Cod liver oil reviews


What are the benefits of cod liver oil?

Share on PinterestCod liver oil supplements offer a range of possible health benefits.

Cod liver oil is an excellent source of nutrients, and it may have some important therapeutic properties.

It is thought to help relieve joint stiffness associated with arthritis, have a positive effect on cardiovascular health, and help repair damaged teeth, nails, hair, and skin.

However, there is not enough evidence to prove all of these claims.

1) The right kind of fat

Every single body cell needs fat. Fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, found in cod liver oil, will promote skin health, increase vitamin and mineral absorption, and boost the immune system.

Fat keeps you feeling full. When you consume fat, your brain receives a signal to turn off your appetite.

Eating healthy fats with a meal helps slow the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugar. This helps to keep blood sugars levels stable. The brain needs fat to function properly.

2) Arthritis

Cod liver oil is a common supplement for those with arthritis. The use of marine oils, such as cod liver oil, has been found to help in rheumatoid arthritis.

Fish oils are known to reduce inflammation, which can explain how older large studies found that pain, tenderness, and stiffness were reduced with supplementation.

3) Age-related macular degeneration

Some studies have suggested that omega-3 oils might support eye health and prevent age-related macular degeneration. Higher intakes of the nutrients in cod liver oil such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) lead to less or delayed occurrence of macular degeneration.

Other nutrients that may help prevent AMD are carotenoids. Cod liver oil is also high in carotenoids, which people need to produce vitamin A.

4) Coronary artery disease

Daily intake of cod liver oil may help prevent coronary atherosclerosis. There are fatty acids in cod liver oil which act as potent antioxidants.

The buildup of plaque in the circulatory system is a result of inflammation.

Therefore, regular intake of fish oils can help protect against arteriosclerosis. They also provide protection against blood clots.

5) Repairing wounds

A mouse study, published in 2009, found that topically applying a 25-percent cod liver oil ointment to ear wounds could promote healing.

The scientists concluded that topically applying the ointment “significantly accelerated both the epithelial and the vascular component of healing, compared with saline.”

They believed that vitamin A may be the key component in this process.

6) Cognitive performance

Cod liver oil contains a high amount of vitamin D. A link between vitamin D and cognitive performance was identified in a study in rats. The researchers concluded that Vitamin D may play a key role in maintaining good brain function in old age.

In 2011, scientists gave cod liver oil to rats that were experiencing chronic stress. Results of tests of memory, locomotor skills, and anxiety behavior indicated that the cod liver oil helped prevent cognitive impairment in these rats.

7) Tuberculosis

In 2011, a review of a historical study from 1848 published in the BMJ revealed that cod liver oil could be an effective treatment option for tuberculosis (TB).

8) Inflammation

In 2017, scientists reported discovering a previously unknown group of molecules that may have anti-inflammatory properties. They come from cannabinoids that derive from omega-3 fatty acids.

The researchers suggest that these molecules could be extracted from omega-3 fatty acids for therapeutic purposes. The effect, they say, could be similar to that produced by medicinal marijuana, but without the psychological risks.

Cod liver oil – the forgotten food

In this video, originally featured on America Now, wellness and nutrition expert Peggy Hall discusses the possible health benefits of cod liver oil and the differences between cod liver oil and fish oils.

Fermented Cod Liver Oil Testimonials

Benefits of Fermented Cod Liver Oil and Butter Oil Are Many and Varied
by Rosann Volmert, DO

I am a family practice physician in Pasadena, California. I have been using Green Pasture’s fermented cod liver oil and high-vitamin butter oil with my patients for only nine months now, and I have noticed dramatic results. The most dramatic of these is the effect the oils have had on lowering blood pressure in patients with hypertension. This effect has enabled several of my patients to lower their dose of prescription medication, and hopefully eliminate it all together. In addition, I have found that patients have lost weight and lowered their blood sugars without any change in diet or activity. I have also had reports of less stiffness and pain of joints in arthritic and temporomandibular joint dysfunction patients, improvement in eczema, elevated mood in depressed patients, lessening of symptoms of PMS and increased energy and overall well being. I have a very small practice so these testaments are drawn from a few patients here and there, but they are indicative of tremendous benefits for a large number of people.

