Towards the end of the 19th century Hamburg merchant Heinrich Cordes appointed chemist Rudolf Schröter as private tutor for his son. Schröter had dealt with a number of scientific problems outside his teaching profession and particularly taken interest in geological questions. In searching for silver resources in the Karwendel mountains he came across a bituminous rock from which residents of the area surrounding Seefeld made an oil of characteristic smell that was known under the name of “Dirschenöl” or “Stinköl”. Even beyond this local region people had been using this oil as a medicinal substance for both humans and animals for a long time. Schröter’s interest was aroused. He was successful in development of a procedure by use of which the oil could be converted into a water-soluble form.

In naming of the new product he was inspired by imprints of fossil fish and from ICHTHYS (greek: fish) and OLEUM (latin: oil) the name of ICHTHYOL emerged. Schröter could attract Heinrich Cordes for his idea and after therapeutical trials and scientific publications ICHTHYOL-GESELLSCHAFT Cordes, Hermanni & Co. was founded in Seefeld in 1884.

Historical wagon for transport of oil shale rock out of the underground mine.

200 million years ago nature established the basis for genesis of ICHTHYOL®. The region of today’s alps around Seefeld in Tirol and the Jura consisted of a shallow lagoon at that time.

At the bottom of the lagoon micro-organisms settled in form of organic material in layers of mud. Certain bacteria were able to survive in this bio-mass and converted it into an oily, viscous liquid.

After termination of geological processes with formation of the Alps and the Jura about 30 – 40 million years ago the former lagoon floor with incorporations of organic material was hidden in great heights mostly inaccessible inside the mountains.

Former used entrance of a mine in Seefeld.

For mining of oil-containing shale rock, the preliminary stage of ICHTHYOL®, deposits exist today in Seefeld/Tirol and south of Geneva in the French Jura.

Hence ICHTHYOL® is a product from nature. For its manufacture the highly sulphuric oil shale is gently heated under exclusion of air. The oil obtained thereby is purified subsequently in order to make it usable for medicinal purposes. In the end the oil is just transferred into a water-soluble form.

Dark ICHTHYOL® is manufactured according to this procedure since as early as 1884.

The renowned Hamburg dermatologist P. G. Unna introduced ICHTHYOL® to human medicine in 1885.

In 1925 the first finished pharmaceutical product containing ICHTHYOL® was launched under the trade name of ICHTHOLAN®.

By research efforts of ICHTHYOL-GESELLSCHAFT additional development of a pale type of ICHTHYOL was accomplished in 1933. This active ingredient is used in human medicine also.

By means of good water-solubility of dark and pale ICHTHYOL® these raw materials are suitable for manufacture of a variety of galenic formulations (e.g. creams, ointments, gels, solutions, suppositories).

Furthermore, we have developed another dark type of ICHTHYOL® for veterinary medicine which is internationally known as ICHTHAMMOL®. 

In 1994 another pale ICHTHYOL® substance was particularly developed for the cosmetic industry. It is known under the name ICHTHYOL® PALE. On account of its broad action profile it is used in cosmetics in shampoos and creams.