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Emu Oil

What You Need to Know About Emu Oil

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Updated June 26, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Emu oil is a natural product made from the refined fat of the emu (a large bird native to Australia). Rich in fatty acids (including omega-3 fatty acids), emu oil has long been used in aboriginal medicine for treating skin conditions. Proponents claim that personal-care products and supplements containing emu oil offer a variety of anti-aging and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Uses for Emu Oil Supplements

Emu oil supplements are touted as a natural treatment for a number of health conditions, including:

1) Skin

When applied to the skin, creams and lotions containing emu oil are said to slow the aging process, promote healing of wounds and burns, and treat skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rashes.

2) Hair

Some proponents claim that emu oil can promote hair growth, as well as aid in hair care by increasing fullness, adding shine, and eliminating split ends. Emu oil is also said to treat dandruff.

3) Other Health Conditions

Proponents of emu oil claim that it can help with the following:

In addition, proponents suggest that emu oil supplements can boost the immune system, stimulate circulation, enhance heart health, and relieve muscle tension.

Benefits of Emu Oil

To date, there is very little scientific evidence that emu oil can improve health, skin, or hair. The available data on emu oil's effects come from a small number of animal-based studies. Here's a look at some findings from this research:

1) Burns

In tests on rats, the authors of a 2005 study from the Academic Journal of the First Medical College of PLA found that applying emu oil to burn wounds helped reduce inflammation and speed up healing.

2) Wounds

Lotions containing emu oil may promote wound healing, a 1998 study from Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery suggests. For the study, researchers applied a mixture of emu oil, vitamin E, and an unidentified botanical oil to the skin of rats that had undergone surgery. Results revealed that emu oil helped reduce inflammation and improve healing without producing side effects.

3) Digestive Health

Taking emu oil orally may help treat mucositis, according to preliminary research published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2010. (Mucositis is a serious disorder marked by inflammation of the mucous membranes lining the digestive tract, which sometimes occurs as a side effect of chemotherapy.) Looking at a group of rats recovering from chemotherapy, scientists found that animals fed emu oil experienced a decrease in inflammation in the intestinal tract. However, it's not known whether emu oil might have the same effect on humans. It's also important to note that little is known about the safety of consuming emu oil.

Where to Find Emu Oil

Emu oil is used as an ingredient in several types of personal-care products, including creams, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and massage oils. Emu oil is also available in capsules. In addition, you can purchase pure emu oil that contains no added ingredients.

Widely available on the Internet, emu oil products are also found in some natural health stores and drugstores.

Using Emu Oil

Due to the lack of supporting research, use of emu oil cannot be recommended for treatment or prevention of any health condition.

Sources:

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 Aug;104(4):513-9.

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 Dec;102(7):2404-7.

Qiu XW, Wang JH, Fang XW, Gong ZY, Li ZQ, Yi ZH. "Anti-inflammatory activity and healing-promoting effects of topical application of emu oil on wound in scalded rats." Di Yi Jun Yi Da Xue Xue Bao. 2005 Apr;25(4):407-10.

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