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Shark oil is brown or yellow colored oil obtained from the liver of a cold-water dwelling shark, it can be used for leather dressing and as a source of vitamin A.

Shark oil - a rich source of alkylglycerols

For many years, shark liver oil has been used by fishermen as a general health remedy.  Most supplements that contain shark liver oil have not been tested to find out if there are contraindications with other drugs, foods or herbal remedies. 

Many people have taken shark liver oil, but the issue of toxicity potential has not been well studied or documented.  Shark liver oil is currently touted as a complementary or alternative form of treatment for certain types of cancer and other diseases.  It is a rich source of alkylglycerols which may contain anti-cancer properties and are also found in human bone marrow and breast milk.  Other substances found in shark liver oil being studied for cancer treatment benefits are squalene and squalamine.

What is Shark Liver Oil Used For?

While shark liver oil is regularly used in Europe in forms of alternative or complementary medicine, in the United States it is currently sold as a health supplement.  When promoted as a dietary supplement, it is used to boost the immune system, to promote wound healing, to treat cancer and lessen the severity of side effects experienced during traditional cancer treatment.

Shark liver oil has been used for more than 40 years for all sorts of therapeutic benefits.  It was used by Scandinavian fishermen in the treatment of certain skin conditions.  It has also been used to lessen the side effects of radiation treatment in cancer patients.  Shark liver oil has also demonstrated the ability to inhibit tumor growth in alkoxyglycerol-treated cancer patients, though it is used in Denmark as a complement to cancer treatments.

Other uses for shark liver oil include in lip balms to moisturize and prevent chapping of the lips.  However, it is important to note that there is no definitive information to support claims shark liver oil can cure such serious diseases as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, AIDS, arthritis or psoriasis.  Most studies concerning shark liver oil are limited and inconclusive; however, some medical researchers have concluded shark liver oil shows promise and a subject that warrants further studying.

What are the Benefits of Shark Liver Oil?

Shark liver oil benefits people in the following ways:

  • Provides immune system support
  • Contains antioxidant properties
  • Helps in maintenance of healthy skin
  • Supports joint health
  • Aids in healthy digestion
  • Supports healthy energy levels and reduces fatigue
  • Supports respiratory health
  • Aids in wound healing and minimizes scarring
  • Increases energy levels by supplying cells of the body with more oxygen

Shark Liver Oil Effectiveness

Shark liver oil is effective for the following medical conditions:

  • Ataxia
  • Ataxia associated with a vitamin E deficiency
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Vitamin C deficiency
  • Vitamin E deficiency

May be effective for the following conditions, though further research is needed:

  • Age-related maculopathy
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • Anemia
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Beta-thalassemia
  • Cancer-related fatigue
  • Cancer chemotherapy side effects
  • Cancer associated anorexia
  • Chemotherapy
  • Cisplatin-induced neurotoxicity
  • Connective tissue diseases and disorders
  • Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation)
  • Eclampsia
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Dyspraxia ( a wide range of developmental disorders)
  • Granuloma annulare (chronic skin condition)
  • Infertility
  • Intracranial hemorrhage (brain bleeding)
  • Leukemia
  • Malignant melanoma
  • Melanoma
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Physical performance
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Sunburn
  • Radiation-induced fibrosis
  • Radiation
  • Sun exposure
  • Skin cancer
  • Thalassemia
  • Sunburn
  • Retrolental Fibroplasia

Risks Associated With Shark Liver Oil

There are certain risk factors which can be directly or indirectly contributed to a person taking shark liver oil supplements.  Some of the following conditions can be potentially serious and should be addressed and evaluated by a qualified medical professional.

High blood pressure:  there have been multiple human studies done which suggest a small reduction in blood pressure in those who take certain types of omega-3 fatty acids.  It may be necessary to take higher doses to experience the healthful benefits and at higher doses shark liver oil can cause an increased risk of bleeding.  Therefore it is necessary to consult with a medical professional prior to taking any type of supplement.

Hypertriglyceridemia:  scientific studies have shown people who take excessive amounts of shark liver oil experience a worsening in low-density lipoprotein levels, which is the “bad” cholesterol.

Secondary cardiovascular disease prevention:  most human studies report that regular consumption of shark liver oil can reduce the risk of non-fatal heart attacks, fatal heart attacks and sudden death.  Most people studied were also using standard heart medications and while there are benefits to shark liver oil, there is also an increased risk of side effects from traditional heart medications and therapies.

Safety of Shark Liver Oil

The United States Food and Drug Administration does not strictly govern nor regulate herbs or supplements so there is no guarantee of safety, strength or purity and the side effects may vary.  There are certain people who may benefit from taking shark liver oil supplements and there are others who should read the product label and consult with a physician prior taking the drug.

People who have allergies or are hypersensitive to fish should not take shark liver oil or omega-3 fatty acid products derived from fish.  There have been reported cases of anaphylaxis and skin rash in people who are allergic to nuts or certain alpha linolenic acid or omega-3 fatty acid (both contained in shark liver oil supplements) products that are obtained from nuts they are allergic to.


While there is medical research that indicates shark liver oil can be very beneficial to certain health conditions, there is a need for ongoing studies to further understand everything there is to know.  There is still not enough information to know whether or not shark liver oil is completely safe, before taking the supplement it is necessary for a person to consult with a medical professional to avoid any negative or adverse side effects.