneous and retroperitoneal fat via a maceration, centrifuge, and filtered process.Abimosleh 2012, Beckerbauer 2001

History

The Aboriginal people of Australia have used emu oil for centuries. The oil was traditionally collected by either hanging the emu skin from a tree or wrapping it around an affected area and allowing the heat of the sun to liquify the emu fat to enhance absorption or penetration into the skin. Emu oil was used medicinally to treat muscle and joint problems and a variety of skin conditions. Other purported medicinal uses include the treatment of psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. The oil has also been used for cooking, as well as for keeping leather supple.Abimosleh 2012, Rokicki 2000

Chemistry

Emu oil contains myristic, palmitic, palmitoleic, stearic, oleic, elaidic, linoleic, linolenic, and eicosenoic fatty acids, with oleic acid being the main fatty acid (40% to 50%). Fatty acid content varies by sex of the animal and is also seasonally and dietary dependent. Lesser quantities of carotenoids, flavones, polyphenols, tocopherol, and phospholipids have also been identified in the oil.Abimosleh 2012, Beckerbauer 2001, Kim 2013, Minnaar 1997

Uses and Pharmacology

Interference with inflammatory cytokine production and antioxidant actions has been demonstrated in vitro.Abimosleh 2012

Anti-inflammatory

Animal data

Rodent models of arthritis have been used to demonstrate anti-inflammatory effects of topically applied emu oil. In 1 experiment, efficacy was rated as comparable to oral administration of ibuprofen 40 mg/kg.López 1999, Snowden 1997, Whitehouse 1998, Yoganathan 2003

Clinical data

There are no clinical data regarding use of emu oil as an anti-inflammatory agent, despite being traditionally used for this purpose.

Dermatology

Animal data

The efficacy of emu oil lotion and emu oil was examined in rodents after surgery. Promotion of wound contraction, epithelialization, and infiltration of organized granulation tissue was demonstrated.Politis 1998 Another study in rats showed efficacy of emu oil in healing burn wounds.Li 2004

Clinical data

In a small clinical study (N = 10), emu oil was evaluated as a lubricant and aid in reducing scar formation in healed burns. In photo analysis, wound areas treated with emu oil healed significantly better (P < 0.02) than those in the control group.Penturf 1998 Emu oil has also been used in 125 children with burns (5% to 60% area) in a clinical study in Chile, although details of the study have not been fully published.Lagniel 2007 In a clinical trial, 126 participants with seborrheic dermatitis were randomized to emu oil, hydrocortisone, or clotrimazole treatment. Although effective, emu oil produced a lesser effect than standard treatment.Attarzadeh 2013

GI

Animal data

Limited studies in rodents have demonstrated protective anti-inflammatory effects in the small intestines and large bowel. Histological improvements could be demonstrated. No harm to the intestinal mucosa was found in healthy rats via the C-sucrose breath test.Abimosleh 2012, Abimosleh 2013, Lindsay 2010

Clinical data

There are no clinical data regarding use of emu oil for GI conditions.

Other uses

Emu oil has been studied as a transdermal penetration enhancer.Akram 2013 The hypocholesterolemic effect of dietary emu oil has been examined in rats.Fukushima 1999

Dosing

Emu oil has most often been studied as a topical application, but clinical trials are lacking to determine frequency or duration.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Clinical trials and case reports of adverse reactions are lacking.

Toxicology

Research reveals no information regarding toxicity of emu oil.

References

Abimosleh SM, Lindsay RJ, Butler RN, Cummins AG, Howarth GS. Emu oil increases colonic crypt depth in a rat model of ulcerative colitis. Dig Dis Sci. 2012;57(4):887-896.22147247
Abimosleh SM, Tran CD, Howarth GS. Emu Oil: a novel therapeutic for disorders of the gastrointestinal tract? J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012;27(2):857-861.22369065
Abimosleh SM, Tran CD, Howarth GS. Emu oil reduces small intestinal inflammation in the absence of clinical improvement in a rat model of indomethacin-induced enteropathy. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:429706.23573127
Akram M, Naqvi SB, Khan A. Design and development of insulin emulgel formulation for transdermal drug delivery and its evaluation. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2013;26(2):323-332.23455203
Attarzadeh Y, Asilian A, Shahmoradi Z, Adibi N. Comparing the efficacy of Emu oil with clotrimazole and hydrocortisone in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis: A clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2013(6);18:477-481.24250695
Beckerbauer LM, Thiel-Cooper R, Ahn DU, Sell JL, Parrish FC Jr, Beitz DC. Influence of two dietary fats on the composition of emu oil and meat. Poult Sci. 2001;80(2):187-194.11233007
Fukushima M, Ohashi T, Sekikawa M, Nakano M. Comparative hypocholesterolemic effects of five animal oils in cholesterol-fed rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 1999;63(1):202-205.10052143
Kim JE, Leung FC, Jiang J, Kwok AH, Bennett DC, Cheng KM. Expressed sequence tag analysis of the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) pituitary by 454 GS Junior pyrosequencing. Poult Sci. 2013;92(1):90-96.23243234
Lagniel C, Torres AM. Consequences of burn injuries treatment with 100% pure EMU oil. Burns. 2007;33(1):S148.
Li ZQ, Wang JH, Ren JL, Yi ZH. Effects of topical emu oil on wound healing in scalded rats [in Chinese]. Di Yi Jun Yi Da Xue Xue Bao. 2004;24(11):1255-1256.15567771
Lindsay RJ, Geier MS, Yazbeck R, Butler RN, Howarth GS. Orally administered emu oil decreases acute inflammation and alters selected small intestinal parameters in a rat model of mucositis. Br J Nutr. 2010;104(4):513-519.20377926
López A, Sims DE, Ablett RF, et al. Effect of emu oil on auricular inflammation induced with croton oil in mice. Am J Vet Res. 1999;60(12):1558-1561.10622168
Minnaar M. Introduction to emu oil: Fats and oils in human health. In: Minnaar P, Minnaar M, Minnaar P. The Emu Farmers Handbook. Vol 1. Groveton, TX: Myoni Publishing Co; 1997.
Penturf M, O'Bannon S, Griswold J. Evaluation of emu oil in lubrication and treatment of healed burned wounds. Presented at: Annual Meeting of the American Burn Association; March 18-21, 1998; Chicago, IL.
Politis MJ, Dmytrowich A. Promotion of second intention wound healing by emu oil lotion: comparative results with furasin, polysporin, and cortisone. Plast Reconstr Surg. 1998;102(7):2404-2407.9858176
Rokicki R. The great emu comeback. Mother Earth News. October/November 2000:16-17.
Snowden JM, Whitehouse MW. Anti-inflammatory activity of emu oils in rats. Inflammopharmacology. 1997;5(2):127-132.17694361
Whitehouse MW, Turner AG, Davis CKC, Roberts MS. Emu oil(s): A source of non-toxic anti-inflammatory agents in aboriginal medicine. Inflammopharmacology. 1998;6(1):1-7.17638122
Yoganathan S, Nicolosi R, Wilson T, et al. Antagonism of croton oil inflammation by topical emu oil in CD-1 mice. Lipids. 2003;38(6):603-607.12934669

Disclaimer

This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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