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Biological Activity of Emu Oil

Robert Nicolosi, Subbiah Yoganathan, Thomas Wilson, Jajime Sasaki

University of Massachusetts

Lowell and the Forsyth Institute

Presented at AOCS, May 2001

Emu Oil is derived from the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae), which originated in Australia. While many therapeutic benefits have been attributed to emu oil ranging from wound healing, anti-inflammation as well as anti-bacterial and anti-viral activity, there have been no published reports of these benefits. This presentation will report of the cholesterol lowering, anti-inflammatory and transdermal delivery properties of emu oil.

For the cholesterol-lowering studies, hamsters were fed chow-based diets containing either 10% coconut oil or emu oil with 0.05% cholesterol for 4 weeks. Compared to coconut oil, hamsters fed emu oil had 25% lower levels of plasma non-HDL-C and a 27% increase in HDL-C (p<0.05).

For the anti-inflammation studies, the auricular areas of mice were treated with either 2% croton oil (pro-inflammatory oil) or emu oil. Auricular thickness and ear plug weights were significantly reduced 42% and 71%, respectively, in the emu oil treated mice. The cytokines IL-1 and TNF-alpha from homogenates of ear tissue were also significantly reduced 83% and 66%, respectively relative to the croton oil.

For the trans-dermal delivery system studies, five topical applications of emu oil containing delta tocopherol at ratios of 1:1, 5:1, and 10:1 were applied to the shaved dorsal surface of hamsters. The 1:1 ratio of delta tocopherol to emu oil was also compared to stripped corn oil. At one hour, 1,2,3, and 7 days post-application, blood samples were taken for plasma analyses of delta tocopherol by HPLC. The different dilutions of delta tocopherol with emu oil applied topically showed a dose response reduction in plasma delta tocopherol. Compared to stripped corn oil, plasma from hamsters topically treated with emu oil had 2-4 times greater plasma levels of delta tocopherol suggesting more efficient trans-dermal delivery with emu oil. The active components of emu oil responsible for these biological activities remain to be determined.

Should Antioxidants Be used in Emu Oil? (study may be purchased via the AEA website)

Why use antioxidants:

The oxidation of fats and oils contained in products result in undesirable chemical changes affecting product color, taste, odor and/or texture. This autoxidative process is complex, but can be explained by a simple series of reactions.