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Emu oil — a scam?

October 26, 2010

Emu oil is the rendered fat of the emu, a large bird native to Australia but which is now being raised in North America. It’s commonly sold in pharmacies and health food stores and is intended both for topical use and, when in capsule form, as a nutritional supplement.

I first heard of it when an employee in a shoe store recommended it for treating foot calluses. Proponents claim that, applied topically, it is good for everything from healing severe burns to reversing hair loss to relieving joint pain due to arthritis.

I’ve been using the stuff on and off for the last couple of years to treat an inflammatory skin condition. While it works as advertised (i.e., reduces inflammation, moisturizes the skin, and promotes healing), I find myself wondering if, at almost $30 for a 2 ounce bottle, it really does anything that rubbing lard, tallow, duck or chicken fat, or even butter on the skin wouldn’t do just as well.

What properties, if any, does emu oil have that these other, less expensive fats don’t? There’s a paucity of information on the web, and almost all of it appears to be marketing hype from companies selling the oil.

Some sites claim that emu oil is high in Vitamin E, but even if true, one has to wonder how much of the vitamin survives the rendering process to wind up in the final product that’s found on store shelves. Besides, expeller-pressed wheat germ oil contains an enormous amount of Vitamin E and costs considerably less than emu oil, so if you’re looking for a natural source of Vitamin E, wheat germ oil might be a better, more economical choice.

Other sites make a big deal of the fact that emu oil contains linolenic, linoleic, and oleic fatty acids. While these are undoubtedly good for the skin, there is nothing exceptional about oleic or linoleic acid; they are found in all oils and fats. There’s more oleic acid in olive oil than there is in emu oil. According to one chart I’ve seen, emu oil appears to have a higher than average linolenic acid (Omega 3) content, but what evidence is there that this is of any great benefit for the skin? If Omega 3 fatty acids are valuable for skin health, walnut oil and wheat germ oil also contain a fair amount of them, and are much less expensive.

Are consumers being cheated by paying $15 an ounce for a product that isn’t any better than the fat left in the roasting pan after cooking a chicken?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Johnny permalink
    February 10, 2012 4:23 am

    Although I’ve never tried Emu Oil, I too, find myself somewhat suspicious about all the benefits it purportedly has–especially when you consider the outrageous cost and not one iota of scientific proof that it can do any of the things the sellers of these products would have you believe. Every so often, the underground market comes out with these “all natural” products that supposedly can cure anything from athlete’s foot to cancer. They’re always touted as having been commonly used for centuries by ancient people from Africa or Asia or else this “miracle cure” has just been discovered among the indigenous people from the remote regions of the Amazon rain forest and that’s the reason they commonly live to 112.

    Whatever the exotic or remote locale, the fact remains there’s no proof whatsoever that the product works! All the “testimonials” are written by the seller themselves to get you to buy their stuff. All this hoopla over Emu Oil brings to mind the craze over Noni Juice. Remember that one? That also came with an outrageous price tag and the sellers claimed that was a “cure all”–that is–until it got pushed out of he way for Acai Berry and Green Tea. I’m going to sit this one out until I’ve done more research but I have the sneaking suspicion that emu oil is just that–fat rendered from an emu, no more or less special than fat rendered from any other bird or animal in the wildlife kingdom.

    • February 10, 2012 8:45 am

      Noni juice — yeah, I remember that one. According to Wikipedia, Noni juice is a $2 billion a year industry — yikes! People have a lot of money to spend on this crap.

      Krill oil, Goji berries, colloidal silver, wheat grass juice, raw chocolate, blue-green algae, Himalayan rock salt, kombucha, Bach flower remedies… there’s an endless succession of these natural health fads.

      I’d wager there are more vital nutrients in a T-bone steak, a can of tuna, a block of cheddar, or a jar of sauerkraut than in a wheelbarrow of Goji berries, but I guess these foods aren’t exotic enough or don’t play on the image of the “noble savage” enough to excite the palates and imaginations of the denizens of health food stores.

      I’ve stopped buying emu oil. It’s not that it’s a bad product, but it’s seriously overpriced. I’ve been using a homemade concoction of lanolin and extra virgin olive oil instead, with good results. Even using the most expensive, ultra-pure grade of lanolin on the market (about $12 for a 2 oz. tube of a product called Lansinoh, found in the nursing mothers’ section of the pharmacy), it’s still much cheaper than emu oil.

      To anyone who wants to try this, make sure you get your extra virgin olive oil from an honest supplier. There’s a lot of fraud in the olive oil industry. I tend to trust Greek olive oil more than I do the Italian, especially when there are dates, lot numbers, and the location where the olives were cultivated printed on the bottle.

      • lena permalink
        October 20, 2016 11:48 am

        Its experience because Emu dont have alot fat when they yang they need to be 3 to 4 years old we raised them and I know.they fast growing birds but heard hatching and only lay about 20 eggs per year so its experience if add everything together.

  2. chris walker permalink
    July 28, 2012 7:16 am

    Yes, old time flim flam cure alls are still around – when will the public grow up and face reality. More money than sense. The winners are the product peddlers as usual with their ‘miracle’ cure claims for everything to a willing audience. It is always some hidden or lost remedy of secret herbs and spices (in the right combination of course). Accept no magic and you will be dramatically better off.

  3. Pandra permalink
    January 23, 2013 6:12 pm

    I tried Blue-Emu on a patch of spider veins. One week later the raised ugly purple patch was faded. I am hoping it will completely disappear, although only time will tell. Meanwhile, it’s smoother and not nearly as noticeable as it was. I have also had good effects on my arthritis. Blue-Emu contains 7% emu oil, so there’s a lot of other stuff in it, but one thing that seems well-documented is that emu oil is transdermal. It penetrates the skin very deeply and can take other ingredients with it, so whether it’s the emu oil, the other ingredients in Blue-Emu, or a combination of effects, I have had very good results. Definitely not a scam.

  4. lena permalink
    October 20, 2016 11:42 am

    We try Emu oil and its work burns and join pain so its better than any other tallow .we have raised Emus and use organic oil with out addition like other selling company I dont believe they sell clear organic with out adding something lol.

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