Scientific Name(s): Dromaius novaehollandiae
Common Name(s): Emu
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
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
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
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
There are no clinical data regarding use of emu oil as an anti-inflammatory agent, despite being traditionally used for this purpose.
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
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
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
There are no clinical data regarding use of emu oil for GI conditions.
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.
None well documented.
Clinical trials and case reports of adverse reactions are lacking.
Research reveals no information regarding toxicity of emu oil.
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