Emu Oil for Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Can It Help? | myHSteam

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Emu Oil for Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Can It Help?

Medically reviewed by Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD
Written by Sarah Winfrey
Posted on June 21, 2024

When you live with a painful inflammatory skin condition like hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), it makes sense that you’d look into any possibility for relief. For example, you might be intrigued by even peculiar-sounding products such as emu oil to help manage itching, swelling, and pain.

A number of natural remedies are popular in the HS community. Some members look to tea tree oil, turmeric, cannabidiol (CBD), manuka honey, and more in the hopes of finding the relief they need. Others may try to change their diet to control HS flare-ups.

Another treatment that people sometimes use to treat symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa is emu oil. This product is often found in the form of emu cream, which is a topical therapy (applied to the skin). Members of myHSteam often recommend it to each other, like one who told another, “Try finding emu cream — it has really helped me.”

Some people claim that this lotion keeps HS breakouts at bay. “No lie, the Emuaid has saved my life,” one member reported. “When I know it’s starting, I rub a dab on the spot and wear it for a week as deodorant. I am not having any pain.”

Others say that although emu oil doesn’t keep HS away, it helps them heal quickly. “Emu cream/oil helps with my flare-ups with the inflammation and getting [abscesses] to open faster,” a member added.

You might come across sources that recommend products with emu oil as part of managing HS. Before you try any treatment option, however, it’s important to understand what it is and why it may or may not help you. If you’re considering emu oil, here’s what you need to know.

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 raised for the harvest of many products, including meat, feathers, and fat.

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

Emu oil treatments are usually available over the counter, so they’re accessible for many people. In creams or lotions, emu oil is usually combined with other ingredients. However, the presence of other ingredients can also make it harder to figure out which products are effective for you.

Can Emu Oil Help Hidradenitis Suppurativa?

Emu oil contains a large quantity of several unsaturated fatty acids, which may be anti-inflammatory and moisturizing. These fatty acids include:

  • Omega-3 (alpha-linoleic acid)
  • Omega-6 (linoleic acid)
  • Omega-9 (oleic acid)
  • Palmitic acid

Additionally, emu oil contains ingredients known as antioxidants. These molecules may protect against tissue damage and help reduce inflammation.

There’s Little Research on Emu Oil for Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Researchers haven’t deeply examined how emu oil affects people living with hidradenitis suppurativa. Available studies mention HS in passing, not directly, so it’s difficult to know if emu oil might be helpful for the condition. However, a few studies have looked at emu oil’s effect on skin diseases and conditions that have some similarities to HS, and the findings can provide some helpful information.

For instance, one study examined emu oil for seborrheic dermatitis, a form of eczema that can cause a scaly rash on the scalp and face. The researchers found that the oil helped improve itching and especially skin discoloration but was generally less effective than the other treatments tested. Another study showed that emu oil helped treat similar symptoms in psoriasis and eczema.

In a study of 42 people who had skin disorders after radiation therapy, emu oil seemed to help with symptoms like rash, swelling, skin discoloration, and peeling. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of HS.

One other study was performed in rats. The researchers found that applying emu oil not only helped with inflammation on the skin but also lowered overall inflammation levels. However, it’s not safe to assume that people will experience the same effects as animals.

Some researchers and doctors may recommend emu oil for skin hydration. Dry skin isn’t a typical symptom of HS, but emu oil may be helpful if you have dryness along with HS or in areas where you have HS flare-ups.

Overall, more research is needed to show if emu oil is effective at treating hidradenitis suppurativa.

What Are the Risks of Using Emu Oil?

You should consider several factors before adding emu oil to your HS treatment plan.

Emu Oil Isn’t Regulated the Same Way Medications Are

Supplements and products like emu oil aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as rigorously as medications are. 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 an article about spotting health fraud. The FDA warns people to be suspicious of products that claim to cure a wide range of conditions. Emu oil has a long and varied list of alleged health benefits that haven’t been extensively tested.

Emu Oil May Cause More Irritation and Side Effects

Because of less regulation, an ointment, cream, or lotion might contain impurities, additives, or preservatives that can cause irritation or an allergic reaction in people with HS.

Emu Oil May Not Be Suitable for Use by Vegetarians or Vegans

Emu oil is an animal product, so it shouldn’t be used by people who use only plant-based products. The conditions under which emus are kept can differ greatly between farms, which may also affect the quality of the emu oil.

Consult a Dermatology Expert Before You Try Emu Oil

Talk to a health care provider, like a doctor or dermatologist, before using emu oil. Emu oil is an attractive natural remedy because of its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties. However, its production isn’t regulated by the FDA, and there isn’t much evidence that emu oil is more effective than other natural remedies. There’s also a possibility that it will cause side effects, including increased irritation. Just as you should before trying any new product or treatment for HS, discuss the possible pros and cons with your health care provider.

Talk With Others Who Understand

On myHSteam, the social network for people with hidradenitis suppurativa and their loved ones, more than 41,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with hidradenitis suppurativa.

Are you wondering if emu oil would help your hidradenitis suppurativa? Have you given it a try? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on June 21, 2024
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Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Pacific University School of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, and went on to complete a one-year postgraduate residency at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. Learn more about her here.
Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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