krill oil, omega-3 fatty acids, what happened to cod liver oil

Knee osteoarthritis can really interfere with mobility. Doctors prescribe pain relievers such as diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren) or meloxicam (Mobic), but patients should not take such NSAID medications indefinitely. In addition to their propensity for irritating the digestive tract, these drugs can also harm the cardiovascular system (American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs, Oct. 2017). Could a simple home remedy such as cod liver oil relieve osteoarthritis pain? One reader thinks so.

Will Cod Liver Oil Relieve Knee Arthritis?

Q. Several years ago, I read about a study done at Cardiff University in Wales. The scientists gave patients scheduled for knee replacement surgery either 1,000 milligrams of cod liver oil or placebo. The volunteers took these pills for 10 to 12 weeks and then had their surgery.

Samples of cartilage and joint tissue were available from the surgery. They showed that 86 percent of the patients on cod liver oil produced less of a cartilage-eroding enzyme. Some had none. The pills also reduced levels of other enzymes that cause pain.

I decided to try adding cod liver oil pills to the glucosamine and chrondroitin I was already taking already. I marked my calendar. If I had no reduction in pain in 10 to 12 weeks, I’d decided I would discontinue the cod liver oil. My pain was so bad that it would wake me from a sound sleep every night and I would be up for hours. Nothing helped. I felt it was just a matter of time until I would need to have the knee replaced.

One morning, I realized that I had slept thru the night with no pain! On checking the calendar, I discovered it had been only 21 days since I started the cod liver oil.

I have recommended this to many people who have gotten the same wonderful results. How many knee replacement surgeries could be avoided if people tried taking cod liver oil first?

How Might Cod Liver Oil Relieve Joint Pain?

A. Thank you for alerting us to an interesting, though small, study. It included 31 people and was presented at the Third Congress of the European Federation for the Science and Technology of Lipids.

Many doctors perceive the use of cod liver oil for joint pain as an old wives’ tale. It is a shame that so few scientists have conducted research to investigate the potential benefits of cod liver oil for osteoarthritis.

This fish oil, like others, appears to reduce inflammation (Papageorgiou et al, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2011). The omega-3 fats in fish oil also seem to protect the heart rather than putting it at risk (Gilbert et al, European Journal of Pharmacology, Dec. 15, 2015).

Anyone who is interested in nondrug approaches to easing joint pain may be interested in our online electronic resource, Alternatives for Arthritis. You will find this e-guide for sale at

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  1. Debra
    Hemet, California

    I have been using Castor oil wraps on my knees for about 4 months now. Wow! After a 2-4 hour wrap, they feel pretty good. If I wrap overnight, knees feel pretty good in the morning. Also just read article that says just rub some Castor oil on area 3 times a day. I have tried this for about 1 week. Let’s just say, I have only used the pack one time in the past two weeks. Also read article from a 89 yr old, about rubbing olive oil on affected area two or three times a day. I am doing them both. Knees feel pretty good, so far.

  2. Carol
    Sandyston, NJ

    I frequently see advice regarding osteoarthritis of the knee, but would those various suggestions be applicable to arthritis of the shoulder and hand and other locations as well?

  3. Daniel O

    Where is a good resource to obtain cod liver oil?

  4. Flo
    Manhattan, nyc

    Does this work only with cod liver oil or can other fish oils have the same impact?

    • Kitty
      Niagara Falls, NY

      The best brand, after some intensive research, I have found is the Rosita brand though a little pricey! Because of the taste that almost makes me ill, I put into empty capsules.

  5. judy

    Please tell me how I can purchase the 1000mg of cod liver pills, as I see they are only available in the UK? I tried on line but at check out they totally switched my selected item.

    Thank you in advance.

  6. Petra

    Look at Edgar Cayce’s writings on cod liver oil.
    Google ARE, Virginia Beach, Va’

  7. John
    Pensacola, FL

    Last I read an Arthritis Foundation book they said “oily fish” helped. I’ve used kippered herring, fresh salmon and fresh tuna to good effect. YMMV.

