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


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).

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Correspondence to M. W. Whitehouse.

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Whitehouse, M.W., Turner, A.G., Davis, C.K.C. et al. Emu oil(s): A source of non-toxic transdermal anti-inflammatory agents in aboriginal medicine. Inflammopharmacol 6, 1–8 (1998).

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  • emu oil
  • anti-inflammatory
  • Aboriginal medicine
  • transdermal