, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 1–8 | Cite as

Emu oil(s): A source of non-toxic transdermal anti-inflammatory agents in aboriginal medicine

  • M. W. Whitehouse
  • A. G. Turner
  • C. K. C. Davis
  • M. S. Roberts


The ‘oil’ obtained from emu fat can be a very effective inhibitor of chronic inflammation in rats when applied dermally (with a skin penetration enhancer). Assays for this activity using the adjuvant-induced arthritis model have shown:
  1. i.

    Considerable variability in potency of some commercial oil samples;

  2. ii.

    Little or no correlation of activity with colour or linolenic acid (18:3) content of the oil;

  3. iii.

    Relative stability of some active oils (to heat, ageing at room temperature);

  4. iv.

    The bulk of the anti-inflammatory activity was present in a low triglyceride fraction; and

  5. v.

    Potential arthritis-suppressant/immunoregulant activity of these active fractions.


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

Repeated applications of selected oils did not induce any of the more prominent side-effects associated with NSAIDs (e.g. platelet inhibition, gastrotoxicity) or certain anti-arthritic drugs (proteinuria, leukopenia).


emu oil anti-inflammatory Aboriginal medicine transdermal 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. W. Whitehouse
    • 1
  • A. G. Turner
    • 2
  • C. K. C. Davis
    • 3
  • M. S. Roberts
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MedicineUniversity of Queensland, Princess Alexandra HospitalBrisbane
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesSydney Institute of TechnologyUltimo
  3. 3.Department of Primary IndustryCentre for Food TechnologyHamiltonAustralia

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