Emu oil has been found to help treat a variety of common bowel diseases as well as the intestinal damage caused by cancer chemotherapy.
Research at the University of Adelaide has supported emu oil's traditional anti-inflammatory properties and has also shown it can help repair damage to the bowel.
Laboratory experiments by physiology PhD student Suzanne Abimosleh found emu oil - which is rendered from the fat of the large Australian birds - accelerates the repair process by stimulating growth of the intestinal crypts, the part of the intestine that produces the villi which absorb food.
Longer crypts and villi mean a healthier bowel that can better absorb food.
"Disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, such as the inflammatory bowel diseases and chemotherapy-induced mucositis, are associated with malabsorption of food together with inflammation and ulceration of the bowel lining,'' Ms Abimosleh said.
"The variable responsiveness of treatments to these diseases shows the need to broaden approaches, to reduce inflammation, prevent damage and promote healing."
Lead researcher Gordon Howarth said the next step in the use of emu oil included clinical trials, possibly with patients suffering from conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
"We've now done sufficient studies in the laboratory to show that emu oil has potential to help reduce the debilitating symptoms of these conditions and to enhance intestinal recovery," Professor Howarth said.