DNC News

Emu at Pouakai

The Emu


Emu Oil: a few potential uses in cancer therapy

Subject: Emu Oil may be useful in treating radiation burns from chemotherapy and may provide relief for joint pain caused by aromatase inhibitors


I suppose it's a matter of where you are from. If you grew up with a Jewish grandmother you learned early on that schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) was good for almost anything. If your grandmother was an Australian Aborigine you learned to use Emu oil. Chickens and Emus are both birds, neither can fly. That's probably all they have in common.

The Emu is a huge, flightless bird that wanders around wild in Australia . Emus are now farmed in Australia , Canada , Europe and the USA . The native Aboriginal and early white settlers in Australia rubbed on the liquid fat to facilitate wound healing and to alleviate pain and disability from musculoskeletal disorders.

An adult bird (15 months old) weighing 90 pounds carries up to 20 pounds of body fat,

which when rendered, yields about two gallons of oil. Emu meat compares favorably to other meat sources, having higher protein, vitamin and mineral levels but lower fat content than beef, buffalo and caribou. I don't know whether it tastes like chicken. http://www.dinomeat.com/About%20Emu%20Meat.html



Reviewing the research and also the advertising claims suggest that Emu oil can be counted on to have several specific effects. First, it promotes skin healing after injury.


The research studies focus on rather traumatic skin injuries, especially burns. Several studies look at scalded rats. Apparently they dip the rat into boiling water and then into Emu oil regularly. The Emu treatments sped the rats' recovery. [i] [ii] If you think scalding rats is nasty, there are worse ways to test wound healing. Emu oil also speeds healing of chemical burns caused by croton oil applied to the ears of mice. [iii] [iv]


A topical salve made from Emu oil and vitamin E improves the healing of skin grafts. [v] It seemed very useful if applied starting two days after the surgery but slowed healing if application was begun immediately after surgery probably because early use has an anti-inflammatory effect that slows healing.


Most website testimonials promote Emu oil as beneficial for arthritic conditions. The published research is a little scanty in this area but there is enough to consider clinical trials in individuals. Data from rats who suffered from a chemically induced arthritis-like condition supports this. [vi] Effectiveness varied considerably by manufacturer, how the bird was raised, and, interestingly, also by location on the bird from where the fat was obtained. Some wild birds had almost three times the effect of some farm raised birds, gut fat produced almost 50% more anti-inflammatory effect than oil from back fat.


Emu oil penetrates the skin easily and can be used as a carrier agent for other chemicals.


There are two applications where Emu oil may be especially useful in cancer treatment.


The first is in healing radiation burns. Radiation treatment frequently causes burns which can be very uncomfortable and which sometimes limit treatment. Reports from colleagues suggest topical Emu oil may speed the healing of these burns and the animal studies certainly support this idea. The skin graft research would suggest that adding vitamin E to the Emu oil may increase its benefit.


The second use is in treating joint pain. Women with hormone sensitive breast cancer are frequently treated with oral medications to lower their estrogen effect or to stop estrogen production altogether. Estrogen has a moisturizing effect on body tissues, and the lack of hormone effect caused by these treatments often is experienced as dry, irritated joints. Kind of a drug induced arthritis. Topical Emu oil applied over areas of inflammation may help reduce these symptoms. I have yet to find published research supporting this use. Keep this in perspective, at this point in time, the manufacturers and doctors who prescribe these drugs hardly admit these symptoms even occur.

I don't know whether Emu oil will work for this pain. As nothing else appears to be effective, we now suggest it. I should clarify that. We have seen oral hyaluronic acid reduce this joint pain triggered by these drugs. Unfortunately hyaluronic acid should not be taken by anyone with a history of cancer, especially breast or prostate. The research suggests that this substance may encourage tumor spread. [vii]


When purchasing Emu oil, at this point, the research suggests that feral Australian birds produce the most beneficial oil. Oils classified as cosmetic grade have been clarified. It is unclear that this produces a therapeutic advantage.






[i] Di Yi Jun Yi Da Xue Xue Bao. 2004 Nov;24(11):1255-6.

[Effects of topical emu oil on wound healing in scalded rats.]

[Article in Chinese]

Li ZQ, Wang JH, Ren JL, Yi ZH.


Department of Burns, Nanfang Hospital , Southern Medical University , Guangzhou 510515, China . lizq1112@21cn.com


OBJECTIVE: To observe the effect of topical emu oil on wound healing in scalded rats. METHODS: Thirty Wistar rats with second degree scald were randomized into emu oil group, povidone iodine group and liquid paraffin group. The times of twisting of the rat body, water content and effusion of the scald wound and the percentage of wound healing were observed. RESULTS: Compared with povidone iodine and liquid paraffin, emu oil reduced the times of body twisting of the scalded rats, the water content and effusion of the scald wound, and increased the percentage of wound healing. CONCLUSION: Emu oil can alleviate inflammation in the scald wound and promote wound healing in rats.

