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Emu oil soothes some skin wounds

August 11, 2003|Elena Conis

The emu -- a fast-running, flightless bird native to Australia -- is farmed worldwide for its oil, leather and low-fat, high-protein meat. Emu oil, made from the large bird's thick layers of fat, is rich in essential fatty acids. It was first used by native Australians thousands of years ago to heal wounds and protect the skin from sun and wind.

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Uses: Emu oil is most commonly used topically to moisturize skin and treat minor cuts and irritations. Manufacturers say the oil also can relieve pain, treat arthritis, lower cholesterol and reverse signs of aging by thickening skin and reducing wrinkles. Some also market it for treating diabetes, Lyme disease and attention deficit disorder.

Dose: The oil is available in lotions, creams, shampoos, soaps and lip balm and also can be taken in capsules, which can contain 500 milligrams to 1 gram of oil.

Precautions: The American Emu Assn. says the oil has no side effects, but no careful studies have examined the supplement's safety in humans.

Research: Few scientific studies of emu oil exist. Laboratory investigations have shown that it can help reduce swelling and speed healing of wounds in some rodents. A study in humans showed that the oil is a strong moisturizer that most participants found preferable to mineral oil. There is no clinical evidence supporting other claims about the oil.

Dietary supplement makers are not required by the U.S. government to demonstrate that their products are safe or effective. Ask your health care provider for advice on selecting a brand.

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-- Elena Conis

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