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Just down the road from my home is a very cool Saturday "farmers market". It is held in a huge old (converted) horse barn and each of the 40 "horse stalls" is home to a rotating group of vendors. You can find anything from freshly baked breads and home grown vegetables to very high-end handmade custom furniture so any time we have visiting house guests I use my hosting duties as an excuse to go snoop around the market.

Two years ago there was a vendor who was enthusiastically extolling an endless list of virtues for emu oil. According to his gospel-like shpeel, because emu oil is molecularly similar to human skin it is a wonderfully effective moisturizer for hair and body, a treatment for burns, a hair growth treatment, and a chemical -free anti-bacterial for the treatment of everything from dandruff to rashes. Being the smarty pants that I am, I knew his promises were too good to be true, and I did everything but roll my eyes and snicker at the crowd of believers who lined up to buy the small bottles of magic potion.

I, Kate, do hereby apologize to Mr. Emu Oil and his band of believers because scientific research suggests he just might have been telling the truth all along. Emu oil contains essential fatty acids: linolenic, linoleic, oleic, and palmitic. Linolenic (omega-3 EFA) and linoleic (omega-6 EFA) have important nutritional effects on immune cell function, inflammatory responses, all organ systems, smooth muscle activity, the circulatory and cardiovascular systems. Oleic is a known to have anti-inflammatory properties.

What really has captured my attention is that topical applications of Emu oil may result in the growth of thicker hair..... both a thickening of existing hair shafts (which shrink in diameter with age) and a "re awakening" of the dormant (sleeping) hair shafts (which increase as a percentage of total hair shafts with age).

Dr. Michael Holick, M.D, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine, conducted a study on mice which was designed to quantify the effect of Emu oil on hair growth and hair re growth. It seems portions of hair were removed from the mice, and those areas were treated with either Emu Oil, or a corn oil.  According to Dr Holick, "We found that there was about a 20% increase in DNA synthesis, which means that there was a 20% increase in the proliferation activity, or the grow th activity of the skin in the animals that received (a processed Emu oil), compared to the animals that received corn oil".
"We found that there was an enhancement in the growth activity of the hair follicles. So it gives us very good scientific indication that we were stimulating skin growth. Over 80% of hair follicles that had been asleep were woken up and began growing hair." Overly simplified, normal hair follicles alternate between a resting phase and a growth phase, and topical applications of Emu oil were a wake up call for these snoozing hair follicles....in mice.
Balding men take note: According to my google search, "another medicinal effect of emu oil is its' reported ability to inhibit 5 alpha reductase – a body chemical that is responsible for the conversion of testosterone into DHT. It is known that DHT is strongly implicated in the onset and progression of male-pattern baldness. When Emu oil is applied onto balding parts of the scalp, it works to de sterilize the DHT-producing components of hair follicles". Jeepers! All this great stuff, and no reported side effects?

So, in a quest for truth (and to satisfy my own curiosity) five months ago I started applying "molecularly distilled" emu oil to my scalp twice weekly, and leaving it in overnight. By the way, the great variation in price and quality in emu oil has largely to do with the "refining" process. Because emu oil penetrates so quickly and easily through your skin into your body, the refining differences are important.  “fully refined” emu oil may still contain up to 10% impurities. The more expensive "Molecular distillation" process yields a very clean oil - free of impurities, bacteria, toxins and heavy metals. The variations in color have only to do with what the emu eats and nothing to do with quality. My recommendation: Spend a few extra bucks and buy emu oil which is "certified"  and which has been through the "molecular distillation" process.

It is much too early in my experiment to decide how well Emu oil works as a growth/re-growth/thickening agent, but I must say that my hair and scalp are clearly in much better condition. Gray hair does not product the same amount of natural oils, and the emu oil seems to have provided a better balance. The Emu oil also has addressed the minor and sporadic (stress or diet caused) flare-ups of itchy scalp I can experience during 1) the holiday season or 2) extreme cold weather "wool hat" season or 3) extreme hot weather "cowboy h at" season.

I will continue with the twice weekly applications and will update you 1) as results become clear, or 2) at the end of 2009....whichever comes first.  Drop me a line using the comment box if you have personally used the Emu oil for at least 6 months for hair growth/re-growth and are already "ahead" of me on my "aging hair" experiment.