All of this has really illustrated for me the huge nutritional deficiency people have been suffering from due to a fear of cholesterol. For many years now a fear of cholesterol-containing foods has kept people from consuming healthy amounts of butter, eggs, cheese, milk, animal fats and many other foods rich in nutritious fats and fat-soluble vitamins. It is no wonder that the vitamin D level is pitifully low in 95 percent of my patients. Due to continued bias against cholesterol-rich foods, I am at times unable to convince my patients to eat more of these foods. However, I have been successful in getting them to take the Green Pasture’s oils. This is mainly because they are easy to take, and only small amounts are needed. Using these products has enabled me to give back to my patients the fat-soluble nutrients their bodies have been lacking for some time now, and they are feeling better for it.

Because Green Pasture’s fermented cod liver oils and butter oils contain such a wide variety and potency of fat-soluble nutrients, they not only enhance my patients’ lives, but simplify them as well. Patients are able to take much less cod liver oil than with their old brand and eliminate the need for additional supplements, which are lacking in other brands. (I recommend 3 ml or 3/4 teaspoon fermented cod liver oil and 2.5 ml or 1/2 teaspoon butter oil.) When I introduce them to the oils, I ask them to bring in all the supplements they are taking. I show them that with taking this oil combo they can eliminate one-half to two-thirds of their other supplements, and sometimes all of them. Often my patients are taking so many different types of synthetic vitamins, they literally walk in with a big box full of them. The reason they are taking so many is because each bottle usually contains only one or maybe a couple types of synthetic vitamins or nutrients. Obtaining nutrients through natural food sources allows them a more potent and broader range of nutrition, thus eliminating the need for boxes of bottles and huge dosing.

One of the nutrients found in cod liver oil is vitamin D. I found that it took just 2,800 IU of the vitamin D contained in Green Pasture’s fermented cod liver oil in combination with the butter oil to raise one patient’s serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D level from 12.6 ng/ml to 82.3 ng/ml in just three months. According to the guidelines for supplementing synthetic vitamin D3 it would have taken 7,000 IU to achieve this and without all the benefits of the many other fat-soluble nutrients found in these oils. What a testament to the power of nutrients in their natural form!

I am finding similar results in other patients. Several have raised their vitamin D levels from the teens or low twenties into the forties within several months using the combination of fermented cod liver oil and high-vitamin butter oil alone, in easy-to-take capsule form, and without any other vitamin D supplementation. Since the patients are also getting substantial amounts of vitamin A with this regimen, it is difficult to conclude that vitamin A interferes with vitamin D assimilation as critics of cod liver oil have claimed

Laura Margaritis, ND, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Since I started using fermented cod liver oil in my naturopathic practice, I have two completely resolved cases of endometriosis, women experiencing pain-free periods for the first time in their lives, surprisingly within two or three weeks of starting the fermented cod liver oil at a dose of 5 ml per day. Up to this point in my six-year career, I had yet to have any luck whatsoever when it came to endometriosis. I have another very complicated case of endometriosis combined with Wolf-Parkinson’s-White-like heart problems and this particular woman experienced twelve to fifteen days of excruciating pain monthly related to the endometriosis. Within six weeks of starting the fermented cod liver oil she is down to three days of pain per month, which she is thrilled about. While her WPW symptoms persist, her endometriosis symptoms are all but a thing of the past. Again, I put her on a dose of 5 ml per day. I have another patient who came to me, a mother in her thirties, who was experiencing hair thinning and had not had a period in over nine months for no apparent reason. Within three weeks of starting the fermented cod liver oil, she had a period again.

JI, Pacific Northwest

I have had chronic fatigue syndrome for over seventeen years. At first, when I took the fermented cod liver oil, it gave me a headache so I stopped taking it. After I had the flu awhile back, I was left with a symptom where I could not lie down without feeling like I was smothering, even though I could breathe fine. This was accompanied by deep anxiety. The doctor suggested I had a classic symptom of congestive heart failure and suggested an angiogram, but that wasn’t really an option for me because I have terrible reactions to drugs. Meanwhile, I found out I had low vitamin D levels (I live north of Seattle, WA) and learned that low vitamin D can cause heart problems. I started taking vitamin D3 and it helped a bit but I kept needing more to keep the awful smothering symptom away. I was up to 6,000 IU per day of D3 but kept feeling colder and colder and sleeping more fitfully. Finally, I got to the point where I didn’t sleep all night and I knew it was the vitamin D keeping me awake. Fortunately, I had just bought some raw Jersey milk for my husband, not for myself, because I thought milk didn’t agree with me, but I tasted his and decided to have a glass of my own because it was so good. It calmed my nerves and I was able to sleep. Then I decided to try taking the fermented cod liver oil again because I knew I needed to get vitamin D somehow. The first dose did give me a headache for a short time, but I felt some well being afterwards. So for the past nine days I’ve been drinking three glasses of raw milk per day with no digestive upset and taking one to one and one-half teaspoons fermented cod liver oil daily. Pain and inflammation seem to be subsiding, my energy is improving, the constant feeling of heat and pressure in my head is gone, and I am so amazed and grateful that the awful smothering feeling is quickly becoming a bad memory. As an added bonus, I no longer feel bothered at all by the gray Pacific Northwest winter days. Given the improvement I have experienced in just a few days, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens as this winter progresses and I keep taking cod liver oil and drinking raw creamy milk!


