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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.