Emu oil has garnered a lot of attention in recent years. Many consider it to be the cure-all of everything from inflammation, cholesterol, and diabetes.
Others are skeptical of their role in health due to a lack of scientific evidence. Keep reading to learn more about this unique oil and its health benefits.
What is emu oil?
Emu oil is prepared from the fat of the emu bird. Emu is a large, flightless bird that is native to Australia. These birds, which resemble the ostrich, store a lot of fat between their skin and flesh to survive the harsh conditions of the Australian outback.
Each bird produces around 250 pounds of this oil which contains omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids. These fatty acids help in reducing pain and inflammation.
Depending on the method of extraction, the oil can be off-white with a creamy texture to thin yellow liquid.
Components of emu oil
On average, beneficial fatty acids make up 98 to 99 percent of emu oil. These include –
1. Oleic acid
Oleic is acid is an omega-9 monounsaturated fat. It lowers LDL cholesterol, increases HDL cholesterol, improves insulin sensitivity and enhances skin’s permeability.
2. Linoleic acid
Linoleic acid is an omega-6 polyunsaturated fat. It improves skin barrier function and reduces dark spots.
3. Linolenic acid
Linolenic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid that helps to reduce inflammation which prevents heart disease and arthritis. It aids growth and development and boosts brain health.
Emu oil also contains eicosanoids, which exert control over many bodily systems. Eicosanoids, which are made from omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, act as messengers of the central nervous system and they control growth during and after physical activity.
This oil also contains vitamin E and A, which can heal the skin and reduce inflammation. Vitamin A also helps to boost immunity and fight cough, cold and flu.
History of Emu oil
The Australian aborigines have been using emu oil for over 40,000 years. They used emu oil for relief from minor aches and pains, to heal wounds faster and to protect themselves from the harsh sun and wind.
The aborigines introduced emu oil to Europeans as a natural sunscreen and skin moisturizer. This oil was the first natural remedy that the European settlers adopted from the natives of Australia. They used emu oil for burns and dry skin problems.
The American farmers started importing and raising emu birds in the 20th century. They used the meat, skin and the oil of these birds.
Various studies have also been done on this oil to gain more knowledge about emu oil’s medicinal properties.
Health benefits of emu oil
1. Alleviates pain and inflammation
The anti-inflammatory properties of Emu oil help in reducing pain and swelling. Emu oil contains omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. It contains vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K2, antioxidants, carotenoids, and flavonoids.
According to a 1999 study, when researchers topically applied emu oil on mice with inflammation, the magnitude of swelling reduced within 6 to 12 hours (1).
Another study from Australia showed that the effects of emu oil are similar to that of ibuprofen when applied topically (2).
Besides reducing muscle and joint pain, emu oil also helps in the recovery of wounds and damaged skin.
2. Lowers cholesterol
Emu oil is rich in mono and polyunsaturated fats which help in reducing LDL cholesterol and improving HDL cholesterol. The omega -3 fatty acids in emu oil help in lowering plasma triglyceride levels.
According to a 2004 study, hamsters fed with olive and Emu oil diets have significantly lower levels of plasma total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol as compared to coconut oil fed hamsters (3).
Another more recent study showed that rats that were fed unhealthy cafeteria diet along with emu oils supplements have lower LDL cholesterol levels and higher HDL cholesterol levels as compared to rats that did not consume emu oil.
The high levels of oleic acid along with linoleic acid and linolenic acid helped in the prevention of plaque formation (4).
3. Improves skin health
Emu oil is considered to be an excellent moisturizer as it improves hydration and prevents water loss. It contains fats that are similar to those present on the top layer of the skin.
Emu oil can penetrate deep into the skin and improve skin health. This quality of emu oil helps soften elbows, knees, heals and hands. It also helps to reduce itching and flakiness from the skin.
Emu oil also has anti-inflammatory properties which can help to reduce swelling and improve skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema. Emu oil also helps in skin regeneration which treats bed sores, burns, stretch marks, wrinkles, and sun damage.
