How Does Your Cod Liver Oil Stack Up?

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist January 24, 2011
HEMESSEN, Jan Sanders van, Tobias, Restoring his Father's Sight

Tobias Restoring His Father’s Sight

Consideration of Ancient Wisdom in the maintenance of robust health is more important than ever today with Media Medicine seemingly dominating the wellness conversation at every turn.

Traditional cultures relied on a strong immune system rather than the crutch of antibiotics and other drugs to survive infections and epidemics.   Passing this knowledge on from generation to generation was of critical importance.

With so much of this wisdom having been lost since the Industrial Revolution, it is always exciting to me when a snippet of truth is rediscovered in ancient texts and other writings.

One such text recently brought to my attention which contains such medicinal wisdom is The Book of Tobias, also known as the Book of Tobit.

While not included in the shorter Hebrew Canon, The Book of Tobias is considered canonical by the Catholic, Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches.   It is also included in The Apocrypha which comprises extra texts not part of the Old Testament canon but recognized of value by many Protestant faiths.  Fragments of this text were recently discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls in both Hebrew and Aramaic which has given the book additional credibility and attention.

Ancient Medicines Derived From Fish

In this book, the virtuous young Tobias is assisted by the Archangel Raphael in bringing relief from suffering and happiness to Tobit, his blind Father as well as the tormented widow, Sara.

Tobias restores his Father’s sight using medicines from the entrails of fish, including the heart, gall, and liver.

“Then the angel said to him: Take out the entrails of the fish, and lay up his heart, and his gall, and his liver for thee; for these are necessary for useful medicines.”  (Book of Tobias, Chapter 6)

This text is the earliest known reference to the use of fish innards as healing and sacred remedies.    The traditional use of fish liver oils throughout history since that time harkens back to the wisdom of this ancient text.

Of course, the fish liver oils used were not of an industrialized nature, meaning the oil was extracted quickly via use of high heat (400F).    Rather, traditional practice in Roman and Viking times was to reserve the livers and let them ferment for a period of months until the oils were rendered naturally thereby preserving all delicate nutritional cofactors and healing elements.

Beginning about 1850, this very slow, 6 month process of rendering fish liver oils which preserved all the nutrition began to gradually be abandoned in favor of high heat processing which rendered the oils in only a day.   By 1920-1940 or so, all cod liver oil on the market was basically being rendered in a modern fashion.

A resurgence of interest in the traditional manufacture of fish liver oil occurred after the turn of the millennium with the advent of Green Pasture Products’ fermented cod liver and skate liver oils.   Hopefully, other companies will follow suit and abandon the modern method of processing fish oils.

How to Identify A Good Quality Fish or Cod Liver Oil

It is important to remember that fish oil or fish liver oil that is:

Clear + Colorless + Odorless + Flavorless is also Nutritionless as this indicates an industrialized manner of processing.

Fish liver oil should taste fishy – not rancid – but fishy.  If it doesn’t, there is limited to no nutritional value.

The vast majority of fish and cod liver oils on the market today are processed by a handful of refiners.   While the packaging and marketing varies from company to company, the fish oils are all basically the same – nutritionless and potentially even of negative health benefit due to the high temperature processing.

Could it be that the huge focus on the omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, in fish and fish liver oils on the market today is because that is all that is left after the violent, industrialized processing?     Fish oils processed in the traditional manner which takes months rather than hours have much much more to offer beyond omega 3 fats.    Natural vitamins A, D, E, and K are all present at significant levels to heal, strengthen, and provide a firm foundation for the immune system.  Moreover, vitamin D has over 3000 derivatives many of which are found in traditionally manufactured fish liver oils.  Only the main vitamin D derivative is present in the industrialized fish liver oils and it is typically in synthetic form added after processing because the high heat used to render the oils destroys all the natural vitamin D!

While we can learn and wonder about ancient remedies via early writings such as the Book of Tobias, it is equally important that the manufacturing of the remedy itself be in line with traditional production methods.   Nowhere is this example more evident than a comparison between the rendering of fish oils by the Vikings and Romans as compared with modern day, industrialized cod liver and fish oils.

To be considered a truly traditional and sacred remedy, both the remedy itself and the method of producing it must follow traditional principles.

How does your cod liver oil stack up?

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Source:

The History of Cod Liver Oil, David Wetzel, owner – Green Pasture Products

Five Fats You Must Have in your Kitchen

Picture Credit

 

Comments (52)

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  2. Hi Sarah Iwould like to ask you about taking FCLO BUTTER OIL BLEND and thinking of using skate liver oil. Do you suggest to take both of them? What is the main benefits of skate liver oil? Do we need to take skate liver oil since we eat salmon 2 a week?