PMID: 15567771 [PubMed - in process]



[ii] Di Yi Jun Yi Da Xue Xue Bao. 2005 Apr;25(4):407-10.

[Anti-inflammatory activity and healing-promoting effects of topical application of emu oil on wound in scalded rats]

[Article in Chinese]


Qiu XW, Wang JH, Fang XW, Gong ZY, Li ZQ, Yi ZH.


Department of Burns, Nangfang Hospital , Southern Medical University , Guangzhou 510515, China .


OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effects of topical application of emu oil on wound healing in scalded rats. METHODS: In 144 male Wistar rats with 10%; total body surface superficial II degree scald treated on a random basis with physiological saline, povidone iodine and emu oil, respectively, the changes of the wound were observed and the wound tissue and blood samples harvested at different times after injury for evaluation of histopathological changes, total tissue water content (measured by wet:dry weight ratios), and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha levels in the wound tissue and plasma by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The general condition of the wound healing was also observed. RESULTS: After application of emu oil, the swelling and effusion of the burn wound were alleviated and evidences of wound infection or adverse effects were not observed. Pathological examination showed that emu oil could alleviate topical inflammation, which was particularly obvious on days 1 and 3 after injury as compared with the other two groups. On day 3 after injury, water content and TNF-alpha level in the tissues was markedly decreased with the application of emu oil (P<0.05), with a significant correlation between their changes (P<0.001) and shortened wound healing time (P<0.05). Pathological examination showed that emu oil could promote epithelialization and differentiation of various epidermal layers. CONCLUSION: Emu oil has topical anti-inflammatory activity in rats with superficial II degree scald, possibly in association with decreased levels of the proinflammatory cytokines in the tissues and can promote wound healing by inhibiting local secondary inflammation.


PMID: 15837639 [PubMed - in process]



[iii] Am J Vet Res. 1999 Dec;60(12):1558-61

Effect of emu oil on auricular inflammation induced with croton oil in mice.

Lopez A, Sims DE, Ablett RF, Skinner RE, Leger LW, Lariviere CM, Jamieson LA, Martinez-Burnes J, Zawadzka GG.


Department of Pathology and Microbiology, Atlantic Veterinary College , University of Prince Edward Island , Charlottetown , Canada .


OBJECTIVE: To determine the acute anti-inflammatory effects of topically applied emu oil. ANIMALS: 96 male CD-1 mice assigned randomly to 4 groups, each comprising 24 mice. PROCEDURE: To induce auricular inflammation, 50 microl of a solution comprising 10 microl of croton oil dissolved in 1 ml of acetone was applied to the inner surface of the left auricle (pinna). One hour later, 3 or 5 microl of emu oil (low- and high-dose groups, respectively) or 5 microl of porcine oil (oil-control) was applied to the left pinna. Control mice remained untreated. Six mice per group were euthanatized 3, 6, 12, and 24 hours after induction of inflammation. Specimens of auricular tissue (ear plugs) were obtained, using a 6-mm biopsy punch. Magnitude of swelling was calculated as the weight difference between left (inflamed) and right (noninflamed) ear plugs; degree of edema was determined as the difference between wet and dry weights of the left ear plug. RESULTS: Magnitude of swelling was significantly reduced at 6 and 12 hours in mice treated with emu or porcine oil, compared with controls. The greatest reduction in swelling was detected in the high-dose emu group at 6 hours. Compared with controls, degree of edema was significantly reduced at 6 hours only in the high-dose group, whereas by 12 hours, all groups treated with oils had significantly less edema than controls. At 24 hours, magnitude of swelling and degree of edema did not differ among groups. CONCLUSION: Topically applied emu oil significantly reduced severity of acute auricular inflammation induced by croton oil in mice.


PMID: 10622168 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]



[iv] Lipids. 2003 Jun;38(6):603-7.

Antagonism of croton oil inflammation by topical emu oil in CD-1 mice.

Yoganathan S, Nicolosi R, Wilson T, Handelman G, Scollin P, Tao R, Binford P, Orthoefer F.


Forsyth Institute, Boston , Massachusetts 02115 , USA .


Emu oil is derived from the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae), which originated in Australia , and has been reported to have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation was induced in anesthetized CD-1 mice by applying 50 microL of 2% croton oil to the inner surface of the left ear. After 2 h, the area was treated with 5 microL of emu, fish, flaxseed, olive, or liquified chicken fat, or left untreated. Animals were euthanized at 6 h postapplication of different oils, and earplugs (EP) and plasma samples were collected. Inflammation was evaluated by change in earlobe thickness, increase in weight of EP tissue (compared to the untreated ear), and induction in cytokines interleukin (IL)-1alpha and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) in EP homogenates. Although reductions relative to control (croton oil) were noted for all treatments, auricular thickness and EP weights were significantly reduced (-72 and -71%, respectively) only in the emu oil-treated group. IL-1alpha levels in homogenates of auricular tissue were significantly reduced in the fish oil (-57%) and emu oil (-70%) groups relative to the control group. The cytokine TNF-alpha from auricular homogenates was significantly reduced in the olive oil (-52%) and emu oil (-60%) treatment groups relative to the control group. Plasma cytokine levels were not changed by croton oil treatment. Although auricular thickness and weight were significantly correlated with each other (r = 0.780, P < 0.003), auricular thickness but not weight was significantly correlated with cytokine IL-alpha (r = 0.750, P < 0.006) and TNF-alpha (r = 0.690, P < 0.02). These studies indicate that topical emu oil has anti-inflammatory properties in the CD-1 mouse that are associated with decreased auricular thickness and weight, and with the cytokines IL-1alpha and TNF-alpha.


