What is Emu Oil?

Jane Harmon

The emu is a large flightless bird similar to an ostrich, and like the ostrich, is native to Australia. Settlers thought of them only as nuisances for years; emu can damage crops by stampeding through the fields, and are large and strong enough to break down fences.

Emu birds may yield five to seven quarts of oil each.
Emu birds may yield five to seven quarts of oil each.

Emu are now being raised as food animals, both in Australia and the US, providing meat that is closer to beef than poultry. Emu meat is high in protein, yet low in fat and cholesterol, and is being marketed as a substitute for beef.

Emu oil may be used for machine lubrication.
Emu oil may be used for machine lubrication.

Emu oil is oil that is rendered from the fat of the emu. Each bird yields five to seven quarts (approximately the same number of liters) of oil. It has a wide variety of uses, from cosmetics to machine lubrication. The aborigines, who lived in Australia before colonists settled there, used the emu as a source of food and other necessities, and have used this oil for the aches and pains of age for centuries.

Emu oil is used in skin care as an emollient.
Emu oil is used in skin care as an emollient.

In skin care, emu oil is an effective emollient. Containing quantities of fatty acids, it is an excellent skin hydrator, and can act like collegen, plumping the skin cells with moisture and smoothing out tiny lines. As a result, it is being widely marketed, either alone or in creams, for use on facial skin. Used on burns, sunburns and scrapes, emu oil can reduce pain and blistering and is even thought to reduce scarring. Several hospital studies of these effects are under way.

Emu oil can reduce the pain of sunburns.
Emu oil can reduce the pain of sunburns.

The most promising use of emu oil is in pain management. Studies in rats and double-blind studies in humans seem to indicate that using this oil on painful joints over a two-week period significantly reduces the pain and inflammation of arthritis. Because it penetrates the skin deeper than other emollients, it is also an effective medium for introducing other ingredients through skin absorption. A blend of emu oil and eucalyptus and/or white camphor essential oils could prove effective as a sore muscle rub.

Studies in rats indicate that using emu oil on painful joints reduces the pain and inflammation of arthritis.
Studies in rats indicate that using emu oil on painful joints reduces the pain and inflammation of arthritis.

There are no known adverse side effects to using emu oil. It is thought to be so effective at reducing pain, however, some pain experts advise against its use for carpal tunnel syndrome or other repetitive stress injuries. Their reasoning is that it may mask the pain enough to encourage the user to continue the repetitive motions that are causing the damage without modifying their routine, which might result in permanent nerve damage.

Combining eucalyptus oil with emu oil can be effective for treating sore muscles.
Combining eucalyptus oil with emu oil can be effective for treating sore muscles.

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Discussion Comments


@SteamLouis: To the best of my knowledge, the manufacturers of emu oil products for the skin don't test on animals. The testing is done by university and hospital researchers who are investigating new treatments for arthritis pain and intestinal bleeding caused by chemotherapy, both of which have shown very promising results. Emu oil has been used for literally thousands of years, and based on the many user testimonials, definitely appears to be both safe and effective.

@fify: Regarding the refining, you are right, as long as it is refined it will be safe to apply to your skin. Triple refined has additional impurities removed, making it a thinner, clearer oil, and therefore possibly more readily absorbed into the skin where it can do its work. Be sure to confirm that the oil you are buying is certified by the AEA (American Emu Assoc.) which sets standards for purity and quality.


The oil is extracted from the non edible parts of emu which are raised for food so go on, give it a try without any guilt.


If emu oil is harmless, what does it matter if it's tested on animals?

I'd gladly test it on my cat's skin, as he gets rashes and occasional flea bites.

And is the cruelty the fact that the emu gets killed? Is that it? Or is it tortured?

I understand the concerns in commercial farming of the birds and the risk of stress, confinement and questionable dietary issues (should they use cheap feed). But I don't believe the fact of "death" itself, being labeled "cruel" in this situation.


@simrin-- Hey, your questions are spot on. This is the main controversy about emu oil, especially for consumers who only want to use cruelty free products.

As far as I know, there are quite a few brands that sell emu oil which has not been tested on animals. But emu oil is not and cannot be cruelty free because it has to be taken from the emu bird and it is not possible to remove the fat while the emu bird is alive.

There have been some brands who have wanted to claim that they sell cruelty free emu oil, believing that cruelty free means removing the oil from an emu which has been raised and killed for the meat. I personally cannot see much logic in this. I believe that all emu oil comes from amus which have been raised for the meat industry. That means that emu oil is an animal by-product and cannot be cruelty free.

I do accept that emu oil is a fantastic moisturizer and it has many benefits. But it's also a fact that it comes from an animal. I think this is an individual decision for consumers. We have to think about the pros and cons of using this product and make our decision accordingly.


I use emu oil as a moisturizer, both for my face and my body. I have an acne problem, my skin is oily but also dehydrated. I had heard a lot of great things about emu oil and decided to try it to see if it would improve my skin condition.

There are a variety of different emu oils available at pharmacies and online stores. The first thing I always check for is how refined the oil is. I think that the more refined something is, the less beneficial it will be. At the same time, unrefined emu oil doesn't smell very good and that makes it hard to use on a daily basis. After trying a couple of different ones- unrefined, refined once and refined multiple times- I think the one which is refined once is the best.

It doesn't have a bad scent but it still carries a lot of the nutrients that my skin needs. If you don't mind the scent, the unrefined is even better. My skin looks a lot better since I've started using it. Emu oil doesn't clog my pores so I have less infection, acne and redness. It doesn't dry out my skin either, so it's really an ideal moisturizer for me.


I've read that emu oil is also beneficial for the scalp and hair. It is said to help prevent hair loss. I want to try it but I have some reservations. I have used plant based natural oils on my hair like coconut oil. But I have never used an animal based one before. I would feel bad to know that an animal suffered because of me.

Do you know how emu oil is attained? Are emus specifically killed for their oil or is it taken from animals that are raised for food? Does anyone know the details of emu oil production?

And are there any brands who do not test emu oil on animals?

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