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Lithium orotate is a supplement available over-the-counter that, for some people has significant mental health benefits. Lithium orotate should not be confused with prescription lithium, used in the treatment of mental health disorders like bipolar disorder. Lithium orotate is an essential micronutrient, and the following is a guide to everything you should know.
What is Lithium Orotate?
Lithium orotate is made up of a low dose of lithium as well as orotic acid. Lithium is an alkali metal, and orotic acid is a compound naturally produced in our bodies. Lithium orotate is a supplement many people turn to as a potential natural treatment for mental health conditions.
Lithium carbonate is not the same as lithium orotate. Lithium carbonate is the drug used to treat bipolar disorder.
Trace amounts of lithium are present in minerals, vegetables, and fruits grown in soil rich with lithium.
Lithium itself is considered an essential micronutrient. We all need essential micronutrients in small doses for optimal health.
There are some researchers and doctors who believe lithium is largely overlooked as far as its nutritional benefits, probably because it’s associated with prescription lithium. The prescription versions of lithium are given at incredibly high doses, and they do have significant side effects.
We can obtain trace amounts of lithium through water and food. There has been a bit of research on trace amounts of lithium, showing that getting it in these ways contributes to a more positive mood.
Lithium orotate is often referred to as nutritional lithium.
The World Health Organization (WHO) counts it on their list of essential trace elements.
Interesting research has found lithium metal in drinking water in various cities is associated with lower rates of suicide, arrest, and crimes.
We, on average, get around 3 to 4 mg of lithium in our food naturally. If you were going to take lithium orotate as a supplement, you would take a dosage of either 5 or 10 mg.
Some of the potential conditions that people believe lithium orotate might help with include:
- Migraines and cluster headaches
- Parkinson’s disease
- Bipolar disorder
In general, lithium orotate might help relieve pain, boost memory, and relieve stress as well.
While there is some evidence that lithium orotate has benefits, much of it is anecdotal.
There’s limited scientific research to back up claims about lithium orotate. Many of the studies on the topic are from the 70s and 80s. However, if you look around online, you’ll find thousands and thousands of people who feel taking a lithium orotate supplement has had tremendous benefits for their mental health.
In one study in 1986, published in the Alcohol journal, 42 people with alcoholism who took lithium orotate daily saw reduced relapse risk.
There is research underway currently looking at the neuroprotective benefits of lithium. It’s being studied particularly for its effects on Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, and ALS. It may have neuroprotective benefits because it can disrupt an enzyme known to lead to the development of amyloid plaques. It may also help reduce neurofibrillary tangles linked to Alzheimer’s.
There’s also evidence that lithium can inhibit something called thioredoxin. That can in turn increase something called COMT. COMT is an enzyme responsible for the regulation of dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.
Lithium Orotate Benefits
It should be noted that the use of lithium orotate supplements is not approved by the FDA for any health or medical use. This is the case with all supplements, so it’s important that you speak to your health care provider before taking anything.
People who are in favor of the use of this supplement say that lithium orotate benefits may include:
- Lithium orotate may protect the brain
- Trace amounts of lithium could theoretically help reduce anxiety, mental disorders, impulsiveness, and aggression
- Low doses of lithium orotate may be effective with some types of depression
- There is currently research looking at benefits such as cellular repair
It’s important when looking at the benefits of any supplement to also consider the possible downsides.
The biggest downsides of lithium orotate involve the fact that we simply don’t know that much about it.
We don’t know how effective it is, and we don’t have a lot of information about possible side effects.
Lithium Orotate Side Effects
Since there isn’t much controlled research on the use of a lithium supplement, it’s hard to say what potential lithium orotate side effects might be.
Overall, based on what people say, they tend to tolerate it well with few if any side effects.
However, there was a report in 2007 published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology that warned ongoing, chronic use of lithium orotate could lead to tremors and nausea.
When used at high doses, lithium orotate’s effects could be similar to toxicity from prescription versions of lithium.
