Emu Oil: Benefits & Uses for Skin and Body

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Emu Oil- Promising Benefits for Skin and Body
Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Emu Oil: Benefits & Uses for Skin and Body

Hundreds of years ago, native Australian aboriginals figured out that oil from emu birds could help with wound healing as well as aches and pains. Today, emu oil is widely used for skin conditions like eczema and burns. Modern research may support this native remedy.

Unsure about supplementing with a bird oil? Read on:

What Is Emu Oil?

As the name suggests, this oil is extracted from the back fat of the Australian Emu bird (Dromaius novaehallandiae), a flightless bird native to Australia (similar to the ostrich). This back fat is then rendered and filtered like lard, producing a clear bright yellow oil with several healing properties.

All the Good Fats…

Emu oil contains all three types of omega fatty acids (omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9), which makes it an excellent fatty acid supplement. About 50% of its fat content is from monounsaturated omega-9 fat called oleic acid. This fat is also present in olive oil.

It also contains various natural healing compounds like antioxidants, carotenoids, flavones, polyphenols, and phospholipids.

Just as grass-fed beef has more nutritious fatty acids than grain-fed beef, the nutritional content of this oil varies based on what the emus eat. Today, some emu birds are farmed for oil and meat rather than wild caught. Because emu oil is readily absorbed into the skin, it is very important to get your emu oil from a reputable source.

Benefits of Emu Oil

Recent research and human clinical trials support the benefits of emu oil for overall health and for specific conditions. It is important to note that in most cases, the studies showed that it was effective, but not as effective as conventional medication for several conditions.

However, this natural oil doesn’t come with the same side effects as these medications. In many cases, it can be a great natural option to help manage symptoms either on its own or together with other treatments.

Emu Oil Benefits for the Skin

Topical use is well supported in research. Scientific studies and anecdotal reports both show emu oil’s potential to:

Fight Inflammation (Eczema, Dermatitis, and Psoriasis)

If you have ever applied this oil to your skin, you probably noticed that it is very light and absorbs very quickly. The fat content of emu oil allows it to pass easily through the outermost layer of the skin (called the stratum corneum). This is likely the reason people often use it for chronic inflammatory problems like eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis.

In patients with seborrheic dermatitis, emu oil may relieve itchiness, redness, and scaling.

Address the Internal Too!

Skin problems are often a sign that something is wrong inside, like food sensitivities, gut dysbiosis, or nutrient deficiencies. Conventional medications like steroids simply suppress the immune system. The symptoms are suppressed, but the root causes remain.

Emu oil can provide great relief, but it is still important to address the root cause to clear the skin.

Heal Wounds and Avoid Scarring

Many people find this oil very effective to support wound healing and reduce scarring. A 2015 study found that it promotes skin regeneration and reduces inflammation. Testing on animal wounds showed inconclusive results, and we still don’t have any human studies that confirm the effects of emu oil on a wound.

One 2016 study tested the effects of emu oil on the healing rate of burn wounds in mice. They found mice that receive this oil heal more slowly but have much less scarring compared to the control group. Another Chinese study tested emu oil on burn wounds of rats and found that emu oil is superior to betadine and liquid paraffin treatments.

Protect Nipples During Breastfeeding

A small clinical trial using emu oil on new breastfeeding mothers found that it is somewhat effective at relieving the pain from breastfeeding and keeping the nipple skin nourished. While this oil is helpful, the authors of this study erred on the side of caution and expressed concerns that more testing would be required to ensure that emu oil is safe for new mothers and babies before it is widely used for this purpose.

Stimulate Skin and Hair Growth

Emu oil can stimulate the regeneration of skin cells and hair growth in patients with health conditions that cause hair loss, including alopecia and chemotherapy. This use is the most widely documented with anecdotal evidence, though again, more research is needed.

Emu Oil Benefits for (Inside) the Body

Because emu oil contains many healing substances and can readily be absorbed, its health benefits are beyond skin-deep. Scientists have observed several anti-inflammatory benefits such as its ability to:

Relieve Arthritis

Applying this oil mixed with eucalyptus on the skin significantly reduces arthritis swelling in rats, especially compared with other oils like lard, fish oil, olive oil, and evening primrose oil. Therefore, emu oil may help with arthritis and joint pain in humans.

