While it often seems that a beauty miracle is invented daily, it’s refreshing when a new discovery turns out to be as old as the hills. When it comes to health and beauty aids, you’d be hard-pressed to find one with a longer history than emu oil.
The large, flightless emu has walked the earth for thousands of years and even kept company with the dinosaurs. Native to Australia, the emu was a staple in the diets and healing practices of the aboriginal people. The meat provides a source of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, and the oil was used in aboriginal medicine to help reduce pain and swelling of joints for improved wound healing and to reduce the itch and inflammation of insect bites.
Also known as kalaya oil, the fat of emu was also used to relieve dry skin, cracked lips, skin irritations, and sunburn. Early Australian settlers were introduced to emu oil by the aboriginals, and the first recorded use of the oil as an emollient occurred in 1860.
While it sometimes takes modern science a while to catch up with tradition, it seems that the research is starting to prove the ancients were right all along. Scientists are studying the impact of emu oil on superficial bruising and muscle pain, keloids, and insect bites. Animal studies show that topical application of emu oil reduces surface inflammation associated with scalding and can promote wound healing by inhibiting secondary inflammation.
A 2003 study published in Lipids journal compared the impact of emu oil, fish oil, flaxseed oil, and olive oil on inflammation and found emu oil to have the greatest anti-inflammatory properties. The results echoed the findings of a small Vancouver study, which showed that men with burned skin treated with emu oil healed better than the control groups.
Since many skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne involve inflammation, it makes sense that emu oil’s anti-inflammatory qualities could provide benefits for people who suffer with these conditions. Emu oil is noncomedogenic, meaning that it doesn’t clog pores, so people with acne need not fear the oil will make the situation worse.
If, instead, dry skin is the bane of your existence, emu oil is an effective emollient that is able to penetrate the surface of the skin without leaving a greasy residue. Emu oil also traps water, which might be useful if you are trying to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Because this oil easily penetrates skin, it is often used in cosmetic and therapeutic products as a dermal carrier–essentially a transportation device. As a result, when you choose your emu oil products, pay special attention to the other ingredients included in the formulation. You don’t want your emu oil to help health-damaging chemicals like parabens and phthalates penetrate deeply into your skin.