Emu oil has long been prized for its ability to heal and repair skin.
As scientists have learned more about the amazing properties of this oil, we are beginning to discover that it has even more significant health benefits.
If you have inflammatory bowel disease, skin disorders, or suffer from diabetes, emu oil may be able to help improve your health.
Keep reading to learn more about the latest medical research discoveries about emu oil.
What is Emu Oil?
What exactly is emu oil, anyway?
The Aboriginal peoples of Australia have been using the oil rendered from emus for generations to treat inflammation and skin disorders.
Over the past century, it has increased in popularity in other parts of the world (1).
It is now time for everyone to know the benefits of emu oil.
Emus are large, flightless birds that are native to Australia.
It is the second-largest bird in the world, just behind its cousin the ostrich.
Fat is harvested from these massive birds, rendered and filtered.
The remaining oil is then used in a number of applications, including for health purposes.
Some consider emu oil harvesting to be more sustainable than other types of oils, particularly petroleum-based products.
The human body efficiently metabolizes this oil. Therefore, it requires very little refining, compared to some other plant-based oils (2).
Emu oil could gain in importance, once we learn more about its medicinal applications and benefits.
The Composition of Emu Oil
The composition of emu oil depends largely on the diet of the bird.
However, other factors can also influence the concentration of various compounds found in this oil, including the type of fat and the method of extraction.
In general, however, emu oil is made up almost entirely of fatty acids (3).
Emu oil contains many essential fats and fatty acids that are beneficial for your health.
For example, nearly half of emu oil is composed of oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid.
Some of the lipids found in emu oil are extremely beneficial for the skin.
Each of these lipids has different properties that help to keep the skin hydrated, reduce dark spots and help protect you from the sun.
Emu oil also has small amounts of vitamins and antioxidants, including carotenoids, flavonoids, Vitamins A and E and sesquiterpenes.
We will further discuss these health benefits below.
Oil Quality and Health Claims
Emu oil has been studied in lab tests and on animals.
However, little is known about the long-term effects of this product on humans, especially when it is ingested.
More research, including clinical trials, is needed to verify many of the claims being made regarding its ability to improve your health.
The quality of emu oil also varies significantly, which can affect how it influences your body.
Emus are wild birds that can either be caught and killed or raised on farms and then slaughtered.
The diet the bird eats greatly effects its oil, and oil from farm-raised animals may be better than that from wild emus (11).
Where the fat is found on the animal, can also affect its capabilities.
Back fat, for example, may be more potent or helpful than adipose or belly fat (12).
There are still many unknowns about which of these is the best choice.
The certification of emu oil is performed by the American Emu Association, which categorizes oil into one of three grades.
Grade A is more refined and used in cosmetics, dietary supplements, and pharmaceuticals.
Grade B is not for ingesting and is utilized primarily for cosmetics.
Grade C is the least processed and is used solely for animal feed and to make soap.
It is important to know which grade of oil you are getting, in whatever product you purchase.
Health Benefits of Emu Oil
Are you interested in improving the quality of your skin or protecting it against harmful sun damage?
Do you have chronic inflammation?
These and many other health disorders can be improved by using the emu oil in a variety of ways.
In the section below, we discuss the findings of medical research regarding the ability of emu oil to improve your health and well-being.
Animal trials have provided evidence of the anti-inflammatory effects of emu oil.
However, more human trials are necessary to confirm and replicate these results.
Similar results were achieved in subjects with arthritis, an inflammatory disease (14), resulting in improved effects for up to 12 hours.
When compared with more conventional anti-inflammatories, such as NSAIDs, emu oil has been found to be just as effective (15).
With further research, we may learn more about emu oil’s abilities to be used to treat inflammation, in place of drugs which also have adverse effects.
Internal inflammation is also very damaging to your health.
Emu oil may also be able to reduce these forms of the inflammatory response.
Researchers are still uncovering the primary pathways that cause emu oil to reduce inflammation.
It is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to suppress the activation of inflammatory markers (20).
The Skin Benefits
Emu oil is easily able to penetrate the skin, allowing it to moisturize as well as heal your most vulnerable tissue.
This oil is included in many skin care products and touted for its ability to care for and repair skin.
There is a great deal of scientific research to support these claims.
Emu oil’s composition makes it penetrate deep into the skin’s layers, providing moisturization and a better feel to the skin.
If you have very sensitive or dry skin, emu oil may be the best choice for providing your skin with the necessary moisture.
Some skin on the body is particularly sensitive, such as the nipples, and emu oil has been shown to help improve hydration and repair dry and cracked nipples, due to breastfeeding (23).