Fermented Cod Liver Oil Testimonials

We’ve been using high-vitamin cod liver oil and the butter oil for the Weston Price protocol for several years. The biggest changes reported have been improved muscle strength, stamina and immunity. I have also noted improved moods in my family, they are less irritable. I also feel the Weston Price protocol, including bone broths, raw goat milk kefir, etc., helped save my mother’s life when she was stricken with severe sepsis several years ago. The frequent drops of cod liver oil and butter oil appeared to increase her strength and improve her ability to absorb and utilize her food.

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An Authentic Cod Liver Oil!

True to ancient roots, Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil is produced using traditional no-heat methods. In contrast to the harsh refinement processes used by many other fish oil manufacturers, this cod liver oil is gently small-batch handled through a proprietary fermentation technique. This delicate process naturally maximizes nutrient bioavailability and reduces any contaminants in the food. The result is an extremely pure and nutritious high vitamin cod liver oil that rivals those of past generations.

This oil is a rich source of vitamins A and D, both of which are not easily obtained at optimal levels with our modern diets and lifestyles. Additionally, Fermented Cod Liver Oil offers a hearty supply of the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA, otherwise known as the “Omega 3s.” This oil is thick and rich, full of synergistic, naturally occurring nutrients. No synthetic compounds of any kind are added.

According to the research of Dr. Weston A. Price, cod liver oil and butter oil, when taken together, provide complementary factors leading to proper essential fatty acid balance. High-vitamin butter oil contains arachidonic acid (AA), an omega-6 fatty acid, while cod liver oil is rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega-3. Moreover, the saturated fatty acids in the butter oil promote efficient utilization of the unsaturated fatty acids in the cod liver oil. Finally, butter oil contains a broad and deep range of important quinones including vitamin K, E and CoQ enzymes while cod liver oil is rich in vitamin A and D. For more information visit our pages on High Vitamin Butter Oil and Fermented Cod Liver Oil/ High Vitamin Butter Oil Blends.

*Please be aware that Fermented Cod Liver Oil has a very strong taste and that the natural enzyme content will sometimes result in a tingling sensation at the back of the throat. See the Product & Flavor Descriptions below before ordering.

Key Nutritional Benefits

  • Naturally harvested and preserved
  • Optimal ratio of fat-soluble vitamins A and D
  • Full spectrum of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Nutrient bioavailability enhanced with fermentation
  • Non-heated to maintain nutrient integrity
  • Regularly tested for purity

Helpful Resources

To learn more about the history and many benefits of high vitamin cod liver oil, we highly recommend Dr. Weston A. Price’s original book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. We do realize that this is a lengthy book however, and have also compiled the following articles as a quick-start guide for taking cod liver oil. You will find more articles by clicking on the Media & Resources tab above.

Product & Flavor Descriptions*

There are a lot of different choices when it comes to taking Fermented Cod Liver Oil! Below you will find descriptions and charts to help you decide on the best option for you and your family:

*Please note: The addition of natural flavors is meant to enhance the taste experience. However cod liver oil taste remains prevalent. We cannot accept returns based on flavor preferences.

Non-Flavored – Simply pure cod liver oil and nothing else! Flavor free is a bit of a misnomer in that if you enjoy the taste of fish you will appreciate its fresh fish flavor. Like most fermented products, it produces a bit of a tingle in the back of the throat.

