This image is one of the earliest used to promote the use of cod liver oil. It appeared around 1884. But imagine this – cod liver oil was first recorded by Hippocrates for medicinal use in Ancient Greece around 400 BC. This health giving and revered fish liver oil was used by ancestral cultures like Eskimos and South Seas Islanders for helping achieve fertility and producing strong children.
Doctors prescribed cod liver oil to treat rickets, a vitamin D deficiency disease, starting about 1800, perhaps even earlier. A couple of decades later, the practice of using cod liver oil to prevent and treat rickets was widespread in Germany, Holland and the Netherlands. And in 1848, British physician Dr. John Hughes Bennett noted that cod liver oil had been utilized since the beginning of recorded history by the fishing communities of Scotland, Sweden, and Norway for its strengthening properties as well as for medicine.
The anti-infective nature of cod liver oil due to the natural fat soluble vitamin A and D content made it an indispensable remedy for illnesses like tuberculosis, measles, and diseases of the eyes before antibiotics were discovered.
In 1922, the US imported about 1.8 million gallons of cod oil used for tanning and cod liver oil used as a supplement. By 1927, the amount nearly tripled to 5 million gallons with most of the increase in edible cod liver oil due to research showing its benefits in preventing rickets.
A little over 70 years later, America imported less than a half a million gallons in the year 2000, a steep and shocking decline in use no doubt sadly due to the rapid transition and reliance of the medical profession on synthetic vitamins, antibiotics and other pharmaceutical drugs to prevent and treat disease symptoms.
Thankfully, cod liver oil has been enjoying a significant resurgence in popularity as interest in natural remedies and whole food supplements for maintaining health and wellness grows. The worrisome problem of antibiotic resistance and the growing body of evidence that antibiotics can do significant harm and perhaps even irreparable damage to the gut has motivated the boon for not only cod liver oil but other omega-3 fatty acids.