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Lithium Orotate

What Should I Know About It?

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Updated August 02, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Lithium orotate is a substance that consists of lithium (an alkali metal) and orotic acid (a compound produced naturally in the body). Available in dietary supplement form, lithium orotate is touted as a natural treatment for a wide range of mental-health problems.

Lithium orotate is often promoted as an alternative to lithium, a medication prescribed to treat and prevent episodes of mania in people with bipolar disorder. Lithium is said to treat and prevent manic episodes by reducing abnormal brain activity.

Although orotic acid is sometimes referred to as vitamin B13, it's not actually considered a vitamin. In the human body, orotic acid is produced from microorganisms found in the intestines.

Why Do People Use Lithium Orotate As An Alternative To Lithium?

Some people use lithium orotate to avoid the adverse effects of lithium. These adverse effects include:

  • acne
  • bloating and/or gas
  • constipation
  • depression
  • dry mouth
  • hair loss
  • indigestion
  • joint pain
  • loss of appetite
  • restlessness
  • stomach pain
  • weight gain
  • weight loss

However, it's important to note that there is currently a lack of scientific support for lithium orotate's effectiveness as an alternative to lithium.

Uses for Lithium Orotate

Lithium orotate is purported to treat and prevent the following conditions:

In addition, lithium orotate is used to reduce stress, relieve pain, and improve memory.

Some patients with bipolar disorder also use lithium orotate in combination with lithium. Since orotic acid is thought to increase the body's absorption of lithium, it's thought that taking a combination of lithium orotate and lithium may allow patients to decrease their dosage of lithium (and, in turn, reduce some of the adverse effects associated with lithium).

Benefits Of Lithium Orotate

Research on the health effects of lithium orotate is very limited. Although a number of studies published in the 1970s and 1980s determined that lithium orotate may offer certain benefits, more recent research on lithium orotate is lacking.

The available research on lithium orotate includes a small study published in the journal Alcohol in 1986. In a six-month-long experiment involving 42 people with alcoholism, researchers found that daily treatment with lithium orotate helped protect against relapses in alcoholism.

Is Lithium Orotate Safe?

Due to a lack research, little is known about the safety of long-term use of lithium orotate. However, there's some evidence that lithium orotate may have some toxic effects. For instance, a 2007 report published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology warns that chronic use of lithium orotate may cause nausea and tremors. There's also some concern that use of lithium orotate may lead to kidney damage.

In addition, use of lithium orotate may cause adverse effects similar to those that result from lithium toxicity (a commonly occurring problem that has contributed to the development of newer drugs to take the place of lithium as a therapy for bipolar disorder). Along with nausea and vomiting, these adverse effects include cardiac arrhythmias and potentially permanent or long-lasting neurological problems (such as tremors, dementia, and ataxia). Due to the health risks associated with lithium toxicity, safe use of lithium requires periodic blood-testing to ensure that toxic levels of the drug are not being reached. Given these safety concerns, using lithium orotate without the supervision of a healthcare professional is strongly discouraged.

It's also important to note that self-treating a chronic condition (such as bipolar disorder) with lithium orotate, and avoiding or delaying standard care, may have serious consequences. If you're considering the use of lithium orotate in treatment of a chronic condition, it's crucial to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen.

Sources

National Institutes of Health. "Lithium: MedlinePlus Drug Information." November 2012.

Pauzé DK, Brooks DE. "Lithium toxicity from an Internet dietary supplement." J Med Toxicol. 2007 Jun;3(2):61-2.

Sartori HE. "Lithium orotate in the treatment of alcoholism and related conditions." Alcohol. 1986 Mar-Apr;3(2):97-100.

Balon R. "Possible dangers of a "nutritional supplement" lithium orotate. Ann Clin Psychiatry. 2013 Feb;25(1):71.

Heim W, Oelschläger H, Kreuter J, Müller-Oerlinghausen B. "Liberation of lithium from sustained release preparations. A comparison of seven registered brands". Pharmacopsychiatry. 1994 Jan;27(1):27-31.

Amdisen A. "Clinical features and management of lithium poisoning." Med Toxicol Adverse Drug Exp. 1988 Jan-Dec;3(1):18-32.

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