The Cod Liver Oil Song

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

Cod liver oil served a very important purpose in the diet of the early settlers of Newfoundland.   In the age before antibiotics, taking one’s daily dose of cod liver oil could mean the difference between life and death if one came down with the flu during Newfoundland’s frigid, windy and sometimes unrelenting winters.

Cod liver oil was traditionally manufactured via curing in the sun which gently fermented the oil over time. The naturally rendered oil was served raw in bottles.

Raw cod liver oil was so important to this rugged, independent culture that popular folk song writer Johnny Burke of St. John’s, Newfoundland wrote a song about it in the 1800’s.  The song proved so enduring that it is considered a Newfoundland traditional folk song.

Below are the lyrics to this fun little tune along with a video of the Canadian folk rock band Great Big Sea performing it (from their album The Hard and the Easy).

If you love your raw, fermented cod liver oil, then feel free to sing along!  You will be laughing by the end I feel quite sure!

Cod Liver Oil Song (Lyrics)

I’m a young married man and I’m tired of life
Ten years I’ve been wed to a pale sickly wife,
She’s nothing to do only sit there and cry
Praying and praying to God she would die.
A friend of my own came to see me one day
He told me my wife she was pining away
He afterwards told me that she would get strong
If I get a bottle from dear Dr John.

Oh doctor, oh doctor, oh dear Dr John
Your cod liver oil is so pure and so strong
I’m afraid of my life, I’ll go down in the soil
If me wife don’t stop drinking your cod liver oil.

I bought her a bottle, well just for to try
And the way that she drank it you’d think she might die
I bought her another, it vanished the same
And then she got cod liver oil on the brain.
I bought her another, she drank it no doubt,
And then she began to get terrible stout,
And when she got stout well of course she got strong
And I became jealous of dear Dr John.

Oh doctor, oh doctor, oh dear Dr John
Your cod liver oil is so pure and so strong
I’m afraid of my life, I’ll go down in the soil
If me wife don’t stop drinking your cod liver oil.

Me house it resembles a great doctor’s shop
Its covered in bottles from bottom to top
Well early the morning the kettle does boil
You would swear it was singing of cod liver oil.

Oh doctor, oh doctor, oh dear Dr John
Your cod liver oil is so pure and so strong
I’m afraid of my life, I’ll go down in the soil
If me wife don’t stop drinking
Oh doctor, oh doctor, oh dear Dr John
Your cod liver oil is so pure and so strong
I’m afraid of my life, I’ll go down in the soil
If me wife don’t stop drinking your cod liver oil.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Picture Credit


Comments (39)

  1. I was taking my cod liver oil and butter oil with breakfast, but read somewhere to take it 45 minutes before I eat or 2 hours after I eat. Why would this make a difference? It all goes to the same stomach.

  2. Thank you for everything! I’m in the baby steps phase of changing over to a traditional diet. I love your blog and vlogs and I just wanted to say thank you! I look forward to finding your news letter in my inbox and check every day like a kid waiting to see if santa has come!

  3. I love Great Big Sea – a great Canadian band. Thanks for the Canadian connection here!
    Love your blog and all the great information you share. Thank you for your generosity of spirit in sharing so much.

  4. @Bryan We have an n=5 situation in our home, but since we’ve been taking the raw, fermented cod liver oil similar to what the Newfoundlanders revered, we’ve needed no antibiotics whatsoever for chest infections. This has been many years now with 3 kids in school getting exposed to all sorts of germs. Like you, I’m not willing to stop taking it to find out if its the FCLO but I feel pretty sure it is given its historical importance to wellness prior to the widespread use of penicillin around 1940.

  5. That’s great!
    Since I’ve been taking a teaspoon of traditionally fermented cod liver oil every day, I’ve had no respiratory illness for almost three years now. I used to get 3 or 4 colds every year all my life. That dropped to 1 or 2 with high vitamin cod liver oil for a couple of years, but none in almost three years with FCLO is quite amazing for me. And I just turned 60 not long ago. I know this is n=1, but I’m not going to quit to find out if it’s the FCLO :)

      • Hi Sarah,

        Like the sickly wife in the song I just started taking cod liver oil (actually butter oil/FCLO blend) for the very first time this week. I think I’ve swallowed my fourth teaspoonful today. What changes should I look for aside from gaining control of my gag reflex as that “delectable” wad goes down my throat?

        Loving your blog as always!

        • Everyone is different. More energy is frequently reported as is a decrease in eczema perhaps if that is a problem. Certainly higher immunity in cold and flu season and if you do get sick, you get well under your own power with no need for the doc or meds.

          This is very important in this economy when many are going w/o health insurance! People say they can’t afford FCLO, well I say you can’t afford NOT to take it else you will be paying way more at the doctor and for prescriptions.

