How did Emu Oil help Paula Radcliffe win the marathon?

The Guardian’s Libby Brookes finds out.

After pounding her way to victory, and into the record books, in Sunday’s London Marathon, Paula Radcliffe acknowledged a curious debt of gratitude.

The athlete nearly missed the race after a collision with a cyclist during a training run in New Mexico only a month ago left her with a dislocated jaw, whiplash and injuries to her shoulders, knees and hip. On the recommendation of her physiotherapist Gerard Hartmann, Radcliffe treated her wounds with an ancient Aboriginal cure reputed to have powerful healing and pain-relieving properties – emu oil. Hartmann, who had originally been alerted to the alternative therapy by Australian Olympic gold medallist Cathy Freeman, praised the curative qualities of the oil. “If you saw the photographs of the day after Paula’s accident you’d never have thought she’d have been here,” he said on Sunday. “Sonia O’Sullivan. former world 5,000m champion had emu oil with her and then we got some flown in. It certainly seemed to aid Paula’s recovery.”

“It’s extremely popular, but the interest is mainly word-of-mouth. The oil is deeply penetrating and incredibly soothing – it has great vascularising effects, increasing the blood flow, and it’s extremely effective in cases of inflamed joints. It’s used a lot in arthritis care and for back injuries.” Australian athletes have been training with emu oil since 1988, when it became popular during the Seoul Olympics. “Sports physiotherapists use it as a massage oil to reduce injuries and cut down on recovery time.”

Also recommended for its cosmetic properties, emu oil is a natural emollient and some practitioners claim that it can help to combat the effects of the ageing process. In a recent study at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Dr. Robert Nicolosi, director of the center for chronic disease control and prevention announced that the oil had a “significant” anti-inflammatory effect, while the data suggested that its ability to deliver nutrients to the skin surface might be greater than other oils currently used in current over-the-counter remedies.

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