Why I'm a Fan of Emu Oil for Eczema
Updated: Sep 25
First, let's have a chat about eczema
Eczema and other forms of atopic dermatitis appear to becoming an increasing source of distress for many parents and individuals as it can so greatly affect their quality of life, while also becoming an increasing burden on the healthcare system especially when you consider it also falls within something called the allergic march.
Many of the clients I work with come to me for support because they have exhausted the limit of success with the conventional therapies they were instructed to follow which tended to revolve around topical steroid creams, antihistamines, fatty creams that made their child scream with pain on applications, pinetarsol baths and other products - most of which required continuous use, stopped helping after a while or had lead to significant side effects of their own such as Topical Steroid Withdrawal. While I understand they can be helpful for some, in my view they tend to fall short of being legitimate long-term solutions in that they focus only on symptom management rather than actively addressing any underlying causes and triggers.
While I believe that eczema is multi-factorial, in my experience and work, is it rarely just about the skin and only considers various factors including genetics, methylation, digestive (gut) health, liver function, the nervous system, allergenic proteins, irritants, lifestyle, environment and more. I have to come to see it more as the external expression of internal imbalance which is why I believe taking a holistic and functional approach helped me significantly resolve my daughter's eczema and allergies, and I now endeavour to share those insights with others.
I wanted to start off with this because it's important that I communicate that resolving eczema is not just about finding the right cream, balm or ointment. Topical treatments are the most obvious place to start focusing on because it's so heavily promotion so I completely get why that happens, however it also sends people to wasting so much money hoping they will one day find the "right" cream that will fix everything (especially if they're resistant to making changes elsewhere) but I don't tend to believe in any quick-fix or magical cures - this is more about exploring how we can nourish the skin from both the internal and external aspects, as the two should ideally go hand in hand for optimal results.
Our aim is to find a gentle nourishing product that will help manage symptoms, reduce inflammation and help relieve the distress from itching, while not increasing the toxin load on the liver or the risk unnecessary side effects such as skin-thinning.
Given all this, I do believe Emu oil is definitely worth considering as part of that healing process.
Okay, so now we can talk about emu oil
When I first discovered how incredible emu oil was, I was a little reluctant to talk about it much. It's a somewhat confronting product to talk about when recommendations of kawakawa balms and coconut oils tended to dominate naturally-minded discussions by virtue of being plant oils, but my problem with them was that despite being the very definition of "natural", they also tended to a higher than expected prevalence in triggering skin irritation and flares on eczema-prone skin, especially with infants. My daughter wasn't allergic to coconut, but her skin often became worse with coconut oil which is what originally got me understanding that just because something is natural, didn't necessarily make it universally helpful. Interestingly when I did start to share my thoughts, some people were horrified by the very idea so I thought I'd write this summary to help people decide if it may be an option for them.
What is it?
Emu oil is derived from the fat of an emu bird (a soft-feathered flightless birds native to Australia that resemble smaller ostriches). It's thought that the emu plays a prominent role in the mythology of the indigenous Aboriginal people of Australia, where they developed methods of hunting emu and using the entire bird for food, medicine and even clothing. While emu meat is very low fat, the fat under their skin has been used for thousands of years as a traditional medicine, used to treat burns and rashes, as well as reduce inflammation.
Emu oil is a yellow coloured liquid composed mainly of the fat which is collected from under their skin, as a byproduct of the emu meat industry where the skin is also used to make leather. Once extracted, the fat is rendered and then refined to varying degrees to reduce contaminants and bacteria or even increase fatty acid concentrations so it can be safely used for topical application, or even taken orally.
What seems to make emu oil so nourishing is that it is packed 98-99% with fatty acids (including omega 6,6 and 9 oils) with the remaining 1-2% composed of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K2 as well as the antioxidants carotenoids and flavonoids, and organic compounds such as sesquiterpenes. Plus the particles are small and easily absorbed by the skin, which is a benefit when the product is high-quality and pure.
Emu oil has a wide range of therapeutic uses and benefits but here I'll focus on the benefits to the skin, especially as it's the one product I choose to use on my own skin!
There are several ways in which emu oil appears to be an optimal, effective choice for the skin.
Suppression of an inflammatory response.
Stimulation of new healthy skin cells.
May permate, hydrate and heal the skin (possibly by interacting with the fats in our own skin) to improve redness, itching and dryness.
Shifting white blood cells fro the pro-inflammatory kidd to the anti-inflammatory kind.
Reduction of tissue damage due to oxidative stress.
Supports greater skin hydration, pigmentation and elasticity.
Improves nipple hydration (which is great if you're dealing with painful, cracked or bleeding nipples) which allowed women to breastfeed for longer if desired.
May prevent spots and freckles by reducing production of melanin.
Conditions it may be able to help with include:
Dry and cracked skin
Tired and over-treated hair
Dark spots and blemishes
My Favourite Emu Oil (and save 5%)
Leven Rose 100% Pure and Organic Emu Oil (I buy from iHerb)
This incredible 100% pure oil is non-GMO and has only ingredient - organic emu oil. Heated to a high temperature for the first filter, it was filtered twice more at room temperature. It absorbs quickly and has a long-lasting inflammatory effect to get supple and soft skin. The dark amber glass bottle and glass dropper extends the shelf life and protects from oxidation as emu oil is light sensitive. It's non-odourless and you only need a few drops! It penetrates deeply, is non-irritating and leaves the skin smooth and non-greasy. Do not over-use, just a few drops is fine (on own or can add to cream or balm if needed). Do not apply directly to any open wounds and always patch test first.
I use on my own skin every few days great which means one bottle lasts months and purchase from iherb.com.
If you would like to give it a go, you could save 5% on your entire order by quoting GVJ251 at checkout. If you do try it, I'd also love your feedback on how you found it!
To me, it makes sense to explore animal fats to nourish our own animal skin rather than only plants. While I am a fan of emu oil, I recognise animal products can be a controversial option which many people may not be comfortable using so I often make plant based suggestions as well, especially with the ones that tend to not be as reactive such as organic shea butter, rosehip oil, jojoba oil and tamanu oil.
There are some small scale studies supporting the above benefits of emu oil, a lot of my position is subjective, based on real life application, in which a small minority of people who have purchased also claimed minimal improvement or even some reactivity. We'd love to see further research to confirm the full range of benefits but in the meantime, I do encourage you to discuss with your friendly healthcare professional if emu oil may be beneficial in your case. If you're working with me, we can chat about suitability too and I can make other suggestions if needed.
I am not a doctor, this is not medical advice, none of these statements have been evaluated by any authority and and they are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.
For more info on the benefits with sources, visit: https://selfhacked.com/blog/emu-oil/