What Is Emu Oil?

Emu oil and gel capsules

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Emu oil is made from the refined fat of emus, which are large flightless birds that are native to Australia.

Emu oil is rich in antioxidants like carotenoids and polyunsaturated fats. It has long been used in many cultures to heal wounds and treat common skin disorders. Emu oil is believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties.

This article will go over the claims made about emu oil, and whether there is any scientific evidence to back up using emu oil as a supplement.

Dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement that has been tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF. 
However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and to check in about any potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active Ingredient(s): Omega fatty acids, carotenoids, flavones, polyphenols, phospholipids
  • Alternate Name(s): "Bush chook" oil
  • Legal Status: Not currently regulated by the FDA
  • Suggested Dose: No suggested recommended dose
  • Safety Considerations: Not recommended if you are pregnant or lactating; not recommended for children because of a lack of research on safety

Purported Uses of Emu Oil

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian nutritionist, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Emu oil is not approved by the FDA for any use. There are purported claims of uses for emu oil but the research on uses in humans is limited.

Emu oil has been studied in lab and animal studies for:

There is NOT enough evidence to support using emu oil for any of the above conditions in people because there is a lack of human research.

More studies in humans would need to be done showing that it is safe and effective before emu oil could be recommended for certain health conditions.

What Are the Side Effects of Emu Oil?

Emu oil has not been thoroughly researched. It's not known whether emu oil interacts with other medications and supplements that are taken by mouth or put on the skin.

Emu oil gel capsules
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Since there is not enough research, we don't know about the short-term or long-term safety of using emu oil. It's also not clear whether emu oil causes side effects.

If you're using emu oil and think you are having side effects, stop using it and contact your healthcare provider.

Who Should Not Use Emu Oil?

If you're pregnant or lactating, you should not take emu oil in any form. Children should not use these products either. There has not been enough research to show that it is safe and effective for these groups.

A 2016 study looked at using emu oil while breastfeeding. It found that putting emu-oil cream on the breasts' areolas daily reduced cracking and bleeding. However, the researchers did not see if the emu oil was safe for the nursing infants.

If you want to use a cream to protect your skin while you're breastfeeding, ask a lactation consultant or your healthcare provider. They can recommend options that have been proven to be safe and effective for you and your baby.

Dosage: How Much Emu Oil Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.

There is not enough scientific evidence to determine a standard or appropriate dose of emu oil. More research is needed on dosages for specific health needs and populations.

Studies investigating emu oil have used varying amounts of the product. It's also important to remember that animal test subjects are generally under medical supervision.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Emu Oil?

Since there is no set dose for emu oil, it is not known what amount of emu oil would be considered an overdose.

As a general guideline, never take more than the manufacturer's recommended dosage of a supplement or product. Check your emu oil product label or insert for dosing guidelines.

If you experience side effects of any kind while you are using emu oil, stop using it and contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Emu Oil Interactions

There are no known interactions between emu oil and medications or other supplements; however, this is because there has not been enough research.

Please check with your healthcare provider before using emu oil if you have any questions or concerns.

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss any potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.

How to Store Emu Oil

Store emu oil according to the manufacturer's directions on the package. Throw it away according to the guidelines on the packaging (for example, a "best by" or "use by" date).

If the emu oil has changed color or consistency and/or has a spoiled smell (oils can go rancid), stop using it and throw it away.

Sources of Emu Oil & What to Look For

Emu oil comes in many topical applications, including unrefined oils and highly refined oils in glass dropper bottles. There are also emu oil sprays, moisturizing creams, and lotions enriched with emu oil. Emu oil can often be purchased online, at a health food store, or directly from a farmer.

Remember that supplement products are not strictly regulated in the U.S. once they are on the market. In some cases, a product could be contaminated or contain ingredients other than what is listed on the label.

It is illegal for any company to market a dietary supplement product as a treatment or cure for a specific disease.