Cinnamon Tingle Liquid – A favorite of many, this flavor includes natural cinnamon oil and organic stevia leaf

Arctic Mint Liquid – With its natural mint flavor, many find this cod liver oil a refreshing alternative. This flavor includes organic spearmint and peppermint oil, organic wintergreen flavor oil and organic lemon oil.

Oslo Orange Liquid – Includes organic orange oil and organic lemon oil.

Non-Gelatin Capsules – For those who prefer to take their cod liver oil in capsule form, this is simply fermented cod liver oil and unbleached beeswax as a thickener. Capsules are made from plant cellulose.

Non-Gelatin Capsules (Orange) – This is the same as the regular Non-Gelatin Capsules with the addition of organic orange oil.

*Please note: Green Pasture’s Fermented Cod Liver Oil contains naturally occurring fat-soluble vitamins A and D. The concentration of these naturally occurring vitamins varies from batch to batch. The Manufacturer, Green Pasture, has changed their product labels whereby specific vitamin levels are no longer being reported. The vitamin information in the table below refers to what was previously depicted before the labels were changed.

Product Comparison Liquids Capsules
Contents 8.0 oz 120 caps, 500 mg ea
Serving Size 2 ml 2
Vit A IU 3750 1750
Vit D IU 760 360
Price per serving $0.37 $0.50

Should you take cod liver oil? Or…not? Well…

Wait, what? Isn’t cod liver oil something our great-grandparents had to take when they were children? Isn’t it just the punchline of jokes in this day and age? If you take cod liver oil aren’t you, well, going back in time?

Well, not exactly. It turns out that cod liver oil is still in use today, and for good reason: it functions as a supremely powerful food supplement with high levels of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, and vitamin D.

Who knew?!

I thought I’d explore a bit further to really understand how and why we should be incorporating cod liver oil as part of our daily regimen.

As its name implies, cod liver oil is derived from the actual liver of cod fish. Its earliest use can be traced back to the Viking era (around 700 – 100 AD), when it was an important part of the Norse diet during the cold winter months—prime fishing season—as they were able to have access to plenty of fresh, high-quality fish. Cod liver oil was considered highly valuable for its healing characteristics, as well as for giving increased strength and energy.

Not only was the oil consumed, but it was also rubbed on sore joints and muscles to provide some relief. It was claimed to cure gout and rickets, among other illnesses. By the time the mid 1700s rolled around, it was also used in lamp oil, soap, paint, and leather tanning.

Cod liver oil consumption reached its height in the first half of the 20th century all over the world. Around this same time, a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin revealed that fat-soluble vitamins A and D were two essential nutrients present in cod liver oil, and primarily contributed to its multi-faceted efficacy.

Though the widespread use of cod liver oil declined after the 1960s, not everyone gave up on its important use. In fact, many doctors still recommend it as a general supplement for both adults and children.

Reasons for supplementing with cod liver oil today include:

  1. It is high in the essential Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which in addition to their anti-inflammatory properties are important for brain and nervous system function.
  2. It is an outstanding source for vitamins A and D. Vitamin A promotes a healthy immune system and strong vision; vitamin D is critical for proper absorption of calcium and also boosts the immune system.
  3. The combination of the vitamins and fatty acids have also shown benefits such as lowering high cholesterol and high triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease, preventing diabetes, treating depression, healing skin lesions, alleviating allergies and asthma, alleviating arthritis, and preventing osteoporosis.

The Weston A. Price Foundation (nonprofit, tax-exempt, nutrition education foundation) suggests the following dosage:

  • Children age 3 months to 12 years: A dose of cod liver oil that provides about 5000 IU vitamin A daily, obtained from about 1 teaspoon of regular cod liver oil or ½ teaspoon of high-vitamin cod liver oil.
  • Children over 12 years and adults: A maintenance dose of cod liver oil that provides about 10,000 IU vitamin A daily, obtained from 2 teaspoons of regular cod liver oil or 1 teaspoon of high-vitamin cod liver oil.
  • Pregnant and nursing women: A dose of cod liver oil that provides about 20,000 IU vitamin A daily, obtained from 4 teaspoons regular cod liver oil or 2 teaspoons high-vitamin cod liver oil.

(Note: Pregnant women may wish to consult their health practitioner about taking cod liver oil during pregnancy.)

As with most supplements, all cod liver oil is not created equal. Much depends on how the oil has been processed. The traditional method of fermenting the oil (lacto-fermentation) is preferred over high-temperature processing because the former retains more nutrients and preserves the ideal 5:1 vitamin A to D ratio. Green Pasture is one trusted source that uses the old-fashioned fermentation method.