Newborns also have sensitive skin.
Treating their skin with emu oil has also been found to improve skin hydration (24).
n general, it is an excellent choice for anyone with sensitive skin.
For those looking to prevent dark spots or treat the effects of sun damage or aging, emu oil is an excellent option.
In one study, emu oil was shown to reduce the production of skin-darkening melanin, which could mean a reduction in the appearance of freckles, sun spots and age spots, if used regularly (25).
Because emu oil has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it can also be used by those with skin conditions that result from inflammation, such as seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis.
Some patients have found success in improving skin itching, scaliness, and redness, using regular applications of emu oil (26).
Many products make claims about emu oil’s capabilities that are not yet substantiated by research.
As we learn more about this powerful oil, we may be able to use it in more varied applications to improve and care for the skin.
Improves the Permeability of Skin
Emu oil can also affect the skin in other beneficial ways.
Due to its unique makeup, emu oil is able to penetrate not only the protective outer layers of your skin but also deep into the lower tissues connected to your blood vessels (29).
When other medications or compounds are mixed with this oil, they can penetrate your skin better, leading to better absorption.
For example, when anti-inflammatory curcumin is combined with emu oil and applied to the skin, the compounds in this herbal treatment become increasingly more bioavailable for the body (30).
That means you can increase the inflammation-fighting effects of this and other types of natural and synthetic medicines, by combining it with emu oil before application.
An example of this effect is in the treatment of Peyronie’s disease, which affects the penis.
It causes pain and curvature due to excess scar tissue.
Patients who applied medication containing emu oil enjoyed very good results, including less pain than those who used medication with a placebo oil (31).
Other applications include using emu oil to improve the absorption of antioxidants and caffeine to improve skin elasticity and pigmentation.
Participants using emu oil experienced better results than those using a placebo oil (32).
More information is needed to determine the proper nutrients or medications that work best with the penetrating enhancement of emu oil.
For example, early research into topic applications of insulin mixed with emu oil holds promise for possibly replacing injectable forms of the drug (33).
Enhances Digestive Health
As a natural anti-inflammatory, emu oil may be able to improve gut health, lower inflammation in the digestive tract and improve symptoms of some chronic gastrointestinal disorders.
While results are only known for animal trials, these early results offer hope to millions of sufferers of diseases, like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, gastric ulcers, and other similar ailments.
When combined with aloe vera, another natural anti-inflammatory, emu oil was able to reduce ulcer activity in subjects with Crohn’s disease better than conventional, prescription medications (34).
Colitis, which is inflammation of the colon, can also be treated using emu oil.
Animal tests showed improvements in both inflammation and tissue damage, including showing evidence of improved tissue repair (35).
Further research is needed to determine if emu oil is also safe and effective on human colon cells.
Another effective combination uses emu oil and compounds found in licorice root to reduce colitis symptoms, including ulcers, in mice.
The most likely mechanism for this change includes boosting antioxidant levels and suppressing inflammation-signaling proteins in the gut (36).
The benefits to your digestive tract may extend beyond emu oil’s ability to lower inflammation.
For example, there is some evidence to suggest that emu oil may help slow the growth of small colon cancer tumors, while also improving symptoms related to that disease, such as weight loss and inflammation (37).
Lowers Your Cholesterol
As we learn more about healthy and unhealthy fats that can affect heart health, emu oil seems to be a possible source of the types of essential fatty acids that are necessary for lowering cholesterol.
The high concentration of both mono- and polyunsaturated fats in emu oil could potentially reduce so-called bad cholesterol (LDL), while simultaneously raising levels of good (HDL) cholesterol (38).
In animal trials, subjects that were fed a diet of 10 percent emu oil showed significantly lower levels of LDL cholesterol than those fed either coconut or olive oil.
In these subjects, levels of HDL and triglycerides remained the same (39).
When fed an unhealthy diet that was supplemented with emu oil, animal subjects showed lowered LDL levels and increases in HDL levels (40).
At high doses, emu oil was even shown to slow or inhibit the buildup of arterial plaque, which holds promise as a possible treatment for coronary artery disease (41).
Further clinical trials are needed to confirm these effects in humans.
Improves Skin Healing
Because of its ability to hydrate the skin and reduce inflammation, emu oil can be used to help heal damaged skin and wounds.
This is especially true when it is combined with other compounds that are known to aid in skin healing, like Vitamin E.
In one study, animals with burns experienced less pain and quicker healing, when treated with emu oil alone.
It is possible that this occurs because the oil is able to enhance the skin’s natural cell rejuvenation process (42).