Summary

Emu oil is a product made from refined fat from emus. Claims have been made about its uses for various health conditions, but research is lacking. As with other supplement products, emu oil is not approved by the FDA for any use.

While it's been investigated in lab and animal studies for several purported uses, there is not enough human evidence to prove that emu oil is safe or works in humans.

Before purchasing emu oil, check with your healthcare provider to ensure it is appropriate for you to use. At this time, more research is needed before this supplement can be recommended for any use.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where does emu oil come from?

    Emu oil comes from the emu's fat deposits. The harvested fat is passed through filters to get pure emu oil.

  • Is emu oil cruelty free, or are emus harmed to make the oil?

    Emu oil is harvested after an emu has died, which means it is not considered a cruelty-free product.

    Unless a maker explains how they got the oil, it's not possible to tell if the emu died for another reason or specifically so that the oil could be harvested.

  • Where can I purchase emu oil?

    Emu oil can be bought online, at health food stores, or directly from farmers. Remember that supplement products are not strictly regulated in the United States.

    Sometimes, a product can be contaminated or contain ingredients other than those listed on the label.

    It's important to purchase any supplement product from a trusted source. Look for products tested by a third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF. 

    Remember that it is illegal for any company to market a dietary supplement product as a treatment or cure for a specific disease.

  • Can my child use emu oil?

    Emu oil is not recommended for children. Not enough research has been done to show that it would be safe or effective for children to use.

  • Does emu oil remove dark spots?

    Some brands of emu oil claim it can lighten dark spots on the skin but there have not been studies on humans to prove it.

  • Does emu oil stop itching?

    A study on people with a skin disorder that causes itching found that emu oil helped somewhat but not as much as standard medical treatments.

  • Can you use emu oil on piercings?

    Some companies suggest using their emu oil on body piercings, but it has not been specifically studied. It's important to follow the aftercare for a piercing that is given to you to prevent infections.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Jeengar MK, Kumar PS, Thummuri D, et al. Review on emu products for use as complementary and alternative medicine. Nutrition. 2015;31(1):21-27. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2014.04.004.

  2. Jeengar MK,Kumar PS, Thummuri D, et al. Review on emu products for use as complementary and alternative medicine. Nutrition. 2015;31(1):21-27. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2014.04.004.

  3. Jeengar MK, Kumar PS, Thummuri D, et al. Review on emu products for use as complementary and alternative medicine. Nutrition. 2015;31(1):21-27. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2014.04.004.

  4. Lindsey R, Geier M, Yasbeck Y, et al. Orally administered emu oil decreases acute inflammation and alters selected small intestinal parameters in a rat model of mucositis. Brit J Nutrit. 2010; 104(4):513-9. doi:10.1017/S000711451000084X.

  5. Vemu B, Selvasubramanian S, Pandiyan V. Emu oil offers protection in Crohn’s disease model in rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016;16:55. doi:10.1186/s12906-016-1035-y.

  6. Rollmann DC, Novotny PJ, Petersen IA, et al. Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study of Processed Ultra Emu Oil Versus Placebo in the Prevention of Radiation Dermatitis. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2015 Jul 1;92(3):650-8. doi:10.1016/j.ijrobp.2015.02.028.

  7. Zanardo V, Giarrizzo D, Maiolo L, et al. Efficacy of topical application of emu oil on areola skin barrier in breastfeeding women. J of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine. 2015;21(1):10-13. doi:10.1177/2156587215588653

  8. Jeengar MK, Kumar PS, Thummuri D, et al. Review on emu products for use as complementary and alternative medicine. Nutrition. 2015;31(1):21-27. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2014.04.004.

  9. Attarzadeh Y, Asilian A, Shahmoradi Z, et al. Comparing the efficacy of Emu oil with clotrimazole and hydrocortisone in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis: A clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2013 Jun;18(6):477-81.

By Alena Clark, PhD
Alena Clark, PhD, is a registered dietitian and experienced nutrition and health educator

Originally written by
Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

Learn about our editorial process