Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Interestingly enough, there haven't been a ton of studies on this oil and those that have been done have mostly been performed on mice. It is anti-inflammatory for mice, but this hasn't been proven for humans.
We do know its fatty acid profile...sort of. There have only been a few studies, and each batch of oil can be vastly different from the last one depending upon the conditions in which the emus lived and ate and how the oil was processed. (These are all mean scores. Some oils may contain different ratios of fatty acids.) It contains about 22% palmitic acid (C16:0), 3.5% palmitoleic acid (C16:1), 9.6% stearic acid (C18:0), 47.4% oleic acid (C18:1), 15.2% linoleic acid (C18:2), and 0.9% linolenic acid (C18:3). Emu oil contains sterols in the form of sitosterol, amongst others, and we know sterols make for good anti-inflammatories, but the amount is quite low - about 750 ppm. Compare this to something like macadamia nut oil with about 1613 ppm or 3270 ppm in soy bean oil and you can see there are oils with higher levels of sterols.
As a note, the sterols in emu oil aren't phytosterols because "phyto" means plant and emu oil is from an animal.
So what does this mean? Oils containing oleic acid are great for softening skin, regenerating skin cells, moisturizing, and behaving as an anti-inflammatory. Oils containing linoleic acid are good for helping to restore skin's barrier function and reducing transepidermal water loss (TEWL), but what does palmitoleic acid do for our skin?
Palmitoleic acid is found in our skin's fatty acid profile and is a building block to prevent burns, wounds, and skin scratches as well as the most active anti-microbial in our sebum. It can be used on our skin to treat damaged skin and annoyed mucous membranes. Studies have shown it can prevent adhesion of Candida albicans (yeast) to pig skin, and one study showed it had the same effect on babies' bottoms! You can find palmitoleic acid in sea buckthorn oil and macadamia nut oil.
Apparently emu oil is non-comedogenic, but I can't find any research to confirm this. It contains a lot of oleic acid, which tends to be more comedogenic than other oils, and it seems like the only people who are touting it as non-comedogenic are on-line retailers who are selling the product. So I can't say whether this is confirmed or not.
Joe Schwarcz notes in his book Dr Joe & What You Didn't Know that emu oil contains terpenes, sapogenins, and flavones, but I wasn't able to find specifics of each of these categories. He notes it is a good emollient and "penetrates skin smoothly". And therein lies the appeal of emu oil.
As a note, I'll be taking a look at saponins, sapogenins, and terpenes over the next few days.
If you're wanting to make a product with some active ingredients that you want to penetrate the skin, emu oil is a good choice, but then again, it's looking like any oil with oleic acid might work in this fashion. It is not vegan friendly - they don't squeeze the emus for the oil and let them go on their merry ways - and it is an expensive oil, even compared to sea buckthorn oil (which is the most expensive oil I buy).
I bought it specifically to make a pain relieving medication for my aunt, who is struggling with aches and pains right now, and for myself for my on-going exciting muscle spasms. Join me tomorrow for fun formulating with this oil!