          • Thanks for your reply. This is all new to me. I very much appreciate learning about coconut oil and home-made broths and stocks from this website. My chicken bone broth gelled yesterday, hurrah.

            I’m taking the FCLO b/c the nice military doctor told me I’m vitamin D deficient. He was ready to prescribe these nasty looking emerald green pills to megadose the levels back into normalcy. When I asked HIM about fish oil he said he, his wife, and his children use it. Whatever. He was a nice man…… anyway, no pills for me, please.

            I didn’t expect any immediate results but will post them here should I notice anything. I don’t have eczema but catch every bug my four year old brings home from preschool.

            Since there is such a bewildering array of fish oils on the health food store shelves I ordered some from the ladies at the local WAPF chapter. I must comment here that these middle aged WAPF ladies have young looking skin and shiny hair.

            Thanks again for your reply, Sarah Beth

  6. I came across an article by Krispin Sullivan on WAPF that says you need to have sufficient amounts of calcium when taking CLO. It specifically says “Without calcium and magnesium in sufficient quantities, vitamin-D supplementation will withdraw calcium from the bone and will allow the uptake of toxic minerals.” I’m a little concerned about giving my 2 youngest kids (1 YO & 3 YO) the CLO now b/c they don’t do dairy nor even raw dairy. Their eczema flairs up even with cultured products so we’ve sadly had to eliminate it. I’m just worried now that the CLO will harm rather than help. I’ve even tried giving them lacto-fermented veggies but even that small amount of dairy from the whey makes them both break out in rashes. I’ve read a little about dolomite powder so wondering if that is recommended under these circumstances or better yet if there are specific foods you could recommend that are strong sources of calcium. I’d much rather supplement with food if it’s doable. I do steamed broccoli almost daily and of course the homemade almond milk but I’m guessing that’s not going to cut it for the calcium intake. I’m also going to an osteopathic/MD doctor (thank goodness I found one that takes my insurance) in January that practices healing the gut among other natural things and am hoping beyond all this we’ll get to the route of the problem and eventually get them back on dairy. Anyway, in hte mean time I’d greatly appreciate any thoughts b/c I’d really love to feel comfortable continuing the CLO. Thank you!

    • No worries, many traditional cultures didn’t do dairy .. just make sure you have plenty of bone broths in the diet used as a base for homemade soups and sauces or even to sip alone as a bone broth tea and you will have sufficient calcium and other minerals no problem.

      • You don’t need to use Whey when fermenting cabbage for sauerkraut. I never use whey with cabbage since I prefer the texture and flavor with just salt. The recipe is in the Nourish Traditions book, just use the recipe for no whey. Perfect. I have found that the beets or carrots need whey, but not the cabbage. My sister ferments many, many veggies without the use of whey.

      • Sarah,
        What about the recent blog (Oct 8) written by a guest writer about the difference between meat stock and bone broth? Is there a concern with recommending folks use bone broth without the caveat that they aren’t suffering from leaky gut, etc.? She said bone broth is not indicated for some while it sounded like meat stock would be good for all. Since reading that, and not knowing for sure about our family’s gut health, we’ve avoided bone broths and just used meat stock. Do you agree? Thank you!!

        From the blog:

        Some with longstanding gut issues find that if they introduce broth (bone stock) early prior to the sealing of the gut, they have reactions to the free glutamates that result from the longer cooked gelatin. Those who are sensitive to MSG will generally be sensitive to these free glutamates until their guts are healed.

        The timing on when a GAPS person is ready to progress from meat stock to bone broth is individual. Those children who are autistic or ADD/ADHD and who are suffering from seizures or tics are among the people who should avoid free glutamates until their guts are healed. Free glutamates include not only MSG but glutamine and glutamic acid. These are excitoxins and can have a damaging effect on neurons. This is why I do not recommend using nutritional formulas containing glutamine in cases of the above mentioned conditions as well as Crohn’s or Leaky Gut Syndrome. Excitotoxins encourage inflammation in the gut and brain, the exact situations we are trying to heal.

        Uncomfortable die off reactions, as well as symptoms of nervous system agitation, are signs that your digestive tract is best served staying with the meat stock. Die off reactions can include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, constipation and skin eruptions or rashes. Making the transition gradually from stock (meat stock) to broth (bone stock) is advisable. Cooking broth at a very low temperature (slow simmer) will minimize the formation of free glutamates.

        • I have no concerns here … I have never seen a problem with bone broth when people first start using it. When folks go on GAPS Intro then they can do that if they wish. When I did GAPS, there was no Intro so I did full GAPS from the get go and was fine as was my husband. I think that is splitting hairs .. important info but it is important to get the bone broth into you period if you aren’t doing dairy. Dangerous not too .. you will get very mineral deficient.


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