Reduce Gut Inflammation

Several studies show that emu oil is very healing to the gut, especially in cases of diseases like colitis and Crohn’s disease. Some specific benefits include:

  • Soothing gut ulcers and inflammation that are side effects of chemotherapy (tested on mice).
  • Reducing damage and inflammation in a rat model of ulcerative colitis when combined with licorice. Another study also found that emu oil alone can help with ulcerative colitis.
  • Protecting the gut from more ulceration when combined aloe vera in a Crohn’s disease model in rats.

Given that many of these chronic digestive health problems have a lot in common, it is likely that eating this oil might help with other diseases of inflamed gut as well. However, additional studies, especially in humans, are necessary to confirm this.

Balance Cholesterol

Olive oil is often recommended to help balance cholesterol levels. It is said to increase good cholesterol levels. This native oil contains many of the same beneficial fats and may have the same effect. A 2004 study found that hamsters fed emu oil had significantly better cholesterol and triglycerides compared to hamsters fed with olive oil.

A Note on Emu Oil for Sensitive Skin

The skin can absorb and make use of natural oils. For sensitive skin, animal fats are generally better tolerated than plant-sourced fats. This may be because animal fats contain fatty acids that are more similar to the fatty acids that are present in our skin. Emu oil is one of the most anti-inflammatory oils that the skin recognizes and readily absorbs.

Those who have eczema or very dry, itchy skin, may benefit from this natural oil. For additional moisturizing, it helps to mix it with tallow balm or a body butter. It is possible, however, to mix emu oil with other ingredients or even tallow for the best of both worlds.

Bottom Line (& What I’ve Tried)

This is certainly one of the more unusual remedies I’ve tried over the years. It isn’t mainstream, but I’ve gotten a lot of questions about it so I figured I’d share my experience. To be honest, I was reluctant to try this remedy for a long time … but I’ve known about it for over a decade.

In fact, in high school, a kid in my class used to talk about emu oil and how he used it in various ways. Back then, I just thought it was a little unusual (nice grown up way of saying what I really thought). To my surprise, years later I stumbled on open research supporting the benefits of this bird oil.

When one of my favorite companies started carrying a high quality emu oil, I decided to give it a try. It certainly isn’t the most effective or versatile remedy I’ve tried over the years, but I did notice that it is one of the few oils I can use externally without breaking out. I’ve been experimenting with it in lotions and other topical recipes and prefer to use it this way.

Have you ever tried emu oil? What did you use it for? Please share in the comments below!

Emu oil is quickly becoming known for its healing properties for gut health and skin conditions. Learn about the proven benefits of emu oil.
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


116 responses to “Emu Oil: Benefits & Uses for Skin and Body”

  1. Asher Avatar

    I actually use emu oil to heal my cavities since it’s great for brain health as well as bone health. But it’s the Australian emu oil that has the highest form of K2 in the entire world, higher than high vitamin butter oil based on recent studies. I take it with my ECLVO and skate liver oil. It honestly taste just like regular oil and yes I was skeptical to consume oil from a bird, but considering I actually eat animals and I’m using this for my health, it doesn’t seem that different.

  2. Anna M Cabeca, DO Avatar
    Anna M Cabeca, DO

    Believe me I understand the thoughts and controversy around emu oil and appreciate the discussion.

    As a gynecologist and specialist in women’s sexual health I know there really is a paucity of truly helpful and restorative solutions for conditions such as vaginal dryness, incontinence, vulvodynia, lichen sclerosis, vestibulitis, and the list goes on.

    Surgical procedures and potent medications are often resorted to with less than fantastic results, not to mention over 40% of women over 50 suffer without treatment. In my over twenty years of ob/gyn practice I experimented with vaginal and vulvar topical (even non estrogen containing) hormonal therapies with excellent results, but the best healing results were, without a doubt, when I used emu oil in my combinations.

    Yes, I was conflicted about this, especially as I worked to create an over the counter solution for women that could be applied cleanly to the vulva and get restorative results, improving quality of life and relationships.

    In my over 4 years of formulation, emu oil combined with my ingredients got the best results and has really restored women’s sexual health, desire, and confidence that they won’t leak anymore when they exercise! Seriously, a little bit of emu oil goes a long way and can really improve some devastating conditions.

    I truly tried many other combinations, but safety and efficacy wins out with this combination. Here is the link to my product: Julva.com and take a look at the other ingredients which you will love. But the results speak for themselves as you will see in the testimonials.

  3. Kathryn Avatar

    I have been using emu oil for years, mostly for skin care and healing. I wouldn’t like to do without it. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, then just use something something botanical, no one is making you use emu oil. Katie has never made it a secret that she favors organic, grass fed meat, and to each his or her own. Open-mindedness and tolerance would go a long way. As for the emu, the animals are almost always organic and grass fed, killed quickly and humanely, and nearly every part of the animal is used. No cruelty, no waste.

