Emu Oil for Arthritis

Until the late 1990s, emu oil had been quietly used for more than 1,000 years by the Australian Aborigines in the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism and skin irritation. A prehistoric bird, the emu is thought to have roamed the outback of Australia nearly 80 million years ago and still exists today. Much like the Native Americans’ relationship with the bison, the Aborigines of Australia looked upon the emu as the core of their very existence. The emu provided them with food, clothing, and spiritual sustenance. Then along came Dr. Peter Ghosh, the director of the research lab at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital. Dr. Ghosh is the man largely responsible for the change in emu oil’s status from aboriginal folk cure to medical wonder. Dr. Ghosh discovered that oil from this prehistoric relic contains high levels of fatty acids which may temporarily ease the discomfort of muscle and joint pain. Working with another leading authority Dr. Michael Whitehouse, these two men collaborated on the initial, far-reaching study titled, “The Anti-Arthritic Activity of Emu Oil.” This started things rolling and it’s been growing ever since.

Further laboratory experiments have consistently confirmed the therapeutic value of emu oil for arthritis sufferers. In 1997, Dr. Whitehouse and a coinvestigator reported that not only was emu oil highly effective against experimentally induced arthritis but that its benefits were comparable to orally administered ibuprofen (but without the side effects). “This is not witchcraft. These findings are supported by scientific evidence,” says Dr. Ghosh. Emu oil, he added, “offers the best relief ever for victims of this crippling disease.” Reporting in 1998 in Inflammopharmacology, Dr. Whitehouse noted, “The ‘oil’ obtained from emu fat can be a very effective inhibitor of chronic inflammation
in rats when applied dermally.” What’s more, “Repeated applications of selected oils did not induce any of the more prominent side effects associated with [non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs] (e.g. platelet inhibition, gastrotoxicity) or certain anti-arthritic drugs (proteinuria, leukopenia).” But he also notes, “The bulk of the anti-inflammatory activity was present in a low triglyceride fraction…

These studies point to the need for more rigid quality control before considering such a (now proven) traditional medicine as a complementary therapy.”

As great a natural health wonder as emu oil is, it is also a wonder why so many companies muck up their formulas with dangerous petrochemical additives. We visited the marketplace of emu oil products and found that among the chemical toxins were laureth 7 (which is likely to be contaminated with the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane); paraben preservatives, which are linked with estrogenic reproductive toxicity; triethanolamine, which can form cancer-causing nitrosamines while products sit on store shelves; and FD&C Blue 1. FD&C Blue 1’s use is particularly egregious, we think (e.g., Blue-Emu, etc.). In the June 2002 issue of Nutrition in Clinical Practice, researchers from the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, issued a call for a moratorium on its use. They noted, “FD&C Blue No.1 and related dyes have toxic effects on mitochondria, suggesting that dye absorption is harmful.” This blue dye has caused deaths, according to published FDA reports.

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