The Unique Safe Mineral with
Ward Dean, M.D. and Jim English
permission from Pat Whittington of Vitamin Research News
Lithium is a mineral with a cloudy reputation. It is an
alkali metal in the same family as sodium, potassium and other elements.
Although lithium is highly effective for supporting those who experience
depression or foul moods, its pharmaceutical (prescription) versions, lithium carbonate
and lithium citrate, must be used with caution. The reason for the caution
with prescription lithium is because lithium in these forms is poorly absorbed
by the cells of the body and it is within the cells that lithiums'
therapeutic effects take place. Lithium ions are believed to act only at
particular sites on the membranes of intracellular structures like
mitochondria and lysosomes.
Consequently, because of this poor intracellular transport, high dosages of
pharmaceutical forms of lithium must be taken in order to obtain a
satisfactory therapeutic effect. Unfortunately, these therapeutic dosages
cause blood levels to be so high that they border on toxic levels. Consequently, patients taking prescription lithium must be closely monitored
for toxic blood levels. Serum lithium and serum creatinine levels of
prescription lithium-treated patients should be monitored every 3-6 months.
Toxicity effects of lithium may include hand tremors, frequent urination, thirst,
nausea, and vomiting. Even higher doses may cause drowsiness, muscular
weakness, poor coordination, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, and other
There has been concern that long-term lithium treatment may damage kidney
function, but data in this regard are equivocal. Renal insufficiency without a
known cause has occurred in the general population, and the incidence of renal
failure among manic-depressive patients not treated with lithium remains
Most patients treated with lithium are also taking other medications and it
is just as likely that the few known cases of renal failure in patients taking
lithium were due to other medications that they were simultaneously taking.2-5
Nevertheless, with potential side effects like this, why in the world would
anyone want to take lithium? It is because lithium has been found to be one of
the most effective support medications for those who experience "the
Mood disorders are characterized by mood swings that usually cycle back and forth between
up cycles and down cycles. The down phase is characterized by sluggishness (inertia), loss
of self-esteem, helplessness, withdrawal and sadness, with suicide being a
risk. The up (or manic) phase is characterized by elation, hyperactivity,
over-involvement in activities, inflated self-esteem, a tendency to be easily
distracted, and little need for sleep.
In either phase there is frequently a
dependence on alcohol or other substances of abuse.
The disorder first appears
between the ages of 15 and 25 and affects men and women equally. The cause is
unknown, but hereditary and psychological factors may play a role. The
incidence is higher in relatives of people with the disorders. A
psychiatric history of mood swings, and an observation of current behavior and
mood are important in the diagnosis of this disorder.7
Hospitalization may be required during an acute phase to control the symptoms.
Antidepressant drugs may be given; anticonvulsants (Carbamazepine, Valproic
acid, Depakote) may also be used. (These substances deplete body stores of
and Taurine. Supplementation with several grams daily of these supplements
greatly ameliorates adverse side effects of these drugs).
Lithium, however, is the treatment of choice for "the blues," serving as
a consistent mood enhancer in 70-80
percent of people.
Mortality-lowering, Anti-suicidal Effect of Lithium
The mortality of people with "ups and downs" is markedly higher than that of the
general population. The increased mortality is mainly, but not exclusively,
caused by suicide. Studies have shown that the mortality of these patients given long-term lithium treatment is markedly lower than that of
patients not receiving lithium. The frequency of suicidal acts among treated
patients is significantly lower than patients given other antidepressants or
carbamazepine. The results of mortality studies are consistent with the
assumption that lithium-treatment protects against suicidal behavior. 8-13
Recurrent Major Affective Disorder
In addition to its well-recognized benefits in the management of "mental
ups and downs," trials have conclusively demonstrated that lithium is also an
effective treatment for recurrent major
affective disorder.14-16 Although physicians in Europe have successfully used
lithium for this indication for many years, American psychiatrists do not
share their appreciation of lithium's safety and effectiveness for conditions.
Perhaps it is due to a difference in the lithium preparations
they have at their disposal.