    Thanks a lot

    Reply
  3. I would love to be able to buy some of the Green Pastures products, but is it REALLY worth the cost? I just have a hard time spending that much money on anything. We live paycheck-to-paycheck and just because something is healthy and good for me doesn’t mean that I can afford it…

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist February 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm

      I personally feel that the Green Pastures fermented cod liver oil is not something to be skipped. I would turn off cable and/or go to one car to afford it if I had to and I am serious about this. I feel that strongly about it.

      The only way someone could possibly get by without it is if he/she ate lots of liver – like 2-3 times per week. I know of hardly anyone that does this, however, including me. I do go on liver binges from time to time .. eating it everyday for a week as I use up a batch of pate, but usually I don’t eat it that often so the fermented cod liver oil fills in the slack.

      Reply
  4. Are Green Pasture’s capsules as good as the oil? Right now we use Vital Choice’s Salmon Oil capsules. Not sure I can get my family to take the straight oil, flavored or not! We also eat a lot of fish, like 4 X’s a week.

    Reply
  5. Sarah, did you have any problems transitioning your family from the “High-Vitamin” CLO to the fermented kind? We’ve been taking the liquid High-Vitamin type since 2005, and we all like the flavor. While pregnant in 2009, I bought one bottle of mint-flavored fermented CLO and found it to be absolutely abhorrent (my slight nausea due to morning sickness probably didn’t help either). I still have it in the fridge and have managed to give it to my infant a few times, but he much prefers the unfermented type (and luckily I still have a few more bottles since I stockpiled it when I found out it was going away). I’m figuring that my husband and I will switch to capsules when it comes time to move to the fermented CLO, but I am most concerned about the kids (my oldest will be 4 in March and cannot take pills yet, and of course the baby needs liquid as well). Any thoughts or suggestions?
    Sarah Smith\’s last post: Apple Snap Granola GAPS-friendly- gluten- and grain-free

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  6. I want to try the fclo but I’m concerned about mercury which is why I take the highly filtered oils that promise no mercury. Would the red (salmon) caviar be an OK alternative? The Russian food store I frequent has fresh red caviar without nasty additives.

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist January 26, 2011 at 1:59 pm

      Hi Ashley, caviar is a wonderful sacred food! If you have the luxury of having a local source without additives, then definitely make use of it. Note that the Green Pasture Products fermented cod liver oil has no mercury in it. The reason companies make such a big marketing hoo ha about “molecular distillation” is because it extends shelf life for their rancid fish and cod liver oils that have been highly processed and basically destroyed. It is not for removing mercury because there is none in the oils of fish .. mercury is stored in the tissues of the fish and so would be an issue for eating fish fillets and such, NOT for the oils.
      In the end, it’s all about shelf life and profits, not really about any mercury at all.

      Reply
    • Hi Ashleyroz,

      how do you know their caviar doesn’t have any additives? Do they sell it in packages or from bulk bins? Where are you located by the way? If they do sell caviar with no additives, I would love to check out that store.
      Thank you,
      Olga

      Reply
  7. Hi Sarah,
    thank you for posting this very informative article. I have a little bit off topic question. I know that Sally Fallon recommends caviar for pregnancy and babies. I buy red caviar but it has additives like sodium malate, sorbitol and salt (not sea salt but regular salt). Can I give this caviar to my 15 months old baby girl? I gave her a little bit to try and she absolutely loved it. Actually she was screaming for more and more. Do you know of any brand of caviar with minimum amount of additives?
    Thank you very much in advance,
    Olga

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Olga, I would source fresh caviar at a place like Fresh Market or a fish monger. Those additives in the caviar at the supermarket are kind of nasty, so I would try finding an alternative, additive free source especially if your toddler has developed a taste for it! When you find it in season, then you can buy extra and freeze it yourself for off season use. :)
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist\’s last post: Fish Livers in Ancient Medicine- How Does Your Cod Liver Oil Stack Up

      Reply
      • Thank you Sarah. I’ll try to find Fresh fish market that sells it. Right now I am buying it from a russian store, but don’t trust them anymore since I’ve seen all these additives on one of the recent packages of caviar I bought from them. Ugh, it is so time consuming to be an educated consumer. You have to have an eye of a hawk. Thank you again for informing all of us of your findings.
        Olga

        Reply
  8. I just found your website this evening and I am in the process of getting the bad products out of my house. I must say your website is awesome and I look forward from learning a lot from you and others. I have a question for you and was unable to find your email address. I just read your article on adrenal glands. Do you think they have an impact on migraine headaches or could you direct to me to more information on that topic?

