Healing emu oil is making a comeback in the medical industry, prized for its natural medicinal qualities.
First used as a healing agent by Australian Aborigines thousands of years ago, healing emu oil is making a comeback in the medical industry. A flightless bird from the ratite family that had short-lived promise as livestock on U.S. ranches in the 1980s, emus are now raised in over 40 states for their Omega-3-rich, nontoxic, penetrating oil. Used as an antiseptic, moisturizer and anti-inflammatory, emu oil may provide relief for maladies ranging from sunburns to arthritis.
Although the FDA has not yet granted approval for medical applications, laboratory testing has uncovered a wide range of uses for the off. Researchers of Medical Physiology at the University of Saskatchewan have found that the oil, when applied to post-operative wounds, promotes healing, while the Department of Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Prince Edward Island's Atlantic Veterinary College has discovered that emu oil reduces auricular inflammation in mice. In its unrefined state, emu oil contains linolenic oil and andoleic acid, and serves as a carrier for antioxidants and vitamin C. It can penetrate up to seven layers of skin.
"Refined oil has been on the market at most for about three years," says Montie Morris, plant manager of Emu Producers International Cooperative (EPIC). "The industry in the late '80s went more toward breeders before it tried to get a commercial market. Now we have importers from overseas." The EPIC oil refinery produces 5,000 pounds of oil daily for commercial use in cosmetics like moisturizers, eye creams and hair products. Other companies have begun marketing the oil as an anti-inflammatory to high profile sports teams in the National Basketball Association and the National Football League.
According to Morris, consumers should look for refined, deodorized oil that has gone through a process of sterilization, and they should be wary of ads claiming emu oil as a cure-all to chronic diseases.
Their ability to thrive on a minimal diet and under harsh conditions make emus an ecologically attractive commodity. Their meat, eggs, feathers, oil and hide are completely usable, and their powerful claws act as small garden tillers, helping to turn and cultivate the soil. Says Neil Williams, president of the American Emu Association: "The emu industry used to be a 'bird business.' Today we're selling quality products."