You’ll want to be sure to avoid brands that have been highly processed, deodorized, or bleached; these have had so much of the good stuff leached out that synthetic vitamins have to be added back in.

So, if cod liver oil is such a great supplement, why did it ever lose its widespread popularity? And how did it become the punchline for jokes about having to do something distasteful?

Well, that’s just it: the distasteful part. It can taste pretty bad. So much so, that it’s standard practice for a lot of users to just hold their nose and swallow!

Here are some other tricks for making the “medicine go down” (no, not a spoonful of sugar):

  • Try adding the dose of cod liver oil to some orange juice or lemon water, or even a smoothie, and drink up.
  • Taste different flavored oils, like cinnamon, mint, lemon – different brands offer different flavors. You could also try an emulsified oil, like TwinLabs Emulsified Mint.
  • Swallow your oil, then chase it with something with a gulp of water and a bite of something with a strong flavor, like sharp cheddar or almond butter.
  • Capsules are another option, and tend not to have the flavor issues. (Though some people have had trouble with fishy burps — so, you’ll have to experiment.)

In general, cod liver oil is safe for most people, but because it can act as a blood thinner, people taking certain medications (high blood pressure, anticoagulants) should ask your physician before starting a regimen. And of course, if you experience any side effects, you should also consult your doctor.

Do you take cod liver oil? Do you notice a difference in your health when you take it? And how do you get it down?

Disclaimer: Although all Keeper of the Home contributors are passionate about nutrition, natural living, and alternative health issues, we are not certified nutritionists, medical doctors, or practitioners of any kind. We are not licensed to counsel anyone in medical matters, nor may we be held responsible for any course of action that you choose in regards to your own health or that of your family. Please remember that what we are sharing is the result of our own experiences and years of study, but may not necessarily be the right course of action for you. We are advocates of becoming informed, knowledgeable, and responsible for one’s own health, but our desire is not to be an authority on any matters of health for you, nor would we presume to have sufficient knowledge to do so. Our hope is that what we share may encourage you and start you on the road to doing your own research and seeking the opinions of professionals or others that you trust.
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Nothing fishy about taking cod liver oil

DOES IT WORK?:Recent studies have found omega-3 fatty acids yield consistent health benefits

COD LIVER OIL is a well-known dietary supplement and one that many may remember from their childhood. Many were raised on spoonfuls of the oil that could taste and smell anything from mildly fishy to downright disgusting.

Today, the oil is more usually taken within gelatin capsules, though some can be so big they are a challenge to swallow. Hence the question that was put to me: is it really worth taking cod liver oil just because someone in the family believes in it?

Cod liver oil is one of several oils made from fish. Fish oil is extracted from the whole body of cooked oily fish, such as mackerel, herring, sardines and salmon. The rest of the fish is used to make fish meal.

The livers of cod are removed, cooked by steaming and then the oil extracted by pressing. Cod liver oil and fish oils contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, but cod liver oil also contains significant amounts of vitamins A and D.

Evidence from studies

Fish oils came to prominence in the 1970s when studies reported that Inuit Eskimos had a lower risk of heart disease and much higher fish consumption. More recent studies have examined data from 36 countries and found significant associations between fish intake and lower risk of death from heart disease.

Randomised, controlled trials were then conducted with people taking cod liver oil or fish oil compared with those taking placebos or plant oils. Several controlled studies reveal a consistent pattern of fish oils reducing the risk of heart attack and other forms of cardiovascular disease. Curiously, omega-3 fatty acids from plants (such as flaxseed and walnuts) do not have the same protective effects against heart disease, although they have other benefits.

Cod liver oil for arthritis also has a long history. An article from the London Medical Journal in 1783 described patients with long-standing arthritis pain finding relief from several tablespoonfuls of cod liver oil per day. At that time, the relief was believed to be due to people “oiling their joints”. Recent research has demonstrated more plausible mechanisms by which the oil benefits arthritic joints.

The omega-3 fatty acids are required by our bodies to make several biochemicals involved in inflammation. Without these existing in proper proportions, inflammatory diseases like arthritis can develop.

Early clinical studies of cod liver oil produced inconsistent results in arthritis patients. More recent studies revealed consistent benefits with morning stiffness, joint pain and grip strength.

