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Emu Oil and Hair Regrowth: Critical Factors in Efficacy
The Emu is an Ostrich-
like bird that is native to the continent of Australia which has been used by the Aborigines for centuries as a treatment for a variety of different dermatologic disorders. Emu oil itself comes from a thick pad of fat on the back of the bird that was provided by nature to protect the animal from the extreme temperatures of the Australian Outback.
Dr. Michael Hoilck of Boston University found that Emu Oil had a profound stimulatory effect on hair growth in animal models, prompting him to initiate a patent application for its use for that specific purpose. A subsequent study on Emu Oil and hair growth done in England found a cosmetically significant hair growth stimulation effect in humans with Androgenetic Alopecia after 5 months of daily usage. Emu oil and its benefits for skin aging have been recently featured on the Oprah Winfrey show and the Dr. Oz show.
Treatments for Androgenetic Alopecia are generally less effective in the hairline versus the crown. This is well documented to be the case in extensively studied, pharmaceutical treatments like Rogaine, Propecia, and Avodart. As detailed in one of our prior publications, Emu Oil for a variety of reasons, is particularly effective in the frontal hairline, typically stimulating vellous growth, (visible peach fuzz) within a few weeks, which becomes terminal over time with continued application. Emu Oil, though highly effective as a treatment by itself, can be combined with any other topical treatments, i.e. Rogaine, (which we generally don’t recommend), Dr. Proctor’s Advanced Thinning Hair Formula, and Virgin Coconut Oil, to enhance their penetration.
Unfortunately, not all Emu Oil produces hair growth stimulation effects. The hair growth effects of Emu Oil largely depend on two factors, the diet consumed by the Emus, and the amount of heat used in the rendering process.
The following study found “considerable variability” in potency in the commercial oil samples. They further concluded that:
“These studies point to the need for more rigid quality control before considering such a (now proven) traditional medicine as a complementary therapy.”
In the long version of the study itself, it was found that the slight majority of oil samples failed to exhibit significant anti-inflammatory activity, which is the primary mechanism by which it stimulates hair growth.
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 and 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:
i. Considerable variability in potency in the commercial oil samples;
ii. Little or no correlation of activity with colour or linolenic acid content of the oil;
iii. Relative stability of some active oils (to heat, ageing at room temperature);
iv. The bulk of the anti-inflammatory activity was present in a low triglyceride fraction; and
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 should ideally come from birds that are allowed to roam free and graze in a natural environment, foraging on indigenous plants, not the nutrient void, antibiotic laced; grain/corn based commercial feed, given at the vast majority of most Emu Ranches in the U.S. The oil from Emu’s that feed in the wild is much higher in lignans and proanthocyanidins, significantly enhancing its anti-inflammatory and thus hair growth stimulation, effects. It has been established that grass fed beef contains a much higher level of omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants , compared to the predominantly antibiotic laden, grain fed beef whose fat, due to its proportionally higher omega 6 content, is actually conducive to inflammation. The same holds true for the fat from Emus.
Rendering is a process by which solid fat is turned to liquid, In the U.S., the average temperature for rendering Emu Oil from the fat pad is 90 degrees Celsius, or194 degrees Fahrenheit. In Australia the rendering temperature at select facilities is 104 degrees Fahrenheit, or 40 degrees Celsius. Although Emu Oil is relatively heat resistant, even brief exposure to heat approaching 200 degrees can compromise its efficacy.
There are sound commercial reasons for using higher heats in the rendering process. The higher heats dramatically speed up oil production, and enhance profitability. These higher heats, however, have a negative effect of the anti-inflammatory properties, and thus hair growth stimulation effects of the oil.
Emu ranches have sprung up all over the U.S. in the last 4-8 years. Many sell oil, often in bulk at very cheap prices.
When buying Emu Oil there are no telltale signs that indicate the amount of heat used in rendering and diet consumed by the bird. The oils are visually indistinguishable in this regard. Before using the oil you would be well advised to contact the manufacturer and ask questions about diet and rendering temperatures. If the answers you get are vague i.e. “we use the standard amount of heat”, or even if you are told that the “feed” they are given is “organic,” then keep moving. The standard amount of heat used in the U.S. is high enough to compromise the efficacy of the oil, and “feed,” organic or not, is still corn based, yielding a less than optimal fatty acid profile.
If the oil was produced by American ranchers, then it is in all likelihood rendered at higher temperatures and comes from Emus that not unlike Cattle, are grain fed with anti-biotics.
The Emu Oil made available at MPB Research comes from Australian Ranchers whose Emus are free range roaming, and who slowly render the oil at a low temperature of 104 degrees, Fahrenheit. Our Emu Oil remains one of the most cost effective topical interventions for Androgenetic hair loss, costing most less than $13.50 U.S. a month at a daily usage rate. Our Emu Oil is often concurrently used as a firming, anti-aging facial treatment, due to its documented ability to stimulate DNA repair and collagen production.