    Reply
  9. i still get confused on whether to take additional fish oil (eg salmon oil) which is higher in the omega 3′s in addition to the cod liver oil. i’ve read arguments on both sides within the weston price movement. what are your thoughts?
    susan v.

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Definitely not Susan. The cod liver oil gives you plenty of omega 3′s. Taking an additional fish oil supplement is a risk for overconsumption of omega 3′s which is just as bad as getting too few. What’s more, ALL fish oil supplements on the market are highly processed and should be avoided.

      Reply
  10. I finally started taking the FCLO a few months ago after months of reading you, Cheeseslave, and Kelly the Kitchen Kop posting about it so frequently. I’ll admit that I didn’t notice any real difference, except that between the FCLO and the raw milk (and the occasional pastured lard) I haven’t had any issues with seasonal affective disorder this year.

    About 3 weeks ago, I plunged down the extra money for the FCLO/BO combo capsules. 2 weeks later I got my first natural period in two years (and that time was only because I was drinking the equivalent of 4 strong cups of spearmint tea every day- I have PCOS), the second in over 5 years. It wasn’t a normal period, but for the first time in ages I didn’t have to take pills (er, pharmaceuticals) to bring it on.

    Maybe it’s a coincidence- maybe the months of high fat, lower grains, almost eliminated processed foods finally caught up to me. But two weeks after switching to the FCLO with butter oil? Seems a bit of a stretch to call it coincidence.

    That said, I tried to pick up more capsules last weekend and they were sold out (my local store sells the capsules for $35 per bottle and $40 for the gel) so I bought a bottle of the gel. It tastes EXACTLY like fish cooked in butter. Unfortunately, I hate fish. :-D The feel of swallowing the gel is rather traumatizing too, so I’m sure that I’ll be switching back to capsules as soon as I finish this bottle- but the whole thing really isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
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  11. As a art history major I loved reading this post and remember clearly learning about this iconographic image.

    I also take Green Pasture’s fermented CLO, however, I can only get my kids to take the orange capsules, which I know is better that nothing, but liquid would be much easier. Any Suggestions?

    Reply
  12. Hi Sarah,
    love your info! I have been considering getting started on the Cod Liver Oil. I have been taking Juice Plus since May ’09 and am wondering what your take on this product is, am I wasting my money? Would I be better of investing in good quality food ad perhaps the cod liver oil? I have struggled with my health & weight for years and I am working on getting healthy. I have learned so much from your site and appreciate your imput on this matter. Also, what is your take on all the other vitamins?
    Thanks!
    Linda

    Reply
      • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
        Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist January 27, 2011 at 5:13 pm

        Hi Linda, I would have to take a look at juice plus, but I have to say that I am very skeptical of 99% of supplements and consider them a waste of money. By and large, they do not make up for deficiencies in the diet. Only food can nourish and Green Pasture Products fermented cod liver oil qualifies as food more than a supplement, technically speaking.

        Reply
    • I don’t know the specifics righ know, but my mother in law has taken juice plus for years and has just been to the doctor with kidney or liver stones. She had some bad enzyme level and they told her to go off the juice plus. In days her enzyme levels were coming down. Apparently there are a bunch of cases of this and they are attributing it to the capsule that the supplement comes in.

      Reply
  13. I was wondering, we are not in a position financially to be buying the green pastures version of fermented cod liver oil. In this situation, should we still get the mass processed stuff, or is that a waste of money and we should leave it out?

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist January 25, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      Hi Brittany, just my opinion here, but if Green Pasture Products is not in the budget, just eat liver and skip the highly processed fish liver oils in the healthfood store and elsewhere which I think do more harm than good. Liver pate is the most palatable way to eat it .. a yummy sandwich spread or a dip for crackers.
      I have a video on how to make chicken liver pate .. chicken livers are VERY affordable:
      http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/2010/10/video-chicken-liver-pate/

      Reply
  14. Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama January 25, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Yup, we love ours! I have Cinnamon Tingle FCLO/BO and my kids take the Chocolate Cream. They BEG for “special chocolate” everyday. They have slight colds right now but it is hardly bothering them (and last night I used a combination of raw honey and essential oils before bed and they did NOT cough all night, and breathed freely). Take THAT, modern medicine!

    Reply
  15. We just got our first bottle of green pastures FCLO at your suggestion. On the bottle, 2 ml is the suggested dose. I think I remember you recommending more? What would you recommend for a 7 yr. old?

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist January 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm

      Hi Chanelle, I give my kids 5 ml per day (1 tsp). This seems to be the dose where their immune system is best supported, i.e., they rarely if ever get sick and when they do, it is for hours rather than days.