When added to Vitamin E and other botanical oils, emu oil was also shown to improve the rate of wound healing, when compared to conventional treatment of antibiotic ointment (43).
Not all results have been consistent in their findings, however.
It appears that the concentration of emu oil is essential since diluted oil with just two percent emu seems to promote cell growth, while more concentrated solutions have the opposite effect (44).
In one study, pure emu oil actually delayed the healing of burns in animal test subjects (45).
While the wounds were slower to heal, the emu oil did have positive effects, including improving the overall structural repair of the wounded skin and creating more active hair follicles after the burn was fully healed.
Reduces the Effects of Cancer Treatments
When undergoing chemotherapy, patients often experience many unpleasant side effects.
This includes digestive distress and bone degeneration.
This evidence suggests that emu oil may be able to mitigate some of these adverse reactions.
In animal trials, emu oil has been shown to limit bone degeneration and preserve bone-building activity during chemotherapy (46).
This was carried out by supporting osteoblast production while limiting osteoclast activity.
Patients undergoing chemotherapy often have inflammation in the digestive tract which is related to a decrease in the mucous layer that lines the intestinal walls.
Emu oil was found to be more effective than other oils at helping to regenerate the mucous layer and restoring proper digestive function (47).
When combined with other compounds, it can also reduce intestinal inflammation, which can cause gastrointestinal upset (48).
Improve Thinning Hair
There are many who claim that emu oil is an excellent treatment for thinning hair.
However, only one animal study has been conducted to support this claim.
In a study involving burns on animal subjects, the mice treated with pure emu oil experienced an increase in active hair follicles after their wound healed (49).
It is not clear what mechanism is responsible for this result.
Other Health Benefits of Emu Oil
As medical research has advanced, we have learned more about the potential benefits of using the emu oil in various health-related applications.
A summary of study findings that hold promise for future lines of inquiry and possible future uses of emu oil include:
- In one study, an unintended side effect of administering emu oil to animal subjects was an increase in the levels of free testosterone (50).
- In another study, a treatment that included emu oil, fish oil, and the tart cherry extract was shown to slow cognitive decline in animal subjects with Alzheimer’s disease. The treatment lowered inflammation and inhibited neural degeneration (51).
- Some evidence suggests that emu oil may be used topically to lower pain. However, this is likely due to its ability to reduce inflammation and hydrate skin effectively (52).
- While claims can be made that certain types of fats, including mono- and polyunsaturated fats effectively reduce weight and lower insulin resistance, there have been no animal or human trials using emu oil to make this inference (53).
- Because of its high ratio of unsaturated to saturated fats, emu oil may be able to effectively reduce oxidative stress (54).
- The compounds that are present in emu oil are known to improve bone health, by stimulating the cells that build new bone tissue (55).
Emu oil is generally safe to use on the skin, even for those with sensitivities.
Those with certain conditions, such as Peyronie’s disease, may, however, notice mild irritation when using emu oil (56).
Because emu oil can increase the absorption and effects of medications and nutrients, you should use caution when taking curcumin or insulin, while using emu oil.
In some instances, it is difficult to determine if improvements are due to improved permeation of various substances or from the actual emu oil itself.
This is why further research is needed.
While you can take emu oil internally, there is insufficient medical or scientific data to understand the long-term effects of this practice.
Therefore, you should do so at your own risk.
Using emu oil topically is well-documented and considered safe.
Emu oil can be applied in full concentration or mixed with other oils or compounds.
There are no consistent dosage guidelines for emu oil at this time.
Emu oil is rich in essential fatty acids that have the ability to lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure, support insulin sensitivity and enhance the permeability of the skin.
Emu oil is known to be an effective skin barrier and moisturizer, which can also penetrate deep within the dermal tissue.
Other benefits of the fats found in emu oil include promoting skin healing, lowering inflammation and reducing hyperpigmentation of the skin.
In addition to fats, emu oil contains many other natural compounds that are good for your health.
Emu oil has carotenoids and flavonoids, which are essential antioxidants for reducing oxidative stress and promoting a healthy immune system.
This oil also has Vitamins A and E, which are necessary for a healthy metabolism, hormone production, brain health, and healthy skin.
Emu oil works by effectively blocking pro-inflammatory messenger molecules and inhibiting the pathways that trigger inflammatory responses.
It is also able to scavenge damaging free radicals from the body to reduce tissue damage caused by oxidative stress.
As we learn more about the many health benefits of this natural oil, emu oil is likely to be included in any future health care routines.
This amazing fat has potential healing properties that we are only now beginning to fully understand.
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