Very recently, cod liver oil has been recommended to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. This connection probably developed because omega-3 fatty acids make up about one third of the fats found in the brain’s grey matter. Very little research has been conducted in this area, but a few studies have found no beneficial effects from cod liver oil for patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.

Problematic aspects

The most common adverse effects of cod liver oil are gastro-intestinal, especially when more than one tablespoonful of oil (3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids) is taken daily. These effects include fishy breath odour, belching, nausea and vomiting.

Some concerns have been expressed about cod liver oil containing excessive amounts of vitamins A and D. One tablespoonful of cod liver oil provides about 12,000 IU vitamin A and 1,200 IU vitamin D. This is a little more than what is usually recommended in daily allowances, but well within safe ranges. Problems are unlikely to arise unless several tablespoonfuls were taken daily for extended periods. Anyone with concerns, or taking other vitamins, should consult a GP or pharmacist.


Our bodies require different types of fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are found mostly in vegetable oils, and Western diets now tend to include 20 to 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 ones. A more balanced intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is needed, which is why many dietary recommendations now include a couple of portions of oily fish. While we may not want to return to the days of tablespoonfuls of terrible-tasting cod liver oil, many could benefit from a capsule a day or a couple of portions per week of omega-3-rich fish.

Dónal OMathúna has a PhD in pharmacy, researching herbal remedies, and an MA in bioethics, and is a senior lecturer in the School of Nursing, Dublin City University. He authored ‘Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook’, Updated and Expanded Edition, Zondervan, 2007

If you would like a product reviewed e-mail [email protected]

My family takes cod liver oil daily, as a sort of insurance policy (you can read more about why we take cod liver oil daily here as well as other whole food supplements we take). As my family has traveled the path of traditional foods, we’ve incorporated cod liver oil, bone broth and fermented foods into our daily routine, for our better health. It’s second nature now.

Cod liver oil is particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. These fragile fatty acids help to support general health in many ways, but seem to be particularly supportive of emotional well-being and mental health (read it here, here and here). As someone who has long suffered from bouts of deep and dark depression, I do everything in my power to keep myself healthy, because I’m terrified of sliding back. A healthy diet, and whole food supplements are part of that, and so is talk therapy.

We also take cod liver oil not only for its array of healthy fats, but also for its balance of vitamin A and vitamin D, which perform a wide variety of functions in the body.

Do you struggle taking cod liver oil?

When I write about the value of cod liver oil in my family’s diet, I inevitably find my inbox overwhelmed by the same question: how to take it. My family takes our cod liver oil straight off the spoon (it helps when you buy a quality oil that tastes good), but for many of you who wish to weave cod liver oil into your own family’s routines, it’s still a struggle. I’ve included some of my favorite tips below, and I hope you’ll share yours too.

Start with a Good-Tasting Cod Liver Oil

Food should taste good, and so should your cod liver oil. Remember, cod liver oil is a whole food, like olive oil or coconut oil, and it should taste pleasant like fish, but not overtly fishy. And for anyone who has tasted a rancid cod liver oil, you know just how nasty it can be: off-putting to the nose, particularly offensive on the palate. A bad cod liver oil will make you gag. And many of Nourished Kitchen’s older readers have developed a life-long aversion to cod liver oil (though it has many benefits) after having suffered through daily doses of less-than-fresh oils in their youth.

Watch Out for Rancidity in Your Oils

Like all oils, and fragile oils high in polyunsaturated fatty acids in particular, cod liver oil is prone to rancidity. Your nose and taste buds are your biggest assets in testing for rancidity in any oil, including cod liver oil. Rancid oils have a distinctive off-putting aroma and flavor, they smell potently strong and can, with time, develop a sticky, tacky or greasy quality or mouthfeel. Their aroma can smell faintly paint-like, strongly fishy or oddly sweet. Different manufacturing methods and storage methods can influence the flavor of cod liver oil, as well as influence its longevity.

If you suspect that bottle of cod liver oil lurking in the back of your cupboard has gone rancid, it’s best to pitch it as rancid oils don’t support optimal health due to the degradation of vitamins, the oxidation of their fragile fats and the potential development of toxic compounds. While consuming rancid oils in the short term isn’t likely to cause you any issues, their effects build with time and prolonged exposure (read more here).

