Emu Oil Research – where does emu oil come from?

Emu Oil is a by-product of the meat and leather industry, derived from the Dromaius nova hollandaise belonging to the RATITE family of flightless birds.

EMU OIL has unique qualities. The oil is obtained from separate areas of the emu, both external and subcutaneous fat.  An emu can carry between four to fifteen kilos of fat, depending upon the age, sex and condition. Average yield is approximately 6 kilos. The peak yield appears to be 16–17 months old.

Approximately 70%–85% pure oil can be recovered from raw fat, depending upon the system used and the quality of the fat.

Moanui Skin Repairer All Purpose Cream


As yet EMU OIL has no international recognised compendial standard. However, recently the Australian department of Health classified emu oil as a pharmaceutical product1 and registered emu oil in the Australian Therapeutic Goods registry2.

There is now well documented evidence and international cumulative research work regarding emu oil’s therapeutic ability in helping to reduce joint and muscle inflammation and aid in skin cell regeneration. Being a natural emollient, emu oil has excellent cosmetic and moisturising properties.

Emu Oil is a complex mixture of approximately 28 poly unsaturated triglycerides – the free fatty acid profile in the oil is diet influenced, therefore the chemical composition can vary dramatically.

This is the draft Standardised Specification for Emu Oil considered by the Emu farmers association of Australia (May 1995).

The processed oil must conform to the standards as per the Australian National Food Code for oils for Human consumption.


Translucent straw colour to white semisolid oil with a characteristic odour, which melts to a clear to translucent oil.

Analysis: TABLE 1:



0.91 – 0.94 G/ML


1.460 – 1.470


MAX 1.0


> 185


40 – 80


MAX. 4.0


> 184


MAX 0.1%

FAME ANALYSIS: TABLE 2: FAME ANALYSIS – 8 Typical relative fatty acids




1.0 ± 1.0

1 ± 5



30 ± 10.0

25 ± 10



2.0 ± 1.0

3 ± 3



10 ± 5.0

7.5 ± 2.5



50 ± 10

45 ± 10



1.0 ± 0.5




5.0 ± 3.0

10 ± 7.5


LINOLEIC (9,12,15)

1.0 ± 1.0

6 ± 6


"EMU OIL: Re-examining a Natural Remedy with Today’s Technology"1

Laboratory experiments and analysis of emu oil in Australia and in the US have confirmed that emu oil has the ability to reduce inflammation of the joints. Emu oil naturally contains a high level of linoleic acid, (a substance known to ease muscle ache and joint pain) and oleic acid, which provides a local anti-inflammatory effect.

A fatty acid analysis conducted at the University of Wisconsin focused on the effects of dietary fat as it impacts cardiovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, and essential fatty acids requirements in infants.


Properly refined emu oil is penetrating, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, healing, moisturising, non-irritating and non-comedogenic. The emu has existed for some 80,000,000 years and is a primitive and complex creature.

The Emu produces a layer of fat that surrounds its body much like a saddle blanket. It averages about two inches or so thick on the back and its composition is impacted by diet. You literally are what you eat and the anti-inflammatory and healing properties  can be enhanced or degraded by diet. All fats of animals and plant seeds occur naturally as triglycerides which consist of three free swinging fatty acid molecules hooked on to glycerol backbone. The natural "physical state of emu fat does not subscribe totally to the normal definition of 'animal fat' and it shares much in common with some of the seed oils such as cottonseed, palm oil and soybean oil". At room temperature, the natural oil is a semi-solid that will separate into three parts.


A number of studies have been conducted and are currently being conducted throughout the world on many facets of the emu oil, including its composition, benefits, applications in different industries and the resulting properties of compounds formulated with the oil. The following reviews information on some of the current research and completed studies that have been conducted on emu oil.

Clinical Usage & Property Observation:

Clinical Appraisal of this Natural and Long Used Product in Australia report that emu oil has been frequently tested by government and private laboratories, indicating no steroids, hormones or even bacteria when suitably treated. Discussions with the Aborigines in Wiluna and elsewhere, says the report, have determined that the methods of treatment used by natives for the treatment of muscle and joint pain included hanging an emu skin on a tree to collect the oil, and wrapping sufferers in a freshly killed skin. The heat of the sun was used to liquefy the emu fat and enhance its absorption qualities.

From clinical experience with emu oil, it became obvious that its two major actions were its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to penetrate the skin. It also appears to provide some solar protection.

The penetrating effect appears to be related to its non-phosphorous composition.

