Emu Oil for Arthritis: Will It Help?

Can a natural remedy that has been used for thousands of years to treat skin conditions effectively treat arthritis pain and inflammation? For now, the answer appears to be: it could possibly help and probably won't hurt.

Extracted from the fat of the large flightless bird native to Australia, emu oil is an ingredient found in a variety of topical skin care products. Native Australians have long used emu oil to reduce pain and inflammation from insect bites, burns, and wounds.

What the Research Says About Emu Oil and Arthritis

Research has shown that topically applied emu oil reduces inflammation in laboratory animals and that repeated applications caused no side effects. But it's not known which specific components of emu oil actually act on inflammation, and while it appears to do no harm, no large-scale scientific studies have been performed in humans to measure its long-term safety and effectiveness. Future studies will help determine whether or not emu oil can actually be absorbed through human skin into joints where it is needed.

One animal study published in a 2010 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition showed that oral emu oil supplements reduce a type of intestinal inflammation that results from chemotherapy treatments. To date, however, no studies have been done to show that emu oil supplements can reduce the inflammation associated with arthritis or other conditions.

For now, most health experts are not advocating emu oil skin products or emu oil supplements as arthritis therapies. More research needs to be done to determine the desired potency of effective products—once the active ingredients are identified and their safety established. Once the research moves from mice to men, it will become clearer which, if any, emu oil products are effective at reducing the pain and inflammation of arthritis and how they compare to other arthritis treatments.

If you decide to try one of the many emu oil products available in health food stores and from online sources, speak with your doctor first to be sure it is safe for you and will not interfere with your other arthritis treatments. Always buy supplements and healing products from reputable sources.




Arthritis Foundation: Emu Oil A Natural Way to Reduce Pain

Lindsay, RJ, et al; "Oraly Administered Emu Oil Decreases Acute Inflammation and Alters Selected Small Intestinal Parameters in a Rat Model of Mucositis." 2010 Aug;104(4):513-9. Web. June 2012

University of Massachusetts at Lowell: Emu Oil: Wonder Drug or Quack Medicine?

Whitehouse, MW, et al; "Emu oil(s): A Source of Non-Toxic Transdermal Anti-Inflammatory Agents in Aboriginal Medicine."  Inflammopharmacology. 1998;6(1):1-8. Web June 2012