  4. Emily Boronkay Avatar
    Emily Boronkay

    I have been using emu oil for over 10 years. I first bought it because my dog had hot spots that would not heal. It worked brilliantly.

    It helps with inflammation – arthritic hands, recovering from a broken wrist, etc. If I wake up with a backache, I rub it on my back and usually that’s the end of it.

    I use it on my face daily esp at night. I too have a dryness problem with my eyes, so when I go to bed I rub the emu oil all the way up around my eyes so that it seeps into them. I don’t do it in the day bc it causes my vision to be cloudy but using it at night helps me not to wake up with my eyes so dry I can hardly open them.

    Emu oil is a product I hope to never have to do without.

    1. Shasha Avatar

      Hot spots/arthritis/inflammation/dry eyes etc can be due to gluten/GMO. Pets/people need grain free food/treats…then health issues may go away fast. Iodine may help dry eyes. Hot spots…I had when my thyroid was low due to gluten/heavy metals.

  5. Carole Avatar

    Sophie, for emu oil to be rated Grade A, pharmaceutical grade, it has to be fully refined. Please do not ever put any unrefined emu oil on your skin. (I don’t think it’s even available that way for consumer purchasing.) Unrefined emu oil is only for industrial uses, not human.

    Different companies use different refining methods, as you mentioned. At Emu Joy we use physical refining with clays to remove any impurities. The brand that Katie mentions is made in Australia (Emu Joy is a USA product) and while the certification requirements are different than U.S. certifications, it too is a quality brand. We have a guide about choosing and using emu oil on our website which explains how emu oil is obtained and purified and can provide additional information to your questions.

    1. Sofie Avatar

      Thank you Carole,
      Will look at the guide on your site.
      The emu oil that Katie mentioned is unrefined according to the seller.
      I also found several other brands of unrefined emu oil, but because you mentioned this is only for industrial uses, I’m not sure anymore … 🙁

      1. Lucille Avatar

        The product I used when I had Shingles was emumagic. It is from a ranch in Minnesota. They only advertise it for external use. One of their products is refined.

      2. Carole Rains Avatar
        Carole Rains

        Sophie, I checked again on unrefined emu oil to make sure I was giving you the correct information, and believe I did. The emu farmer I work with explained it this way: Crude rendered, or just rendered not refined, emu oil should not be put on the skin. Some people have, some people do, but you would be more prone to reactions because not all the bad proteins are taken out of it. Rendered emu oil is simply the fat heated up and strained. When we first started I would do that myself when we lost a bird unexpectedly. If you do it slowly and take painstaking time to filter it you can come up with an oil that is ok, for about a month MAX before it turns.

        Neelum, regarding “extraction”, that doesn’t happen. See my previous comment for the process.

        And Dr. Cabeca makes a great point about emu oil’s use for women with vaginal and vulva problems. I have spoken to many women who suffer from lichen sclerosis and they have found relief using pure emu oil, or some of the combination products like Banish My Pain and Banish My Rash. Also, one of the funniest calls I ever had with a customer was a woman who uses emu oil as a sexual lubricant. She is 72 and her gynecologist told her she has the vagina of a 25 year old!

  6. Carole Avatar

    The oil is not extracted from the back fat of a live emu. What happens is when the emus are processed for their lean meat (which is now a luxury item in upscale restaurants) and other parts, the fat from their backs is removed, flash frozen, and sent to an FDA approved processing plant where it is completely purified. In fact, our emu oil that we sell in bottle is the same oil that is made into ingestible gel caps, so it is food grade safe.

    Not only is 95% of an emu used upon processing, but they lay huge blue/green eggs that are used for food and the shells for crafts.

  7. Carole Avatar

    If the emu oil is high quality, refined properly, and comes from a reliable source where the emus are raised properly, then it should have virtually no smell at all. A lot of companies have jumped into selling emu oil solely to make a buck, and they are selling cheap, adulterated emu oil. This is a product where you get what you pay for. If you ever smell emu oil that smells bad, it probably isn’t anything you should to rub into your skin.

  8. Shasha Avatar

    Dry eye maybe due to gluten which may cause inflammation/swelling. Iodine may help. Gluten may hurt the thyroid also. Best wishes.