PMID: 12934669 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


[v] Plast Reconstr Surg. 1998 Dec;102(7):2404-7.

Promotion of second intention wound healing by emu oil lotion: comparative results with furasin, polysporin, and cortisone.


Politis MJ, Dmytrowich A.


Department of Medical Physiology at the University of Saskatchewan , Saskatoon , Canada .


Previous studies showed that twice-daily application of emu oil lotion (mixture of emu oil/fat, vitamin E, and botanical oil) immediately after creation of full-thickness skin defects delayed wound healing 6 days later, perhaps owing to its antiinflammatory actions. If administration was delayed for 48 hours, a two-fold promotion of wound contraction, epithelialization, and infiltration of organized granulation tissue was observed. In the present study, emu oil lotion was applied to full-thickness skin defects in rodents 24 hours after surgery. Six days postoperatively, wound contraction and infiltration of fronts of epithelialized and granulation tissue were assessed. Results indicated a two-fold promotion of all of the above parameters with emu oil lotion. No such effects were exerted by pure emu oil, furasin, cortaid, or polysporin. Data obtained indicate promise for emu oil lotion as an aid in treating full-thickness skin defects if applied after the major postinflammatory stages of wound healing have transpired.


PMID: 9858176 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


[vi] Research Data Published in


Emu Oil(s): A source of non-toxic transdermal anti-inflammatory agents in

aboriginal medicine.

M.W. Whitehouse1, A.G. Turner2, C.K.C. Davis and M.S.Roberts3


Whitehouse M.W, Turner A.G., Davis C.K.C, Roberts M.S. Emu Oil(s): a source non-toxic

transdermal anti-inflammatory agents in aboriginal medicine, Inflammopharmacolgy.


The ‘oil' abstained from Emu fat can be very effective inhibitor of chronic inflammation

in rats when applied dermally (which a skin penetration enhancer). Assays for this activity

using the adjuvant-induced arthritis model have shown:

i. Considerable variability in potency of some commercial oil samples;

ii. Little or no correlation of activity with colour or linolenic acid (18.3) content of the oil;

iii. Relative stability of some active oils (to heal, aging at room temperature);

iv. The bulk of the anti-inflammatory activity was present in a low triglyceride fraction;


v. Potential arthritis-suppressant/immmunoregulant activity of these active fractions.

These studies point to the need for more rigid quality control before considering such a (now

proven) traditional medicine as a complementary therapy.

Repeated applications of selections of selected oils did not induce any of the more

prominent side effects associated with NSAIDs (e.g. platelet inhibition, gastrotoxicity) or

certain anti-arthritic drugs (Proteinuria, leukopenia

[vii] Int J Exp Pathol. 2001 Jun;82(3):193-200.

Effects of hyaluronan on the invasive properties of human breast cancer cells in vitro.

Herrera-Gayol A, Jothy S.


Department of Pathology, McGill University , Montreal , Quebec , Canada .


Hyaluronan (HA) is a high molecular weight glycosaminoglycan present mostly in the extracellular matrix (ECM). HA binds to specific receptors such as CD44. Its production is increased at the tumour-stroma interface, including those in breast cancer tumours. It has been suggested that it facilitates invasion of tumour cells into the ECM by a hydrodynamic effect, or by altering tumour cell behaviour. Using in vitro tests we studied the effect of immobilized (iHA) and soluble (sHA) HA on the invasive properties of four human breast cancer cell lines with different levels of CD44 expression. Our results show that iHA acts as an adhesive, haptotactic, and motility stimulating factor for the CD44 positive Hs578T cells and induces the expression of membrane CD44. sHA also changes the motility properties of the Hs578T and MDA-231 cells and increases their CD44 expression. sHA or iHA have no measurable effect on the adhesion, motility or CD44 expression of the ZR-75-1 and MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Our results establish that in high CD44 expressing breast cancer cells HA modulates tumour cell adhesion and motility and also increases the expression of its own receptor, CD44.


Ask the Doctor:
What's the difference between naturopathy and homeopathy?

[click here for the answer]

Submit your question here.

Enter your email to recieve the latest Health and Wellness newsletters from the clinic.