  8. Susan

    A while back I saw an article promoting cod liver oil to lower triglycerides. My other cholesterol numbers were good, but the triglycerides were always elevated.

    I started taking one 415 mg gel cap per day, and since then, have had normal triglyceride levels at my quarterly doctor visits. My doctor had never heard of this remedy, but since it works for me, she’s fine with my taking it.

    I’ve also had meniscus surgery on both knees, and hadn’t thought about it, but I realize that my knees feel better too.

    There’s no need to take the awful-tasting stuff on a spoon; the gel caps are available at the drug store. I’ve never experienced any fishy taste or smell with them.

  9. Mary
    Charleston SC

    To Margaret re Paresthesia – I had similar problem and my dr referred me to a physical therapist, who after evaluation designed exercises to improve my core strength and posture. She also came to my home and made simple improvements to my desk chair, tv chair and bed with folded towels and small pillows. The result has been much improvement without medication and its undesirable side effects.

  10. Karen

    I have RA, peripheral neuropathy and RLS. I’ve been taking CBD gummies for three weeks and get better sleep. The CBD takes the edge off pain. No THC so I don’t get high, just relaxed. Sweet dreams!

  11. Beverly B
    Beaverton, Oregon

    I’m really looking forward to trying this. I have hip and back arthritis thanks to my pediatric nursing career. What kind of cod liver oil are we talking about here?

    I’ve taken Nordic Natural Omega 3’s for cardiac issues but It really didn’t help. Is there a brand or type of Cod liver oil that would work for this application? I’m at the point of having hip injections and I really don’t want to keep that up thanks for anyone’s reply.

  12. Pat

    I do have knee problems and around the holidays last year, the pain was terrible and I could hardly walk. After reading the articles on cod liver oil, I wondered if I could make up a kind of poultice of the oil and put it on my knee at night as a bandage.

    After about a week to 10 days, I saw a considerable decrease in pain. Since I don’t do pain meds well, anytime my pain gets bad again, out comes the cod liver oil bandage. Cod liver oil is hardly expensive and well worth the try if nothing else works. You have little to lose.

  13. Amy

    Question: Are there drawbacks to cod liver oil consumption? Is the dosage in the study recommended for long term use? Is there a specific type that is recommended? Just wondering as it was a classic home remedy for a number of things and in many families, everyone got a spoon of cod liver oil daily – but now, that isn’t the case.

    Fish oil and omega-3 are now totally accepted, but what is the difference? Can people with shellfish or shrimp allergy take cod liver oil (assuming krill (a type of shrimp), would not work for those with shrimp allergy – unsure about shellfish allergy)?

  14. Virginia

    Nothing works for everyone, especially traditional drugs. Old-wife-remedies have as good a track record as drugs and the side effects are minimal, so giving them a try just might help someone. Even the placebo effect is acceptable if it relieves pain, I would not care!

  15. Ellen

    Dear Jesse: I was almost going to order the cod liver oil today 7/3/18 when People Pharmacy published that it may help osteoarthritis pain! I changed my mind immediately, after reading your comments that cod liver oil didn’t really help you with your pain at all!
    Thank you for sharing your real priceless experience with us!

  16. Laura

    I’m pretty sure cod liver oil would not agree with my digestive system. What about applying it topically? Has anyone tried this?

  17. Bill

    I take a teaspoon of cod liver oil almost every day, and I have no issues with pain in my knees or my hips. Been taking for several years.

  18. Petra

    Edgar Cayce (the sleeping prophet—see the Association for Research and Enlightenment, a.k.a. ARE) in Virginia Beach, Va. recommended castor oil packs for many many things. Great for dogs also.

  19. Luke

    Cod liver oil can also cause loose stools.

