Results of Emu Oil Research January 1997

Late last year I started testing some oil samples that had been supplied by Peter Thompson (Qld), John Snowden (WA) and Greg Barowski (VIC) to assist us with research into the differences in arthritis treatment in emu oil. In the last 12 months we have tested about 40 samples and have obtained some interesting results.

This research has primarily involved emus sourced in Queensland and much encouragement from Peter Thompson, John and Fay Spencer, and it would also not have been possible without assistance from Craig Davis of Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Desley Butters and Athol Turner. Whilst this work would not have been possible without their help, there is no way that the challenges confronting the research needs of emu oil will be satisfied if we continue to rely on this level of funding and assistance.

I therefore applaud these people for agreeing to let me indicate the results from what I have been doing. Following therefore is an overview of what we have been trying to do and a summary of results to date. It is too early to draw any conclusions other than to state that there is a very large variation in the anti-inflammatory potency of the emu oil samples that 1 have tested to date. My colleague in this Hospital, Dr. Sherree Cross, and Dr.. Snowden (Ag. West, S Perth) will be looking at the wound healing potential of some of these oils to see if this correlates with the anti-inflammatory activity.

Further research is needed and I am extremely pleased to know that Peter will be setting up several pens for different nutritional regimes so that we can follow these through in a few months time to see what, if any, variation we find in the medicinal potential of the oils.

The major objective of the research has been to find a source of oil with a consistent high level of biological activity that we can use as a benchmark for further testing and for the development of a chemical test that does not require the use of rats. Dependence on rats for testing for beneficial medicinal properties is not only expensive and time consuming but is likely to be limited due to the pressures associated with animal rights pressure groups.

Having had the opportunity to test samples where we know the whole history of the birds that the fat has been supplied form has been an essential prerequisite for these trials. Also knowledge that we will be able to source additional birds from the same supplier when we locate the ideal outcome has been equally as important.

Results of this research have revealed a large variation between different samples. Based on our scoring system which provides an overall anti-arthritis score of from I to 100, we have obtained results ranging from 0 to 81.

Whilst it is too early to draw conclusions as to what conditions or prerequisites provide the best oil in terms of biological activity (particularly potential for treating arthritis) we have been rather dismayed by the large variation in samples.

The samples tested have included differences based on:

  • genetic background (ie Queensland or West Australian origin)
  • nutritional regime (ie several proprietary mixes with and without access to pasture as well as straight native vegetation
  • sex
  • age
  • native or farmed
  • gut versus back fat

We have also tested oils which are commercially available in the UK, USA, Canada, and sourced from five Australian States.

In concluding this article I would like to make a special appeal for the Industry as a whole to get behind this research. If we are unable to get national funding for the work that needs to be done, individuals, such as those who have so far contributed to this research, will be forced to keep any information obtained to themselves to enable them to be remunerated for their contributions.

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