Norwegian Language Blog

Cod Liver Oil the Norwegian Health Secret Posted by on Jul 12, 2011 in Culture, Traditions


Are you as overwhelmed by all of the health tips you see on TV, hear on the radio, and read about in magazines?  There are certain products that claim to be the best for healthy skin, foods and herbs that are said to promote emotional stability, products that are supposed to make your teeth and bones strong, and so on and so on.  Why don´t we all just follow the Norwegian tradition of taking tran (cod liver oil), which kills a whole bunch of birds with one stone?!  I must admit I have yet to try tran myself, but if it were put in front of me, I´d do it.

Aside from the nasty fishy taste, I´ve heard so many great things about tran.  I don´t think it´s quite as common today as it was decades ago, but it is still popular among Norwegians.  Tran is made from the oil from cod liver.  In the olden days, cod liver was left in a vat in the sun to ferment and the oil was skimmed off of the fish.  In the last hundred years, tran has been produced by boiling cod livers and extracting the oil.

So what are the benefits of taking tran?  Cod liver oil is rich with Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acids, which together are responsible for healthy skin, teeth, bones, joints, cardiovascular system, nervous system, digestive system, and mood stability.  Wow!

The reason tran became so popular amongst Norwegians is because Norway is so far north and there are months with little to no sun at all depending on the location.  Therefore, people need extra Vitamin D supplements to take the place of the sun.

Believe it or not, this same product had multiple uses years and years ago.  In fact, it was one of Norway´s most valuable commodities.  Cod liver oil (originally called ´lysi´meaning light) was used in fuel lamps, to tan skins, and as an ingredient in paints and soaps.  Kind of reminds me of lutefisk which contains lye that is also an ingredient in soap.

Nevertheless, I´m going to try it this winter and drink lots of it if this coming winter is anything like last!

You can even take it in capsule form!

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Rolf Sabye:

    I grew up in Bergen in the lat 40s and 50s. I can tell you with not so fond memories, that my mom shoveda tablespoon of Tran in my mouth every morning of my early life, until we moved to the states when I was ten.
    I’m now in my late 60s, and have always enjoyed a diet rich in fish.
    So did all that Tran make a difference? Well, I was always healthy, and have never had any severe illnesses. Never been in a hospital.
    Of course, I don’t smoke, drink only red wine with dinner, and have always had a pretty good work out routine.
    Oh yea, I still take fish oil daily.
    Thanks for the post.