You might want to sit down for this… Cod Liver oil is a dietary supplement derived from the liver of cod fish. We use it at the compounding pharmacy for making medical suspensions for animals. This got me wondering about the history of this oil. It contains the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which play an important role in the human diet and in human physiology. Cod liver oil also has vitamins A and D and was historically given to children to prevent Rickets (weak or soft bones in children). A tablespoon contains 4,080 μg of retinol (vitamin A) and 34 μg (1360 IU) of vitamin D.
The “Father of Medicine”, Hippocrates, used dolphin liver oil for skin issue and the Vikings called it “the gold of the ocean” for it’s healing properties.
Cod liver oil was a popular folk remedy in Europe for centuries and English doctors began studying and prescribing it, around, 1782 for rheumatism.
It was the 19th century when it started being used for the aforementioned Rickets, tuberculosis, joint and muscle pain, and skin wounds. Scandinavian Vikings produced cod liver oil by laying birch tree branches over a kettle of water, and fresh livers were laid over the branches. The water was brought to a boil and as the steam rose, the oil from the liver dripped into the water and was skimmed off.
During the Industrial Revolution livers were placed in barrels and the oil was skimmed off the top of the rotted meat, smelling rancid. In 1850, Peter Möller ground the livers, with water, into a slurry that was simmered until the oil rose to the top. This is called the Möller Process.
Cod liver oil may be useful in secondary prophylaxis (disease prevention) after a heart attack. Diets with cod liver oil have also been demonstrated to have beneficial effects on psoriasis and depression. In Tübingen, Germany, they have the losers of the Stocherkahnrennen, a boat race, drink a glass of cod liver oil.