  9. Marilyn Avatar

    I have “dry eye” in which the tear ducts gradually shut down and quit working. It can be painful, especially in the morning. About 2-3 months ago, I started rubbing a (fairly large) drop of emu oil on my bottom eyelid once a day. My eyes still get dry overnight, but it’s far less time before the tear ducts start secreting after I wake up and even during the day I can feel them producing. I’m sure that the longer I use the oil, the better my eyes will work.

    Yes, it’s a bit greasy on my eyeballs after I put it on and I have to blink a lot, but compared to dry, itchy, sore eyes it is a breeze. I do not want to use synthetic chemicals in manufactured eye drops.

  10. Nicole Avatar

    I’m grateful that when I want to try somthing new, I can trust this person to provide a link to a place where animals are not punched in the face while having their feathers ripped out gasping for there last breath!
    Thank you Katie. I trust you to help us avoid animal abuse in these dark times for so many animals.

  11. Lanny Avatar

    I am very sensitive to fragrance and some essential oils. Can anyone tell me what emu oil smells like?
    Thanks much.

  12. Lanny Avatar

    I always appreciate learning about new oil’s, whether they are plant or animal. I have extremely sensitive skin and dermatitis. This sounds like something that may work. Thank you so much Katie, for your thorough research. I’m definitely trying emu oil.

  13. Gy GY Avatar

    I’ve been using Emu oil for years for skin care (It’s good for wrinkles) and hair care, minor arthritis, sore muscles, even carpal tunnel pain (some relief).
    I’ve found that for pain and inflammation it needed to be undiluted when applied or it didn’t work so well.
    I’ve never taken Emu internally before, I’ll be following to see what others say.
    As for me, I love the stuff.

  14. Angeline Avatar

    I’m fairly new to Emu oil. I got some to use in a face moisturizing blend I made. I love the blend but the rest of the oil sits in my cabinet. I’m going to look into other uses as I have sore muscles and my guy has eczema…I also appreciate knowing that this is another case of finding the most humanely raised and best quality. Thanks for the information.

  15. Dave Avatar

    This has never been a site advocating no animal products. Responsibly and respectfully raised animals are part of Katie’s diet, and yes, that includes skincare. If you disagree that’s fine, but you don’t have to be judgemental. We can state our opinions and not be too narrow minded to consider others.

  16. Tammy Avatar

    I use Emu oil every night. I love it after using my PMD (home dermabrasion system) to suppress any inflammation as a result of the deep exfoliation. Great stuff! Try it. You will like it :).



  17. Joyce Wilkinson Avatar
    Joyce Wilkinson

    I agree with Melanie. I too am a farmer, a diary farmer. My cows receive a quality life they are my livelihood. That being said there is a cycle of life. I have been using organic Emu Oil for a long time and I’m positive the farm I purchase from also provides an extremely good environment and feed for their animals.
    I took,care of my Mother until her death. When she came to me she had a huge bedsore on her leg. Applied Emu oil twice a day. After a few weeks, upon bathing her the very large scab came off whole and what was underneath looked like a babies bottom and no scar.
    I also use Emu Oil infused with essential oils to make my breast oil. Love it, as it penetrates deep.
    I don’ t always agree with some of the information posted but that’s fine, Katie is doing us a service, educating us, doing the research work for us, entertaining us, sharing from her heart. And she puts herself out there, which is more,than most of us are willing to do. Thank you Katie!

  18. Ana Rose Avatar
    Ana Rose

    Hi Katie, I love your blog and so appreciate your intuitive brilliance! Though have to say I wish you hadn’t posted this one. I am well aware of the benefits of emu oil but stopped using it many years ago because I couldn’t justify the resources consumed and the lives taken just to benefit our skin–a luxury product at best. I try to practice only taking what we need from other creatures, like meat for a balanced diet (was vegan for 22 years and that unfortunately did not work out well for me in the end…) and wish you took the same approach to protecting the earth and our creatures as much as possible because your influence is so immense, but alas I know all of our values are different, just had to say my piece, thank you 🙂

  19. Ann C Avatar

    Thanks for all the research that you do, Katie. I know a few people who have used emu oil, myself included and I can say it as helped me and my 98 years old mother in law. She as used it for years for inflammation of the joints.

  20. jill Avatar

    What’s the smell factor with Emu Oil? I’ve always been afraid that it would smell like chicken fat! Also want to mention that I’ve had a slightly off experience re: smell, with grass fed beef tallow that I ordered that was intended for topical use – maybe the problem was with the rendering process.

    Thank you for all the good information, Katie!

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