“Our skin is phospholipid deficient. In other words, there is no phosphorous in our skin. If you put anything on your skin that has phosphorous in it, your skin is ‘programmed’ to keep it from penetrating. Anytime you put anything on your skin that is phospholipid deficient, or has no phosphorous, it penetrates right through”.

Researchers who have analysed the oil have found that there is a compound in the oil that they believe is the key to its effectiveness. This compound molecule is believed to be collagen. Collagen is found in chickens and turkeys in a very diluted form. However, the test results on the emu show this molecule to be present in an extremely concentrated form.

Emu Oil has also proven to be a good emulsifier. Most creams, analgesics, lotions, and shampoos on the market today are all water based products. Creams do not leave an oily film on the skin and that non-oily feel is what people want. However, a cream does not penetrate the skin barrier. An ointment will penetrate the skin, but leaves a greasy feeling. Emu oil provides the best of both products since it has the penetrating effects of an ointment and the fading effects of a cream.

Results of usage in three areas are summarised as follows:

Emu oil is sterile and hence there is no concern with using it on any open area of the skin.

EczemaEmu oil and creams made of emu oil reduce irritation and inflammation of the skin.

Keloids (fibrous tissue) – significantly reduce recent keloid scarring.

Burns appears to promote faster healing with less pain and scarring.

Donor sites in skin grafting – reduced pain and less scarring.


Joint Pain –  reduced pain, swelling, and stiffness most evident where the joint is close to the skin surface, such as hands, feet, knees and elbows.

Bruising and Muscle pain – significant benefit to recent bruising and muscle pain where injury is relatively superficial. Significant reduction in sports related muscle strain with post- exercise oil massage.

Recent Wounds:

Epithelialized Wounds – reduced scar tissue formation, soothing of wounds afetr surgery by ant-inflammatory action.


Research is now going on for help with the effects of burning on the skin through radiation treatment.




In the area of cosmetics the penetrating action and moisturising properties of the oil are becoming better known. This, therefore, lends itself to a number of interesting cosmetic products, namely skin creams and lotions, skin moisturisers and as a sun burn treatment for heat damaged skin. It has been shown to have great value as an ingredient in skin care products with a major New York fashion designer incorporating emu oil in their products.

Due to its compounding properties it can be used as an emulsifier with other oils.

Pharmaceutical and Healthcare, Therapeutic Products:

This constitutes one of the potentially largest markets for emu oil. We are dealing with an aging population. Consequent to that is the increasing problem and cost of healthcare as it relates in particular to inflammatory and associated arthritic conditions causing pain in joints; namely knees, fingers and elbows.

The early use of the oil by the indigenous people of Australia as a treatment for muscular and joint problems has been well documented. From a number of studies conducted the consensus seems to be "that it works".

However, consideration must be given to how it is produced and how it is applied. In some cases the oil applied as a massage can be effective, in other, a cream with more viscosity of a paste, to be applied as a compress should be offered.

The cost effectiveness of the treatment versus other established drugs and treatments should be reviewed and dialogue established with the medical authorities as to inherent cost savings of emu oil treatments.

Bruising, sprains and muscle pain due to falls:

This is a problem often encountered by the elderly. Emu oil or cream applied and massaged into the skin in the affected areas a number of times per day can provide faster relief from pain than commonly prescribed embrocations.

Emu oil usage has reached a point where additional clinical studies are merited to determine its place in the "medical armamentarium".



Research has demonstrated that the emu possesses a unique oil that bears closer scrutiny as a valuable commodity in a marketplace that favours natural, environmentally friendly products and demands effective relief without side effects.


Emu oil has been documented to exhibit the following properties and/or has been used for the following purposes:

  • anti-inflammatory activity
  • moisturising
  • cholesterol reduction
  • bacteriostatic
  • penetration enhancer
  • significant epidermal proliferative activity
  • non-comedegenic
  • significant wound healing agent
  • significantly reduces recent keloid scarring
  • appears to promote faster healing of burns with less pain and scarring
  • anti-arthritic activity
  • excellent emulsifier

1 Emu Oil: Re-Examining a Natural Remedy with Today’s Technology.  Compiled by Sherrie Schatz/Sheree Lewis 1996.  Emu Today & Tomorrow. LLC.
1 Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Health, Housing & Community Services
 1 Certificate of a Pharmaceutical Product No. 92/0980.
2 Aust R 22759 in the Australian Register of therapeutic Goods.