According to a 2005 study from China, the anti-inflammatory properties of emu oil, along with the decreased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the tissues can promote wound healing and reduce local secondary inflammation (5).
4. Boosts immunity
The essential fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants in emu oil help to prevent and treat infection when applied topically. Emu oil also has antibacterial properties that prevent bacteria from reproducing.
Emu oil contains linolenic acid which helps prevent antibiotic infections like that caused by H. pylori. Helicobacter infection is responsible for various diseases including gastritis, peptic ulcers, and gastric malignancy (6).
The anti-inflammatory properties of emu oil also help in reducing flu symptoms.
5. Improves gut health
Emu oil improves gut health in several different ways.
According to a 2012 study from Australia, Emu oil improves tissue damage associated with ulcerative colitis. When consumed emu oil reduces the severity of inflammation in colon and tissue damage (7).
During another study, when emu oil and glycyrrhizin were orally administered to rats with ulcerative colitis, it helped to reduce macroscopic and microscopic lesions and decrease levels of myeloperoxidase (8).
In rats with Crohn’s disease, a combination of emu oil and aloe vera results in better protection than sulfasalazine (9).
6. Reduces nipple sensitivity
Emu oil can help improve hydration around the nipple and the areola. This oil helps alleviate pain due to dry and cracked nipples caused by breastfeeding.
According to a 2016 study from Italy, emu oil-based cream was found to be effective in improving hydration of breast areolae and did not affect the skin pH, temperature or elasticity (10).
Always use a warm cloth to remove the residual oil before breastfeeding as there is limited research on the safety of emu oil on infants.
7. Increases hair growth and improves nails
Emu oil contains beneficial fatty acids that may improve hair health. It also contains vitamin E, which promotes circulation in the scalp and reverses the damage caused to hair.
According to a study, emu oil helped heal burn wound and restore hair follicles in mice with superficial second-degree burns. The researchers found that emu oil increased the number of hair follicles in the margins of the injury (11).
Emu oil also helps prevent dry and brittle nails. It helps to moisturize the cuticles, reduce inflammation caused by toenail fungus.
8. Reduces side effects of chemotherapy
Chemotherapy can often cause digestive distress in patients. Emu oil can help alleviate this problem.
According to an Australian study, Emu oil can improve mucositis caused by chemotherapy, which results in intestinal inflammation and ulceration (12). Another study showed that Emu oil combined with Lyprinol could partially reduce acute small intestinal inflammation (13).
Emu oil can also prevent chemotherapy-induced bone loss. According to a 2012 study, emu oil can reduce inflammation in bone, preserve osteoblasts, and suppress osteoclast formation, which is caused by chemotherapy (14).
9. Repels bugs
Emu oil contains terpenes, which naturally help repel insects like lice, cockroaches and triatomine bugs.
Ways to use emu oil
You can buy emu oil online or from a health food store. Make sure you buy 100 percent pure organic emu oil from a reputable source.
Good quality emu oil can last for two years. You can extend the shelf life of emu oil by keeping it refrigerated.
You can use pure emu oil topically by rubbing it on to the area of concern. Topical application helps soothe dry and irritated skin and reduces pain. It is also helpful for people with arthritis.
You can also use emu oil in the form of gel capsules to reduce cholesterol levels.
Side effects of emu oil
Emu oil is considered safe when used in appropriate amounts. It is hypoallergenic because it is quite similar to the human skin in its biological makeup. It is non-comedogenic, which means it does not clog pores and lead to skin inflammation.
If you are using emu oil for the first time, do a patch test before you apply it on a larger area.
It is known to be safe for internal use. However, if you are taking any medications, check with a doctor before you take emu oil internally.
Emu oil is made from the fat of the emu bird, and it contains omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids. This oil helps alleviate inflammation, lower cholesterol, improve digestion, boost immunity and reduce side effects of chemotherapy. It also moisturizes the skin and treats skin conditions like dermatitis and eczema.
Always buy emu oil from a reputable source. Check with your doctor before taking emu oil capsules if you are taking medication for any health conditions.