Emu oil’s possible effects for your health

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

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  • Emu oil comes from the fats of the emu bird, which have been separated from the lean meat. Native Australians were the first to use this oil
  • This oil contains essential and saturated fatty acids, and compounds like carotenoids and polyphenols
  • To ensure you’re buying high-quality emu oil in the U.S., look for the “AEA Certified Fully Refined Emu Oil — Grade A” label by the American Emu Association

Most people know that the ostrich is the largest bird in the world.1 But have you ever been curious who holds the spot after it? It’s the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae), a native Australian bird with a height that can reach up to 2 meters (6.5 feet).2 Just like ostriches, emus cannot fly, as their wings are only about as big as human hands.3 They do use them as flaps, however, to help cool their bodies, especially when it’s hot.4

Emus are often raised for their meat and other byproducts such as leather and oil.5 In fact, pure emu oil has been studied for its potential benefits and uses. Continue browsing this page to learn how you can use this oil to your advantage.

What is emu oil?

Pure emu oil is made from the bird’s fats, which have been separated from the lean meat after processing. The fats undergo a refining process6 to give the oil high amounts of fatty acids but fewer impurities.7 This process is essential for emu oil made and sold in the U.S., which must meet the standards established by the American Emu Association (AEA) for high-quality products.8

Emu oil’s potential health benefits

When it comes to determining whether emu oil could be beneficial for your health, researchers have discovered that this substance contains health-promoting antioxidants and fatty acids, such as:9

  • Oleic acid, omega-3 and omega-6
  • Palmitic and stearic acid
  • Carotenoids, flavones, polyphenols and tocopherols

These components are responsible for some of the health benefits linked to emu oil. There’s also evidence that this oil may help:

Boost skin moisture and absorption — A 2012 study notes that emu oil is a natural moisturizer that may help boost tissue regeneration.10 It can also help promote collagen synthesis.11 Collagen is a protein that helps keep your skin bright, healthy and firm.12

If you’re undergoing radiation therapy, you may also use emu oil to reduce your risk for skin damage, as emphasized in a 2015 article in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics.13

Enhance hair growth — In this 2016 Journal of HerbMed Pharmacology study, researchers concluded that an emulsion containing emu oil and eugenol (a substance extracted from clove oil) may have potential in inhibiting hair loss and stimulating hair growth.14

Address inflammation — Emu oil has anti-inflammatory capabilities that may help relieve ear inflammation and inflammatory bowel syndrome. It may also lower your risk for bone loss due to chemotherapy,15 and help alleviate arthritis when combined with curcumin.16

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What is emu oil good for?

The first instances of emu oil use have been traced back to the Australian Aborigines or native Australians, who used it to counteract inflammation and promote faster wound healing.17 If you have some emu oil on hand, you can use it as:18

  • An insect repellent19 The oil may contain terpenes, compounds that are toxic to insects like the mountain pine beetle,20 flies,21 lice, cockroaches and Triatomine22 or kissing bugs.23 However, because terpenes may attract mosquitoes,24 if you’re going outdoors or to mosquito-infested areas, use another natural insect repellent.
  • A treatment for wounds, cuts or burns Multiple studies have confirmed that emu oil exhibits immense potential when it comes to alleviating these issues.25,26,27,28
  • A skin booster — Emu oil may help minimize the appearance of scars, lighten stretch marks and even help address acne.29

Studies on emu oil

There are other capabilities of emu oil that have been examined by researchers in various studies:

  • Help manage cholesterol levels — Authors of this 2004 Nutrition Research animal study discussed that hamsters fed a diet with emu and olive oils had reduced levels of both plasma total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by the end of the study.30
  • May help address ulcers — Results of a Chinese study showed that applying emu oil onto ulcers in rats helped promote a “protective effect.” In some cases, emu oil decreased ulcer size as well.31
  • Promote protective effects against Crohn’s disease — In a 2016 animal study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the anti-inflammatory properties of both emu oil and aloe vera may also have played a role in protecting rats against ulcers.32
  • Lessen fine lines and dull skin — According to an Advanced Biomedical Research study published in 2015, application of a caffeine pad containing vitamin K and emu oil may inhibit the appearance of dark circles around the eyes and may act as an emollient. This may then assist in moisturizing the eye area and in keeping it from looking dehydrated and dull.33
  • Address seborrheic dermatitis (SD) — A 2013 study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences revealed that emu oil may help target common SD symptoms like itching, erythema and scales.34

Buying good-quality emu oil

Consider doing thorough research about the brand before purchasing emu oil. If you can, ascertain that the birds lived in humane conditions, meaning they had enough space to move in and consumed a species-appropriate diet.35

You can also check if the emu oil bears an “AEA Certified Fully Refined Emu Oil — Grade A” label. To earn it, manufacturers need to comply with the AEA’s Emu Oil Trade Rules.36 Ideally, the emu oil should:

  • Not be formulated (even if the substances have traces of emu oil)
  • Come from an AEA approved refinery and bottler37
  • Be registered with the AEA in batches
  • Be examined by a member of the American Oil Chemistry Society38

If the emu oil passes the AOCS’ analysis, the manufacturer can forward the results to the AEA, which will allow use of its certification label on the product.39

Side effects of emu oil

Talk to a physician or doctor before trying emu oil and undergo a skin patch test to check for allergies.40

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid taking emu oil internally because of the lack of scientific evidence supporting its use during these stages of a woman’s life. Children aren’t recommended to use emu oil either.41

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about emu oil

Q: Where does emu oil come from?

A: Pure emu oil comes from the emu bird’s fats, which are gathered after its lean meat has been processed.42

Q: How is emu oil made?

A: Once the bird’s fats are obtained, it undergoes further refining to minimize the contaminants but preserve the fatty acids, producing high-quality, pure emu oil.43

Q: How do you use emu oil?

A: Emu oil can be used as an insect repellent, treatment for wounds, burns, cuts and scrapes,44,45,46,47 or skin booster that may help reduce the appearance of wrinkles (when combined with vitamin K),48 scars and stretch marks.49

Q: Does emu oil work in reducing cholesterol levels?

A: Results published in the journal Nutrition Research in 2004 found that decreases in plasma total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol were seen in hamsters that were fed emu and olive oils.50

Q: Is emu oil good for psoriasis?

A: According to a 2011 International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research article, emu oil may be a potential remedy for psoriasis.51 While this study didn’t highlight the exact mechanism responsible for this effect, it may be due to the omega-3 fats52 in this oil.53

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