Everything you need to know about emu oil

Emu Oil

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Emu oil has become a popular alternative medicine for various conditions. It is also used for many skin and overall benefits. Read on to find out more about this natural medicine and its surrounding health claims.

What is emu oil?

Emu oil is a light yellow liquid that is a widely available commercial product taken topically for its anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties and internally like a health tonic to address digestive disorders and arthritis. 

The emu oil goes through various stages of filtration and processing for purification and removal of contaminants. Some types of emu oil are more refined with higher contents of fatty acids.

Emu oil is made of a variety of fatty acids, mostly oleic, with smaller amounts of palmitic, linoleic, stearic and linolenic acids. It is also made of antioxidants and compounds – particles small enough to carry many healthy substances into the deep layers of the skin. 

Among them are essential fatty acids like omega-6 and omega-9, vitamin A, carotenoids, flavones, polyphenols, tocopherol, and phospholipids. All of these contribute to the anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties of the emu oil.

What is emu oil made from?

Emu oil is derived from fat deposits from beneath the skin of a flightless bird called emu. An emu (Dromaius novaehallandiae) is a flightless native bird in Australia that is now being farmed in the United States, United Kingdom, and other parts of the globe.

Products made from emu are widely sought after in the global market. The oil deposits of an emu have been used by Australian Aborigines for over 40,000 years. This flightless bird is also farmed for its nutritious meat and skin which is made into leather.

How does emu oil work?

The chemistry of emu oil gives it enhanced carrier capabilities which let the skin absorb the nutrients and healthy ingredients better. It has similar molecular to human skin oil and it is what makes superior among other carrier oils.

What is emu oil good for?

The emu oil was first introduced by the Native Australians as a natural remedy for sun and element protection, minor aches and pains, and wounds. Here are the other benefits of emu oil:

Decreasing inflammation

When taken orally, emu oil can help relieve:

  • ear inflammation
  • inflammatory bowel syndrome
  • joint and overall inflammation (arthritis)
  • absorptive function
  • gastric emptying
  • intestinal transit

Repelling bugs

Emu oil contains substances called terpenes that can help repel insects. Terpenes have a disorienting effect on bugs, so apply some onto the skin before heading outdoors.

Reduce cholesterol level and obesity

Emu oil can help people with obesity problems especially when coupled with calorie restriction and exercise. A research was done in 2004 which yielded lower cholesterol levels for hamsters consuming emu oil compared to their counterparts who consumed coconut oil. Other than this, there’s not a lot of research on emu oil for weight loss and cholesterol reduction. But the results of the study were revelatory, and there’s plenty of evidence too on the effectiveness of fatty acids.

Treating ulcers

The application of emu oil has a protective effect on people with ulcers. In some cases, the oil can even reduce the size of the ulcers.

Radiation and chemotherapy

Emu oil has a hydrating effect which can benefit people undergoing chemotherapy. It can help reduce the severity of skin redness, rashes, peeling, and swelling which are common skin problems associated with cancer patients on radioactive treatment.

Is emu oil good for skin?

Short answer: yes. Emu oil offers many skin benefits including:

Keeping the skin moisturized

Emu oil is usually mixed into moisturizers as an occlusive because it has an absorbable trait that can be passed on to other compounds when mixed together. This results to enhanced absorption that helps in improving hydration and preventing water loss – with lesser risk of irritation. 

Production of healthy skin cells

Emu oil is proven to stimulate the skin by helping increase the number of healthy skin cells. This reduces skin wrinkles and rejuvenates aging or sun-damaged skin. It also helps treat skin conditions like lichen sclerosis, seborrheic dermatitis, alopecia, rosacea, and hypopigmentation.

Healing wounds and scars

Emu oil has properties like painkilling effects, antioxidants, and excellent absorption levels that can heal small wounds, cuts, bruises, and burns. Its moisturizing effect can also help prevent stretch marks and reduce the appearance of scars and age spots.

