Benefits & Side Effects of Emu Oil

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

There are quite a few health benefits of emu oil including the elimination of inflammation, lower cholesterol levels, healthier skin, a respiratory boost, a stronger immune system, improvement of hair health, faster healing, protection from sunburn, higher energy levels, improved digestion and decreased stress levels, among others. There are also a few side effects including potential skin irritation and gastrointestinal distress, as well as complications for pregnant women, in addition to the risk of low-quality emu oil or oil that contains additives. If you purchase this oil from a respectable source and adhere to the guidelines for consumption, there is a relatively low chance of experiencing any negative side effects.

What is Emu Oil?

Emu oil, as the name suggests, is derived from the emu – a flightless bird that is native to Australia. The oil itself is actually acquired through a multi-stage process where the adipose tissue (fat) on this bird’s back is rendered and refined into a potent oil.  Taxonomically known as Dromaius novaehollandiae [1]this animal has been sought after for its valuable meat and oil for more than 30,000 years by the aboriginal people of Australia, but the animal (and its oil) has recently become more popular in other parts of the world. The impressive medicinal applications of this oil come from its rich supply of fats – more than 70% of the oil is made up of unsaturated fatty acids. This includes high levels of oleic acid, linoleic acid, and linolenic acid, as well as vitamin A and a range of other carotenoids and polyphenolic compounds, all of which have a notable effect on human health.

Close up of a woman's hands who is using a dropper from small bottles

Emu oil is a natural product made from the refined fat of the emu. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Emu Oil Benefits

Emu oil is a popular health supplement for people who are suffering from high cholesterol, obesity, fungal infections, a weak immune system, skin inflammation, arthritis, acne, circulatory issues, dandruff, eczema, oxidative stress, open wounds, surgical recovery, vision problems, dry skin, and numerous other health concerns. There has been some controversy over this oil, as certain claims about its use on reducing the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy have not been thoroughly verified. However, thousands of years of anecdotal evidence supports many of the modern-day uses of this unique oil.

Helps Lower Cholesterol Levels

When it comes to fat, poly and monounsaturated fats are actually needed by the body for a variety of purposes, so adding high concentrations of oleic, linoleic and linolenic acids to the body can improve cholesterol levels, lower the LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in your body, and reduce your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke and heart disease. [2]

Prevents Obesity

It is believed that using emu oil can stimulate metabolism and boost energy levels, which makes people more active and more capable of burning off calories and fat. Furthermore, the fatty acids that are derived from this oil are good for your system and aren’t stored as fat. Instead, they are used for antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and energetic purposes. Oleic acid is also known to promote feelings of satiety, reducing your urge to snack between meals. [3]

Reduces Inflammation

People with arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, joint disorders, muscle aches and a huge range of other inflammatory conditions have benefited from the anti-inflammatory nature of emu oil, primarily provided by the oleic acids and omega-3 fatty acids in the oil. [4]

Eliminates Dandruff

This oil can moisturize the skin wherever it is applied including the scalp. This can help lock in moisture and prevent dry skin, eliminating those unsightly flakes from your shoulders once and for all.

Increases Circulation

If you suffer from poor circulation, it could be impacting your metabolism and organ systems every day. Emu oil can stimulate circulation, promote better blood flow, protect heart health, and ensure that oxygen and resources are getting to the extremities of the body.

Prevents Macular Degeneration

Aside from the impressive fatty acid content, emu oil also provides carotenoids, which can then be turned into vitamin A inside the body. From there, vitamin A is a great antioxidant that can reduce oxidative stress in the retina, lower your chances of macular degeneration, and slow down the onset of cataracts. [5]

Promotes Wound Healing

Commonly applied to wounds, burns, and scrapes, emu oil is not only good at speeding the healing process but it can also protect the wound against infection. When consumed orally, the oil also helps speed the recovery process after an extended illness, injury or surgery. [6]

Skin Care

Perhaps the most important aspect of emu oil is the effect that it has on the skin. From removing fungal infections on nail beds to eliminating symptoms of acne, psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea, this oil can truly do it all. It can reduce the appearance of stretch marks and age-related blemishes or wrinkles, while also soothing burns and even providing some protection from the sun. It stimulates the growth of new skin cells and moisturizes the old ones, providing antioxidant and immune support to your body’s largest organ. [7]

Emu Oil Side Effects

  • Inflammation: There is a small chance that you will experience skin inflammation or irritation when applying emu oil to your skin. However, it has been found that the fatty acid composition of emu oil is extremely similar to human skin, so allergic reactions are quite rare. If you are worried, simply put a small amount on a patch of skin and wait 3-4 hours before using it on a larger area of your body.
  • Pregnancy: Studies have shown that emu oil can be partially passed through a pregnant or breastfeeding woman to their fetus or infant. While there are no known dangers to young children being exposed to this rich blend of beneficial fats, it is always best to speak with your doctor before adding a new natural health remedy to your diet, particularly when there could be a risk to your child.
  • Bleeding Disorders: This oil does have blood-thinning qualities, which can be good for many people’s heart health, but if you suffer from bleeding disorders, are taking anticoagulant medication, or are planning to have surgery in the near future, it is best to avoid emu oil. [8]
  • Poor Quality: Given the recent demand for emu oil, there have been many knock-offs and poor-quality versions put out onto the market. Depending on how the emus were raised, the chemical composition of their fats could vary, while some manufacturers may put additives or other chemicals into the blend, which can result in negative side effects and give the oil-less of an effect.

Emu Oil Uses

Emu oil can be used as a topical remedy, consumed as a supplement, added to massage oils, or even used as a vapor rub on the chest or nose. Emu oil is readily available throughout Australia and most parts of Asia and is becoming popular among other continents, given what has been discovered about the nutritional benefits of emu meat and emu oil. In terms of dosage, for topical applications, no more than a half-teaspoon to a full teaspoon is required in a given area. When taken orally, usually in the form of a capsule, one per day should be enough, although if you aren’t seeing positive results, you can increase to two capsules.

  • Massage Oil – Many massage therapists use emu oil either as the main massage oil, or blend it with other carrier oils. The anti-inflammatory nature of the various monounsaturated fats in this oil will not only improve the health and appearance of your skin but will also provide a soothing and rejuvenating massage experience for your muscles.
  • Topical Application – This is arguably the most popular use of the oil, as there are countless benefits to the skin, nails, hair and other readily available areas of the body. Due to the potency, only a small amount is required, and it will take roughly 5 minutes for the oil to completely soak into the skin.
  • Oral Consumption – Emu oil capsules and supplements are widely available and typically recommended for people wanting to use the oil for heart health. Capsules are also good for boosting respiratory health and strengthening the immune system. [9]
  • Respiratory Rub – If you are suffering from congestion, a stuffy nose, or inflammation in your respiratory tracts, some people choose to rub a small amount of this oil on the inside of their nose, or on their chest, before they go to bed. This can help improve symptoms overnight and leave you feeling refreshed in the morning!

Where and how to buy Emu Oil?

You can buy emu oil from online stores or from the farmers who are into emu farming and sell it directly. Make sure you buy emu oil from a reputable source do avoid any contamination and issues.

How to store Emu Oil?

A good quality emu oil can last for about one to two years. However, refrigeration can help to further extend the shelf life of the oil. Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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