      Reply
  16. I’ve only recently discovered your blog. Since then, I keep forwarding the articles (and some from your archives) to others and also posting them on the yahoo support group I started for our WAPF chapter here in southern middle TN. Keep ‘em coming! This is GREAT stuff!

    –Nancy Webster

    Reply
  17. Pavil, The Uber Noob January 25, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Shalom, Everyone.
    I prefer the Cinnamon Tingle, too, for the FCLO/Butter Oil blend. My wife gets the capsules.

    I am always delighted to see snippets of health & food practices from recorded antiquity.
    It was earlier this year, we had a reading from daily mass recounting the story of Abraham presenting curds as part of a meal to his distinguished guests. When I heard this, I thought: “Ah, curds, I know what that is!”.

    Thanks for the posting, Sarah.
    Ciao,
    Pavil

    Reply
  18. I’ve been taking a brand of cod liver oil by a company called Naturally Preferred as i can buy it for $5 at Krogers, but I suspect that its not very high quality so should I get something else?
    Also if you buy a lot of bottles of fish oil for storage purposes how long do they keep?

    I like to think our ancestors weren’t completely helpless when it came to treating and preventing disease though “modern” medicine likes to make it out as if they didn’t know anything. If they didn’t know anything than why are we here today? There have been many cultures where people lived well into old age without any “modern” medicine.

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Hi Kelli, traditionally fermented fish liver oils like what Green Pasture Products produces do not need refrigeration and test for no rancidity even after 18 months of storage at room temperature. After all, they have never been heated and the fermentation preserves the oil beautifully. Ancient cultures did not have refrigeration which is why, I think, these old methods of extraction were devised over time as they were so effective in preserving the oil.

      Reply
  19. Sarah,

    You mention that Tobit says the Liver, Heart, and Gallbladder are for useful medicines, but you didn’t complete the story. Tobit burned the liver and heart to drive the demon away that tormented Sarah, and used the gallbladder to heal his father. (See Tobit 6:7-8.)

    “And he [Raphael] said unto him [Tobit], Touching the heart and the liver, if a devil or an evil spirit trouble any, we must make a smoke thereof before the man or the woman, and the party shall be no more vexed.” (Tobit 6:7; cf. Acts 19:13-17)

    That said, I don’t dispute the healthfulness of organ meats or cod liver oil.

    The Dead Sea Scrolls confirm the age of Tobit, but do nothing to establish credibility for it. I know of no citations by Jesus, and he quoted from the Old Testament frequently. Tobit is an old book, certainly, but I am very skeptical about it. For example, compare Tobit 12:8-9 with John 14:6.

    Be careful what you endorse, Sarah. Tobit doesn’t mention fish oil, just odd usage of organ meats.

    – Robert

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist January 25, 2011 at 10:50 am

      Hi Robert, I never said that Tobit mentioned the liver oils. I only said that this was the earliest known reference to the use of fish livers as medicine which is completely true. I then discussed how the Romans and Vikings extracted the oil by fermenting the livers for up to 6 months.

      You are taking what I wrote and adding your own suppositions that are not there and were not intended.

      Reply
    • I don’t want to get into biblical debate, but Christ often says in his healing literature … “Which is it better for me to say … ‘rise and walk or your sins are forgiven you?’” There is a relationship between sin and health. We were created to experience life, not death. It wasn’t until sin came into the world that death became a part of our reality. It seems to me that the liver and heart have been elevated above the gall in this passage because they were used directly in regard to evil.

      ~ Lynn

      Reply
  20. Sarah, thanks for the post! I have been taking Green Pastures fermented cod liver oil for a number of years now – I know that my robust health and energy is resultant, in part, from my continued use of Dave’s products. And I appreciate your clarifying the difference between fishy and rancid. It helps to know that they are not synonymous! Cool and thoughtful information as usual my friend!

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist January 25, 2011 at 9:33 am

      Hi Annette .. yes, the fishy vs rancid distinction is important for folks to note. Salmon tastes fishy, but it would taste rancid if you left a cooked fillet in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks and then took a bite. BIG difference! :)

      Reply
  21. We take Professional Formula lemon flavored Cod liver oil and have had great success with it. We’ve been on it for about a year and all of our digestion has been better and we’ve not been sick in almost a year! I buy it at my Naturopath’s office and was looking for a different one (for my convenience so as not to drive 20 min) but haven’t found anything comparable? Any recommendations on brands to use? I’ve been following you for a little while now and enjoy your blog immensely.

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist January 25, 2011 at 8:56 am

      Maria, I would definitely recommend Green Pasture Products. It’s the one my family and I have taken for almost 10 years. You have to mail order it, so you won’t have to drive anywhere either. I order once or twice a year and stock up to get bulk savings.

      Reply

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