Preventing skin aging

Emu oil can assist in the production of collagen which keeps the skin elastic, plump, and wrinkle-free. The antioxidant properties found in emu oil can also target stress-induced aging signs.

Reducing nipple sensitivity

For breastfeeding mothers, emu oil can help in improving hydration around their nipple and areola which targets trauma or pain caused by an improper latch. It can treat soreness, engorgement, or cracked skin and has no effect on the pH, temperature, or elasticity of the areola. More research is needed before emu oil becomes a staple in breastfeeding guidelines.

Can emu oil grow hair?

Emu oil can promote hair growth by stimulating the skin and hair follicles. When mixed with other ingredients or used with traditional hair growth methods, emu oil can improve hair density, decrease brittle hair and nails as well as hair loss, and be a potent hair growth agent. 


Most frequent questions and answers

Much of the farmers who produce emu oil handle sales, and they are usually independent ranchers. You can ask them about their methods of extracting oils and other essential parts of the birds, or you can check the list of certified sellers of emu oil that practice ethical farming provided by the American Emu Association (AEA), a non-profit organization dedicated to the ethical farming of emus.

Storage is important as it can affect the quality of the emu oil, so store it properly to extend its shelf life. You can buy emu oil online from $9 to $20, depending on the brand, type, or quality. To make sure you’re buying products that are value for money and are safe, keep these things in mind:

  • Review the seller’s credentials. A seller is guaranteed to follow ethical and sanitary protocols if they are AEA-approved.
  • Check the grade. The AEA established an emu oil grading system: Grade A if it’s fully refined, Grade B if it’s refined once, and Grade C for crude oil. This is to prevent the sale of adulterated products. If you’re using emu oil topically or as a tonic, avoid anything but Grade A.
  • Purchase products that are stamped organic by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • It is best to avoid added ingredients as some of them can irritate the skin like vegetable oils, fragrances, and preservatives. As a general rule, only buy products that are pure with no pure with no additives of any sort.
  • Watch out for the color, taste, and smell. Don’t buy emu oil products that are not bright yellow in color and are heavily scented or emits a strong odor. If you are going to ingest refined emu oil, make sure it has little taste. 

Emu oil is a natural product that has few documented side effects. Despite emu oil being used for thousands of years by the Australian natives as an aboriginal medicine, the long-term safety of the product is yet to be determined. 

As a topical ointment, emu oil is conceivably safe for most people when applied to the skin in discreet amounts for up to six weeks. However, some people may experience skin irritation. It is not known if emu oil is safe when ingested orally. 

So far, there have been no adverse reactions reported from the use of emu oil. But you might want to check first with your health care provider to see if it is suitable for you to use.

Emu oil can be made available in capsule or oral formulations. There is no known dosage for emu oil, therefore it is still not identified which dose the oil may be unsafe or pose as an overdose risk. More published research is needed to determine if there are potential side effects in the oral use of emu oil.

Quality emu oils can only come from emus that were bred in the appropriate living conditions in terms of space and diet. That is why it is important to consider the source of the emu oil especially since the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate its production.

The quality of the emu oils can vary significantly. Refined emu oil is generally considered safe when used for skin and hair care. On the other hand, a lower-grade oil may cause redness and irritation.

Prior to applying the product on your skin and hair, test it on a small patch of skin like the back of your hand. Wait for 24 hours for any allergic reaction to occur. 

Because there isn’t a lot of research done on the safety of emu oils, it is best for children and pregnant or nursing mothers to not use it especially as an oral treatment or to take it with extreme caution, preferably with the assistance of a qualified health professional.

Bottom line

Emu oil may be great for people who are looking for more holistic and natural ingredients for their health routine.  Even though more studies and anecdotes are needed to have a complete understanding on the benefits of emu oil, there is no harm in trying it, or at least there are no documented incidents yet of fatalities from the use of it.

If you’re unsure about its use and dosage, consult a health professional. Avoid using it as substitute treatment for your prescribed medicine.

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