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Emu Cream for Psoriasis: What Is It, and Can It Help?

Posted on August 17, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D.
Article written by
Amanda Jacot, PharmD

Emu cream is an over-the-counter moisturizer that is sometimes advertised as a treatment for psoriasis. It is made with emu oil, a trendy ingredient endorsed by celebrities. Emu oil is an important ingredient in Aboriginal medicine in Australia. For hundreds of years, it has been used to relieve pain and itching. Before you start incorporating this product into your psoriasis routine, you should understand what it can be used for and its possible side effects.

What Is Emu Oil?

Emu oil is made from the fat of an emu — a large, flightless bird. Although originally from Australia, emus are found all over the world on farms. Emus are harvested for many products, including meat, feathers, and fat.

Emu oil is extracted from fat deposits beneath the skin on the emu’s back. The fat is refined into pure emu oil. This oil can be sold as is or incorporated into other products like creams, ointments, or cosmetics.

What’s in Emu Oil?

Emu oil’s blend of fatty acids and antioxidants could be responsible for its wide range of health benefits.

Emu oil has high levels of unsaturated fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory and moisturizing. Some of the fatty acids found in emu oil are:

  • Omega-3
  • Omega-6
  • Omega-9
  • Oleic acid
  • Linoleic acid
  • Palmitic acid

Emu oil also has several antioxidants that can fight against aging and inflammation. These include:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Carotenoids
  • Flavones
  • Polyphenols
  • Phospholipids

What Do People Use Emu Oil For?

Emu oil can be used topically on the skin, or it can be taken by mouth. It is important to know that research into the health benefits of emu oil is still ongoing.

Treating Skin Conditions

Emu oil is an effective emollient (skin softener) that can help boost skin moisture. In one study of people with healthy skin, emu oil was rated higher for texture and moisturization compared to mineral oil. Adding emu oil to a cream or lotion can increase how well the product absorbs into the skin.

Due to its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties, emu oil could be used in therapies to treat conditions like dermatitis, eczema, shingles, and psoriasis.

Emu oil may also reduce the effects of aging, including wrinkles.

Reducing Discomfort During Breastfeeding

Emu oil-based creams may help alleviate skin irritation from breastfeeding. Researchers found that an emu oil-based cream applied to the areolas significantly reduced discomfort associated with breastfeeding like cracked, dry, or bleeding skin. However, this research did not evaluate the effect of emu oil on infants.

Healing Wounds and Burns

Emu oil may help burns and wounds heal. Scientists are also investigating how emu oil can help treat dermatitis caused by radiation. One study found that applying emu oil twice a day during radiation therapy improved skin redness and peeling more than cottonseed oil.

Repelling Bugs

One study found that applying emu oil to the skin significantly reduced mosquito bites for at least 30 minutes.

Reducing Cholesterol

When taken as a supplement, emu oil could lower cholesterol. This is because of its high amounts of unsaturated fatty acids — healthy fats that are good for your health. However, there are no studies in humans that show the effects of emu oil on cholesterol.

Can Emu Oil Improve Psoriasis Symptoms?

There isn’t much research on how emu oil affects psoriasis symptoms. However, it does have several properties that could make it an effective treatment.

An observational study of people with psoriasis showed that applying emu oil twice a day for 30 days improved itching, scaling, and redness.

Emu oil can hydrate the skin. Like other moisturizers, it protects the skin’s existing moisture and helps restore the skin’s barrier function. This can help improve symptoms of psoriasis like itching and flaking.

Anti-inflammatories are commonly used to treat psoriasis. Emu oil may be anti-inflammatory due to its omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids and antioxidants. Other skin conditions, like seborrheic dermatitis, also benefit from anti-inflammatories. Although some people might see improvement using emu oil, a randomized controlled trial comparing pure emu oil with hydrocortisone and clotrimazole for seborrheic dermatitis found that emu oil was less effective than hydrocortisone or clotrimazole.

What Are the Risks of Using Emu Oil?

There are several factors to consider before adding emu oil to your psoriasis treatment.

Emu Oil Is Not Regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The production of emu oil is not regulated or endorsed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some organizations, like the American Emu Association, have certification programs that make sure emu oil products pass quality measures.

The FDA featured emu oil in its article “How To Spot Health Fraud.” The FDA warns people to be suspicious of products that claim to do it all. Emu oil has a long and varied list of alleged health benefits that have not been extensively tested.

Emu Oil May Cause More Irritation and Side Effects

Because the FDA does not regulate emu oil, it might contain impurities, additives, or preservatives that can cause irritation or an allergic reaction.

Emu oil may help the skin absorb higher doses of medication because it has smaller particles than many other common moisturizers. This allows creams with emu oil to penetrate deep into the skin. If emu oil is applied at the same time as other topical medications, like steroids or antifungals, it could increase side effects by increasing the absorption of medications.

Emu Oil Is Not Suitable for Use by Vegetarians or Vegans

Emu oil is an animal product, so it should not be used by people who are vegetarians or vegans. The conditions under which emus are kept can differ greatly between farms, which may also affect the quality of the emu oil.

Alternatives to Emu Oil

Natural remedies for psoriasis are not a replacement for treatments prescribed by your dermatologist. That said, if emu oil isn’t effective for you, other oils may be a better option. These include:

It’s always possible to experience irritation from a certain product, including natural oils and moisturizers. Talk to your doctor before incorporating natural remedies into your routine. They may interact with your other medications or health conditions.

The Bottom Line

Talk to a health care provider, like a doctor or dermatologist, before using emu oil. Emu oil is an attractive natural remedy for psoriasis because of its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties. However, this product is not regulated by the FDA, and there is not much evidence that emu oil is more effective than other natural remedies. There is also a possibility that it will cause side effects, including increased irritation.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 110,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis.

Are you living with psoriasis? Have you tried emu oil? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D. is a dermatologist at the Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Amanda Jacot, PharmD earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2009 and a Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Texas College of Pharmacy in 2014. Learn more about her here.

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