What is Lithium Orotate?
These days it has become difficult to separate the word ‘lithium’ from severe mental conditions like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Lithium is heavily prescribed for these serious disorders in the form of lithium carbonate but few people realize that it is actually a type of naturally occurring salt which is considered to be an essential trace mineral.
One of the major problems associated with lithium carbonate is that in order to deliver sufficient lithium to treat the condition, near toxic amounts have to be taken.
This results in a range of very serious and definitely undesirable side effects. Common effects include thyroid problems, kidney damage, dry mouth and a slow metabolism that frequently causes weight gain and fatigue.
That is a frightening list of common side effects but there may well be an alternative method of delivering the essential lithium into your body in the form of lithium orotate which unlike lithium carbonate is available without a prescription and is considered to be far safer.
Lithium orotate combines lithium with orotic acid-a natural acid which is actually found naturally in breast milk. The advantage that lithium orotate has is that you do not need to take the lithium at toxic doses because the orotic acid helps deliver the lithium straight to the brain where it is absorbed and used to improve brain function.
Experts and proponents of lithium orotate foremost of whom is Dr. John Gray suggest that lithium deficiency is a real problem and that we do not get the lithium we need from our diets. It is typically not available in mineral supplements probably because of the negative connotations associated with lithium in general.
He goes on to say that lithium is a vital anti stress mineral which provides the fuel to make our brains work more effectively. There is precious little research into the effectiveness of lithium orotate but it is known that lithium is necessary to allow the brain to produce the necessary levels of serotonin to ensure feelings of wellbeing and calm.
Is Lithium Orotate Good or Bad?
As we will come onto in a bit more detail, not much research has been done into the benefits of lithium orotate specifically but given that lithium is a well-known treatment for a number of mental disorders and that lithium orotate allows elemental lithium to be delivered more effectively and safely than lithium carbonate, then it is safe to assume that there are numerous important benefits.
People with serious mental issues like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia may well benefit as would those with other emotional issues like anxiety, stress or panic disorders. Research has demonstrated that lithium orotate is effective for recovering alcoholics and there is even some evidence that lithium orotate may protect against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Gray says that he has been taking lithium orotate on and off for a decade and not consistently to relieve any serious emotional maladies but now and again whenever he is feeling stresses. Testimonials are generally extremely positive with people claiming that it has helped cure a variety of emotional disorders including the more severe type of mental condition for which lithium carbonate is usually prescribed.
Of course, without properly conducted published research, we cannot be totally certain how effective lithium orotate really is but the evidence available from personal use is overwhelmingly positive.
Some of the conditions that lithium orotate may help treat include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Attention deficit disorder
- Mood swings
- Anxiety disorders and panic attacks
- Improved cognitive function
- Obsessive compulsive disorders
- Autism spectrum disorders
There has been very little research into lithium orotate specifically which makes it difficult to properly evaluate its effectiveness, safety or suitable dosage. Theories that there has been so little research into lithium orotate because it would cost the drug companies who push lithium carbonate millions of dollars may or may not be true.
However, in researching this article it is very difficult to find negative reviews and I am personally intrigued by its potential. Lithium orotate is available without a prescription, appears to be considerably safer than lithium carbonate and you can provide yourself with the necessary small doses of lithium without risking a toxic reaction like psoriasis.
One of the very few published studies regarding lithium orotate took place in 1986 to examine its effect on recovering alcoholics. The study which involved 42 alcoholic patients treated the subjects with 150 mg of lithium orotate each day for 6 months and found that not one of the patients experienced a relapse during the period of the study nor for 6 months after it had finished.
The researchers noted that several of the patients suffered minor side effects which went away when the dosage was reduced and concluded that lithium orotate was an effective treatment for alcoholism. (1)
Bioavailability of Lithium Orotate
When orotate was discovered by Dr. Hans Nieper, he found that when mineral molecules were attached to orotic acid the minerals were able to pass through the cellular membranes without breaking apart.
This groundbreaking discovery meant that the mineral’s ions could reach specific sites inside the cell. This process is known as bioavailability and demonstrated that minerals carried by orotate were more effectively transported than other carriers.
This means that lower quantities of elemental lithium are required to achieve the exact same effect that lithium carbonate has. This is also the main reason that the 1979 study was so badly flawed.
In the study all of the injections given to the animals were in equal amounts and the entire reason that lithium orotate is advocated is because les is required to achieve the same effect offered by lithium carbonate.
That being said, there is still precious little scientific evidence regarding the safe dosage of lithium orotate. There is little to base the safety of the supplement on other than personal use and anecdotal evidence but many experts state that in anything but the very highest doses, there are no serious adverse side effects.
Lithium Orotate Dosage
The precise dosage of lithium orotate is difficult to quantify and you should always talk to a medical expert before deciding to self-prescribe. The limited studies have found that doses up to 150 mg of lithium orotate a day did not cause any serious side effects and the appropriate dose would depend on what you are using it for.
120 mg tablets contain 5 mg of elemental lithium and many experts recommend starting with one tablet once or twice each day. For more serious conditions, it is recommended that you can take up to 2 tablets three times divided throughout the day.
Side effects of Lithium Orotate
When searching for potential side effects of lithium orotate, it is difficult to avoid a much cited study conducted way back in 1979 comparing the effects and safety of lithium orotate and lithium carbonate. The study done on mice found that lithium orotate was more damaging to the animal’s kidneys than lithium carbonate.
This widely quoted study has however come under fire from experts who note that the dose of lithium orotate given to the rats was way higher than even the highest recommended doses recommended for bipolar disorder in humans.
Potential side effects are difficult to quantify because of the lack of research and because of its bio-availability far less elemental lithium is consumed than lithium carbonate. Side effects but may include:
- Hand tremors
But note that these side effects are most likely the result of lithium toxicity and are far less likely when taking the smaller amounts of lithium included in lithium orotate supplements.