Superiority of Lithium Orotate
The lithium salt of orotic acid (lithium orotate) improves the specific
effects of lithium many-fold by increasing lithium bio-utilization. The
orotates transport the lithium to the membranes of
mitochondria, lysosomes and
the glia cells. Lithium orotate stabilizes the lysosomal membranes and
prevents the enzyme reactions that are responsible for the sodium depletion
and dehydration effects of other lithium salts. Because of the superior
bioavailability of lithium orotate, the therapeutic dosage is much less than
prescription forms of lithium. For example, in cases of severe mental
therapeutic dosage of lithium orotate is 150 mg/day. This is compared to
900-1800 mg of the prescription forms (carbonate). In this dosage range of lithium orotate,
there are no adverse lithium side effects and no need for monitoring blood
Other Uses for Lithium Orotate
Lithium orotate has also been used with success in supporting those with
migraine and cluster
headaches, low white blood cell counts, juvenile
alcoholism and liver
disorders.18 Nieper also reports that
patients with myopia (nearsightedness) and glaucoma often benefit from the
slight dehydrating effect of lithium on the eye, resulting in improvement in
vision and reduction of intraocular pressure.17
References (this article only):
1. Aronson JK, Reynolds DJM. ABC of monitoring drag therapy: lithium. BMJ.
2. Schou M, Effects of long-term lithium treatment on kidney function: an
overview. J Psychiat Res, 1988;22.,287-296.
3. Waller DG, Edwards TG. Lithium and the kidney: an update. Psycliol Mod.
1989; 19:825-83 1.
4. Gitlin MJ. Lithium-induced renal insufficiency., J Clin Psychopharmacol.
5, Kallner G,.Petterson IJ. Renal, thyroid and parathyroid function during
lithium treatment: laboratory test in 207 people treated for 1-30 years. Acta
Psychiatr Scand. 1995;91:48-5 1.
6. Baastrup PC, Schou M. Lithium as a prophylactic agent: its effects. Arch Gen Psychiatry.
7. Goodwin FK, Jamison KR. Manic-Depressive Illness. Oxford, England: Oxford
University Press; 1990.
8. Mueller-Oerlinghausen D, Ahrens B, Volk J, Grof P, Grof E, Schou M,
Vestergaard P, Lenz G, Sinihandl C, Tlau K, Wolf R. Reduced mortality of patients in long-term lithium treatment, an international
collaborative study by IGSLI. Psychiatry Res. 1991;36:329-331.
9. Ahrens B, Mueller-Oerlinghausen 3, Schou M, Wolf T, Alda M, Grof. E. Grof
P, Lejiz G, Simhandl C, Thau K, Vestergaard P, Wolf R, Moeller H.
Cardiovascular and suicide mortality of affective disorders may be reduced by
lithium prophylaxis. J Affect DI-Y, 1995;33:67-75.
10. Mueller-Oerlinghausen B, Mueser-Causemam B, Volk J. Suicides and
parasuicides in a high-risk patient group on and off lithium long-term
medication, J Affect Dis. 1992;25: 261-270.
11. Felber- NV, Kyber A. Suizide und Parasuizide wachrend und aubetadserhalb
einer Lithiumprophylaxe. In-, Muclicr-Oerlinghausen B, Berghoefer A, eds.
Ziele und Ergebnisse der medikagivitoeseyi I-i-opiiylaice affektiver
Psychoseii. Stuttgart, Germany, Thieme; 1994:53-59.
12. Thies-Flechtner K, Seibert W, Walther A, Greil W, Mueller-Oerlinghausen B,
Suizide bei rezldlvprophylaktisch behandelten Patienten mit affektiven
Psychosen. In: Mueller-Oerlinghausen B, Berghoefer A, eds. Ziele und
Ergebnisse der medikamentoesen Prophylaxe offekliver Psychosen. Stuttgart,
Germany. Thieme; 1994,61-64.
13. Schou M.. Mortality-lowering effect of prophylactic lithium treatment, a
look at the evidence, Pharmacopsychiatry. 1995;28: 1.
14. Souza FGM, Goodwin GM. Lithium treatment and prophylaxis in unipolar: a meta-analysis, Br J Psychiatry. 1991; 158:666-675.
15. Johnstone EC, Owens DGC, Lambert MT, Crow TJ, Frith CD, Done DJ.
Combination tricyclic and lithium maintenance medication in
unipolar and bipolar. J Affect Dis, 1990;20:225-233.
16. Prien RF, Kupfer DJ, Mansky PA, Small JG, Iuason VB, Voss CB, Johnson WE.
Drug therapy in the prevention of recurrences in unipolar and bipolar. Arch Gen Psychiatry,
17. Nieper HA The clinical application of lithium orotate. Agressologie 14(6).
18. Sartori HE, Lithium orotate in the treatment of alcoholism and related
conditions, Alcohol 1986 Mar; 3 (2): 97-100.
19. Nieper HA The effect of a combination of Calcium-orotate and
Lithium orotate on primary and secondary chronic hepatitis and primary and
secondary liver cirrhosis. From lecture Intl Acad of Prevent Med, Washington,
DC March 9, 1974.