When you are battling allergy symptoms, what weapons do you use? Some might say a neti pot is their best friend (and it certainly can be). Others swear by honey, drinking lots of water or keeping windows closed on high pollen days. While all of these remedies have important merit, there’s one more you may wish to add to your arsenal. This one may sound strange: emu oil.
Some people may shudder at the thought of taking an oil from a large bird and rubbing it onto their skin, or swallowing it in capsules (vegans and vegetarians, this one is not for you). Despite the “oddness factor,” emu oil has been used for thousands of years. In recent years, research has found support for many of its amazing benefits. One of these benefits is reducing inflammation.
What is emu oil?
Emu oil is derived from emu birds (Dromaius novaehollandiae), the second-largest bird in the world. These flightless birds are native to Australia, although they are now farmed in various locations across the globe. Since the time of the ancient Australian Aboriginals, emus were hunted and used for their meat and fat. They made sure that no part of the emu went to waste, and even made tools out of their bones. They used emu oil for various purposes, including as a medicine for skin infections.
When you look at emu oil, you’ll see a color anywhere from yellow to cream, depending on how to oil was extracted, and what the emu ate. This oil is teeming with essential fatty acids, where many of its benefits come from. These essential fatty acids include linoleic acid (an important inflammation-reducing omega-3), linolenic acid and oleic acid (also found in olive oil). Emu oil is also rich in vitamins A and E. All of these nutrients are vital to skin health, and can also greatly benefit other areas of the body due to their anti-inflammatory nature.
Emu oil and allergies
Emu oil’s potential to relieve allergy symptoms has to do with its potent anti-inflammatory abilities. Research has found that applying emu oil to the skin can reduce inflammation as effectively as oral NSAID medications such as ibuprofen.
For one example, the authors of a 1998 study published in the journal InflammoPharmacology wrote, “The ‘oil’ obtained from emu fat can be a very effective inhibitor of chronic inflammation in rats when applied dermally (with a skin penetration enhancer).”
Based on their research with emu oil, the researchers involved in this study found, “potential arthritis-suppressant/immunoregulant activity of these active fractions [certain active components of emu oil].” They also found that “repeated applications of selected oils did not induce any of the more prominent side-effects associated with NSAIDs (e.g. platelet inhibition, gastrotoxicity) or certain anti-arthritic drugs (proteinuria, leukopenia).”
More promising research on emu oil
In 1997, another study published in InflammoPharmacology found “the efficacies of the emu oils acting transdermally are compared with that of orally administered ibuprofen (40 milligrams/kilogram).”
Because allergy symptoms are inflammatory in nature, applying emu oil to your body may help to relieve that inflammation. If it’s a skin reaction, smoothing some emu oil over the affected area may help it to calm down. If you have respiratory allergies, you could rub some of the oil on your chest and throat, and over your sinuses, to help you find relief. Some people even put a small amount of emu oil inside their noses — this may help with cold and flu congestion and nasal irritation as well as with allergy symptoms.
Emu oil for the digestive tract
There are so many uses for emu oil that it’s difficult to list them all. For one unexpected benefit, researchers have found that taking emu oil orally may have benefits to the gastrointestinal tract.
A 2010 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition tested the effects of emu oil on chemotherapy-induced mucositis. The authors wrote, “Mucositis resulting from cancer chemotherapy is a serious disorder of the alimentary tract… We investigated emu oil for its potential to decrease the severity of mucositis in a rat model.”
On their results, the study authors wrote:
“Emu oil decreased acute ileal inflammation, and improved mucosal architecture in the intestine during recovery from chemotherapy in rats. Further studies investigating the potential benefits of emu oil as a nutritional supplement for the treatment of intestinal disorders are indicated.”
Other uses for emu oil
Additionally, emu oil may be helpful with the following list of conditions:
- Inflammatory pain and discomfort
- Ear inflammation
- Muscular pain
- Joint pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Skin wounds
- Athlete’s foot
- Sun protection
- Immune system
- Itchy scalp conditions
- Hair loss
- Repelling insects
How to use emu oil
First of all, just to be safe, make sure you talk to a health professional you trust before you start using emu oil. Individuals with health conditions, and women who are pregnant or nursing, should be especially cautious. Emu oil is considered to be safe to take both internally and externally, but it never hurts to be cautious.
Secondly, you need to make sure you purchase a high quality oil. There are many imposters on the market, and natural products are not regulated as well as they should be. For this reason, do your homework before you buy. Your oil should be 100 percent pure-grade. It should come from emus raised in humane conditions and not fed GMO diets. Check out the American Emu Association for guidance on oil certifications and how to choose the best quality oil.
If you are going to be taking the oil internally, make sure the oil you choose is designated for internal use. Emu oil is often sold in capsules for this purpose.
To use emu oil on your skin, simply apply some to your palms and smooth over your skin. To use internally, you could take a capsule, or add some emu oil (if it’s certified for internal use) to your smoothie. Although research on emu oil and allergies is limited, its studied anti-inflammatory benefits make it worth a try. It may work wonders for the coughing, sneezing and sinus inflammation.
— Tanya Mead