The Cod Liver Oil I Give My Family

If you’re struggling to take cod liver oil (though you value its many benefits), start with a good-tasting cod liver oil and you might find that you and your children don’t struggle with taking it. I work with Corganic, and have been taking their Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil for some time. It’s pleasant, mild, fresh-tasting. It’s also minimally processed and sourced from sustainable fisheries. We take it straight off the spoon.

Try Swirling Cod Liver Oil into a Shot of Juice

If you’ve found a cod liver oil that you like, but you or your family members still struggle to take it, consider the old-fashioned, time-tested method used by many, many mothers and grandmothers: pour a bit of the cod liver oil (1/2 teaspoon for children, and a 1 teaspoon for adults), into a shot glass and top it with orange juice or something else that can stand up to the assertive flavor of cod liver oil. Mildly acidic drinks work well to balance the oil. Kombucha, orange juice and tart cherry juice do nicely. Drink it up, and you’re done.

Follow It with a Chaser

If it’s the aftertaste of cod liver oil that bothers you, simply follow your dose with a chaser, especially something bright, watery and cleansing to the palate. A slice of cucumber or orange, or a handful of fresh berries will usually cleanse the palate after you’ve taken your cod liver oil.

Apply Cod Liver Oil on the Skin

The skin is our largest organ, and absorbs what you put onto it. Just as you can apply magnesium oil to your skin topically, to boost magnesium levels, you can also take your cod liver oil topically. This method works particularly well with small children. Simply rub it into the skin on the belly or the bottom just as you would lotion

Since you’ve been gone, It’s like I got a great big mouthful of cod-liver oil. Weird Al Yankovic in Since You Are Gone. Of the various issues in life that seem to present themselves as a non-skill-testing question, few would seem to rank higher than: Do you like the taste of cod-liver oil?

The oily, fishy, smelly exudation of the liver of the Gadus morrhea — once crudely obtained by simply letting the oil float to the top of a barrel full of rotting fish flesh — has been known to induce a dry heave in the memory decades after the last swallow.

The disease it was meant to fight — rickets — has all but disappeared. But the greatest irony in the history of the rise and fall of cod-liver oil as every child’s daily yuck is its apparent re-emergence in a variety of areas as a health food.

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If you type the words “cod-liver oil” followed by “yuck” or “ugh” or “gag” or “disgusting” into an Internet search engine, hundreds of unsolicited testimonials to distaste and repulsion appear.

Type the words “I loved cod-liver oil” and nothing appears. Turn love to “liked” and a single reference appears followed by the apologetic coda — “although the mere thought of it now makes me gag.”

All of which raises the issue of how is it that generations of parents could indulge in a daily health rite in which they gave spoonfuls of a substance that children actively detested? How could loving parents have inflicted what was vividly described as early as 1849 as a “strong, disagreeable, half putrid” taste on their offspring?

One somewhat surprising answer may be that, while in the public mind the taste of cod-liver oil rates an 11 on a 10-point “ugh” scale, it is likely that the oil has never been quite as universally loathed as widely believed.

In the early 1940s, U.S. physiologist Carl Richter reported that when he sampled 1,000 children in the Baltimore, Md., area, he found almost all five-year-olds liked cod-liver oil. However, the disgust quotient rose with age and became the dominant feeling with teenagers.

This has recently been expanded upon in an unpublished study I conducted with 13 five-year-olds in a Toronto school. Each was given a five-figure “smiley face scale” — faces gradually moving from a big smile to a big frown.

Two kids really liked the oil. Two sort of liked it. Four were indifferent. Three disliked it and two really disliked it. Initial results of a follow-up study of 145 kids of various ages at an open house at the University of Guelph suggests that, while the younger kids may not entirely be enamoured of cod-liver oil, there is an age-related increase in cod-liver disgust.

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One problem with discerning this trend may have been that with the general hatred of cod-liver oil, those who like it have had to hide this queer taste from general view. At the Guelph, Ont., taste-testing, some parents confessed that they had not been cod-liver haters as children. “I used to take the capsule that my mother gave us to swallow and grind it up in my teeth so I could taste the cod-liver oil before swallowing,” said one father

And, there also are also people who discover later in life that they enjoy the taste of what for others is a daily yuck. David Miller, a photography teacher in Montreal, said he doesn’t remember being fed the oil as a child, but has grown to like it as an adult whenever he found it dripping off cod livers he bought.