For example, severe possible side effects include:
- Heart arrhythmias
- Neurological problems
- Nausea and vomiting
- Kidney failure
- Low blood pressure
Again, it is extremely important when talking about these side effects to note that as far as we can find they aren’t linked to lithium orotate but are instead linked to prescription lithium. It’s still relevant if you’re considering a lithium orotate supplement to know that you should speak to your doctor first. You should also follow dosage instructions.
One example we could find that was related to lithium orotate toxicity occurred when an 18-year-old took 18 tablets. That was a total of 120 mg of lithium orotate. She went to the emergency department because of nausea. She was then released to a psychiatric hospital.
Sometimes lithium can also interact with other prescription medicines, including:
- ACE inhibitors
- Calcium channel blockers
- Loop diuretics
- One MAOIs
Some people taking a low-dose lithium supplement have said it leads them to have mild side effects. These include nausea and headaches. Some people also say they feel disconnected when they use it, but this is likely because they’re using a dose that’s too high.
Signs of a Lithium Deficiency
It is possible, since lithium is an essential trace element, that you can be deficient.
The signs and symptoms of low lithium levels include:
- Suicide risk: Lithium may reduce suicidal behavior. Prescription lithium might reduce the risk of attempted and completed suicides by as much as 80%. Trace amounts of lithium, such as what is found in groundwater in many cities, may help lower suicide rates as well. For example, there was a study of more than 3,000 water samples from hundreds of Texas counties. Lower lithium levels in drinking water were linked to higher suicide rates. Something similar was found in Japan. Lithium deficiency has also been associated with suicide in countries including Austria, Greece, and Italy.
- Aggression: Symptoms of aggression may be associated with low lithium levels. For example, in a Greek study, areas with low lithium levels in the water had higher drug abuse, rape, and homicide rates. The reason may be because lithium helps with impulse control. Lithium may also provide some protection from lead neurotoxicity.
- Dementia: A study from Denmark looked at the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of people. Drinking water with low lithium levels was associated with higher dementia rates.
- Depression: A study of more than 3,000 Japanese students found low lithium levels in tap water was related to worse depression symptoms.
Lithium Orotate Dosage
If you wonder whether or not a lithium orotate supplement could be right for you, the dosage is somewhat of an unknown, like so many other things about this supplement.
Getting a little natural lithium may be beneficial, but we don’t know how much. We also don’t know how much is too much.
Overall, as an essential nutrient, there’s no recommended daily amount.
Most lithium supplements come in dosages of either 5 mg or 10 mg, however.
This is compared to lithium carbonate, the prescription version.
Lithium carbonate doses are much higher than supplemental lithium doses. Lithium carbonate might be prescribed at a dose of 600 to 1800 mg a day, with anywhere from 114 to 340 mg of elemental lithium.
If you are going to try it, after talking to your doctor you might start at 5 mg. See how that affects you before deciding to take a higher lithium orotate dosage.
Along with taking a supplement, there are other ways you can increase your lithium levels. Most people get enough lithium from their water and food.
Drinking water is an important way to get lithium, for example.
Drinking mineral water might help you. You can also check with the United States Geological Survey, which provides information on the amount of trace elements found in water samples.
Lithium might be in the food you consume as well. For example, vegetables, nuts, and fish tend to have high amounts of lithium.
A lithium orotate supplement may effectively penetrate the blood-brain barrier, but we don’t know for sure. If that were the case, it would be able to reach higher brain levels.
Lithium orotate is a nutritional supplement that offers low levels of this trace mineral. It is different from prescription lithium.
There is some limited evidence that lithium orotate supplements can positively benefit physical and mental health, but we don’t know exactly what those benefits are.
You can increase your lithium levels through food and water. You can also speak to your health care provider about taking a supplement.
If you have a mental health disorder like bipolar, you should never try to self-medicate with lithium orotate or anything else. Only follow the advice of your health care provider.