  20. Jesse
    Texas, unfortunately

    Trying again to send comment. I have severe knee and ankle pain. A torn meniscus in knee and torn tendon in ankle. I cannot have surgery because of RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy) of injured right hand and the RSD could spread to knee and ankle and cause even more pain. And the meniscus surgeries are not but 50% successful and the ankle surgery is very involved. So I believe I have tried every thing mentioned in The People’s Pharmacy…curcumin, golden raisins, every thing. I have taken Arctic cod liver oil for several years. Nothing helps. Last week a highly-regarded orthopedic surgeon here who does only ankle and foot surgery, told me his patients who want to avoid surgery have the best results with acupuncture and cannabis creme. I started acupuncture Monday. The creme is illegal in backward “conservative” Texas. So to obtain the cream requires a road trip to Colorado. Or a friend who has a private plane can get the creme from a liberal, progressive state that has legalized it for everyone. Drug companies don’t want cannabis legalized, but it is happening. It has many medicinal uses without the side effects of prescription drugs and drug companies don’t want that competition.

    None of the remedies suggested on People’s Pharmacy have been of any use to me. But after I use the acupuncture and creme for about 8 weeks, I will try to remember to post a followup report. If the acupuncture and cannabis don’t relieve most of my pain, I will have to risk surgery if I can find a dr. who will risk it. If I have surgery I will be out of commission for at least a year trying to recover with physical therapy. At my age, surgery is dangerous, and a year to recover is a big loss and so risky. And surgery is no sure thing!

    • Tony

      Greetings Jesse;
      I also have had knee pain for the last 10 yrs or so. About 3 yrs ago it started getting MUCH worse…

      The Orthopedic surgeon said their was nothing there to do any arthroscopy with and recommened knee replacement. I started taking 1000 mgr. of Turmeric with pepper, [2×1000 mgr/day] and it seemed to help some. I discovered “”Celery Seed Extract [85% 3nB]”” for another problem I was having and started taking it [2×75 mgr/day] for that problem.

      As it turned out, the Celery Seed Extract REALLY helped CURE both my problems. And If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it as a ‘natural’ substitute for Rx’s..

  21. Margaret
    Avondale Estates, GA

    Is there any cure for Parasthesia? While working at my PC, the top of my back eventually feels hot and painful. A neurologist said it’s a nerve condition, but offered no advice except to sit at desk as straight as I can. What causes this, and what can be done?

    • Terry Graedon

      You might want to get some expert ergonomic advice on computer placement so it doesn’t hurt your back. Also, practice taking a break every hour or so.

    • David

      My wife and I take fish oil supplement. No actual cod liver oil, but would this help? We don’t currently have joint pain, but would rather avoid it. We also take glucosamine chondroitin.

      As far as cannabis crème, my mother used it for her severe arthritis, and it did not help her. (She was 88-89 at the time..)

    • Chris
      Maple Grove, MN

      Just to add to what Terry said, if you have sitting positions that are comfortable, such as using a recliner, you can get a keyboard table that should allow you to have the keyboard in a good position in front of you while reclining. With wireless keyboards and mice these days there is no reason someone needs to be restricted to sitting at a desk. Good Luck!

  22. Jesse
    Texas, unfortunately

    Because of knee pain and ankle tendon injury, I have to use a wheelchair. I am not a candidate for surgery because I have RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy) of my hand, and surgery could cause RSD to spread to my knee or ankle, and the pain would be even worse. For several years I have taken Arctic Cod Liver Oil in a fresh veg and fruit smoothie every morning, so I know that Cod Liver Oil doesn’t have any noticeable benefits such as relieving joint pain. I have tried countless things such as hot pepper cream, arnica gel, curcumin, golden raisins in London dry gin, juniper berries, etc. I have tried everything I have read about on The People’s Pharmacy with no success, only great disappointment and sadness.

    Pain pills are useless because anything that numbs pain also numbs the brain and causes inability to function. Last week an orthopedic surgeon specializing in ankle surgery told me his patients have had great success with pain relief and avoiding surgery by using acupuncture and cannabis cream. They have to fly to a state where cannabis is legal as it is not legal in Texas, and Texas is a backward “conservative” state and may never have it. So Texans with private planes have become very popular for bringing in the cream or other forms from out of state for pain suffering friends who are desperate. I started acupuncture today with electric stimulation and will let you know the results in about 6-8 weeks.

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