Mr. Miller finds nothing strange about his tastes. “People eat cod and they eat liver and they eat oil. I just put it on bread.”

Another part of the cod-liver oil/disgust equation that is hard to comprehend today is the now nearly vanished disease for which it was the treatment of choice — rickets. This vitamin D deficiency can manifest itself in a softening of the bone, which can cause children to be bow-legged, knock-kneed, hunched-backed as well as have skull deformities.

While the body can produce its own vitamin D if regularly exposed to the sun, for a variety of reasons this wasn’t happening in many locales as recently as 50 years ago. Indeed, rickets was so epidemic that it was recorded to be afflicting up to 75 per cent of infants in New York City in the 1920s. Thus, the vitamin D-rich cod-liver oil — however disgusting it tasted — was seen as a necessary evil to keep children from being deformed.

However, starting in the 1950s many foods — notably milk and cereal — were fortified with vitamin D and as their use became widespread the need for special anti-rickets supplements, such as cod-liver oil, all but disappeared in Canada. A 1996 paper analyzing the incident of rickets in Toronto in the early 1990s found that about three cases a year turned up at the Hospital for Sick Children, and most of them were children of recent immigrants from Asia and Africa.

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While the necessity of consuming cod-liver oil as a protection against rickets has disappeared for most people in Canada, questions remain about what the daily dosage of an often disgusting substance had on people’s subsequent eating and psychological health.

The simple answer is that we aren’t sure.

It is generally argued that trying to dilute its noxious taste with a good tasting substances — orange juice for instance — in many cases attuned many people to learn to associate both foods as a yuck.

Bennet Galef, a McMaster University psychologist, described his experience of having a sulfa drug mixed with grape juice as a child. “I have not been able to drink grape juice for 30 years afterwards,” he said.

But nobody is certain if the daily dosage of a terrible-tasting substance perverted the relationship of mother and child.

It is a reasonable hypothesis, but “I don’t know of any research which demonstrates that forcing a child to take medicine or food they don’t like affects their relationship with their parents,” said Patty Pliner, a psychologist at the University of Toronto.

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And Prof. Galef points out that, in animal experiments, dogs have positive associations with people who cause them pain, because what is important in the animal’s mind is that these are also the people who can stop the pain.

In terms of cod-liver oil, what also may be a protective psychological fact is that, during the time of its most routine administration, there was a more general belief among children that their parents were doing what was best for them.

“My parents told me what to do and I did it, things like put coal tar in my hair every week,” Prof. Galef said. “I don’t think any parent would ask their kids to do something like this today.”

In recent years, fish oils of all kinds, cod-liver among them, have been associated with:

Better concentration, academic progress, manual dexterity and a reduced anxiety and hyperactivity in school children;

Diminution in the pain of arthritis;

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Reduction in the risk of heart attacks;

Lessoning in the symptoms of manic-depressives;

A potential reduction in the risk of breast cancer;

Protection against childhood diabetes. However, at the same time that the flag of fish oils have been going up one health mast, they have been pulled down another. The problem is that they are not just rich in vitamins, they might be overrich.

Thus they also have been associated with:

Toxic doses of vitamins A and D;

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Suppression of the immune system;

Overfeeding, as some recommended dosages can contain 200 calories.

Not to mention a report out of Britain in 1999 that said pesticide residues were found in a variety of cod-liver oil products. That was probably enough, taste and smell aside, to make many people who had been forced to take cod-liver oil to gag anew.

Finally, the great ugh taste of cod-liver oil — whatever its ancillary nutritional benefits — has become in the age of I-Dare-You-Television an entertainment staple. Drinking gobs of it has become a standard feature in tests designed to see what people won’t do for money. It establishes a kind of monetary yuck standard for cod-liver oil. In 2000, the program I Bet You Will found that people would drink a glass for $50.

Some peppermint with your cod liver?

Mary Poppins may well have had cod-liver oil in mind when she sang of the virtues of a spoonful of sugar helping the medicine go down.

Before cod-liver oil was put into capsule, there were a variety of ways in which people tried to stifle the gag.

An 1849 book advised the following:

Pinch your nose while taking it.

Wash your mouth out with black coffee.

Take a swallow of strong brandy or a glass of wine.

Drink lemon juice, peppermint water or powdered sugar.

Eat a dry biscuit.

Mix it with a tincture of cinnamon, peppermint or aniseed.

Failing that, some took it in the form of a suppository.

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