Australia’s enthusiasm for medicinal emu oil takes flight, as producers push to keep up with demand
Australia's emu farmers are ramping up production of oil, with demand increasing as more people become aware of the product's medicinal qualities.
Veteran emu farmer Wayne Piltz said the market has grown significantly in recent years, but production has not risen with it.
Mr Piltz, now the only emu farmer in South Australia, currently has about 1,000 chicks at his Moorook farm in the state’s Riverland region.
“It’s just got to the stage where there’s a lot of it being exported, a lot of it’s going into local products, into cosmetics and therapeutic goods,” Mr Piltz said.
“We’re basically short of oil throughout Australia.
“I know the other suppliers over in Victoria, they’re struggling to have enough oil, so it’s in pretty good demand … which keeps the price very attractive for us.”
How do you produce emu oil?
Although Mr Piltz breeds the birds, he does not process the oil himself, instead sending his stock to a facility in north-west Victoria.
He expects to send up to 400 birds to the interstate facility in coming weeks.
“It’s an added expense to get birds over there for slaughter, but it’s certainly worthwhile,” he said.
“Because the slaughterhouse at Wycheproof has also got a rendering and refinery facility to do the oil.”
The benefits of using emu oil
Postdoctoral medical researcher through the University of Adelaide Dr Suzanne Mashtoub said medical trials have showed promising results for the reparative qualities of emu oil.
“It’s been most effective in terms of wound-healing and repair of the intestinal lining,” she said.
“Emu oil has been used for thousands of years by Indigenous Australian people, and they used it topically for wound-healing and for treatment of inflamed joints and burns.”
Dr Mashtoub said the oil has high levels of omega-9, which is an anti-inflammatory fatty acid.
“Initially, it was thought that [the oil] was predominantly used for it’s anti-inflammatory properties, but we also discovered that it has antioxidant properties,” she said.
Research into the medicinal qualities of emu oil are ongoing, and this year will see a world-first clinical trial on humans take place in South Australia.
Dr Mashtoub will lead the study at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, and said the patients in the trial will be children with ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease.
She said once these trials are complete, doctors can begin prescribing doses of emu oil for medication.
“At this stage we don’t make any recommendations in terms of a dose that [patients] can take,” Dr Mashtoub said.
“We simply say we have very promising results from our pre-clinical studies and we are hoping that will translate into the clinical setting in humans.