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Top 14 Science Based Health Benefits of Lithium (orotate, aspartate, carbonate, chloride)

Chemistry Cat: Cats are composed of iron, lithium and neon: FeLiNe

Is Lithium The Drug Different Than The “Natural” Forms?

There’s much misinformation about lithium.  A lot of mainstream sources (WebMD, for instance) seem to suggest that lithium prescribed as a treatment for depression or bipolar disorder (as carbonate or chloride salts and in higher doses) work differently than over the counter lithium orotate.

All the research I’ve seen talk about the ion lithium, which would make the type of lithium salt, not that relevant except for how bioavailable it is and how capable it is in crossing the brain barrier.

Some people say that the over the counter version – lithium orotate – passes the brain barrier much more efficiently than the other versions.

Even assuming the possibility of some difference in dosage,  studies about one form of lithium can very likely be generalized to others.

My Experience

The usual dosage taken is 5mg, but I decided to take 15mg to see what would happen.  I can say that there’s definitely a subtle cognitive effect.  It’s definitely got an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effect and it seemed to lengthen the period of my circadian rhythm, as I started to feel tired later on.

On the negative side, it made more zoned out.  It also made me feel less attached to everything. The fact that I felt acute effects at 15mg suggests me that lithium orotate passes the brain barrier efficiently, perhaps even more so since a much higher dosage of lithium carbonate is standardly used.

Anyway, I’m glad I did the experiment so that I now know lithium orotate is definitely having an effect and I can use it in my coaching practice.

This suggests that at least some of the benefits of other lithium salts prescribed by doctors can be achieved through the orotate version commonly sold.

The Lithium That I Use

Lithium

  • Longevity9.0/10
  • Inflammation8.0/10
  • Mood9.7/10
  • Cognition9.5/10
  • Energy8.5/10

     Pros

  • Great for emotional balance, including anxiety and depression
  • Improves Cognitive performance.
  • Increases lifespan
  • Increases bone density
  • Improves mitochondria

        Cons

  • May increases IL-8 in the gut
  • May cause some fatigue
  • May inhibit thyroid function a bit

The Health Benefits of Lithium

1) Lithium is Neuroprotective

Chronic lithium treatment was found to robustly reduce glutamate-induced excitotoxicity mediated by NMDA receptors. This effect was at least partly due to lithium’s ability to inhibit the influx of calcium, which mediates NMDA receptor activity. (R)

Lithium’s neuroprotective role can help mood disorders, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases (R).

2) Lithium Increases Neuronal Survival

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Lithium increases Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs), which promote the folding of proteins and refolding of misfolded proteins and dispose of abnormal proteins. (R)

Among HSPs, HSP70 exerts a wide variety of neuroprotective effects against apoptosis.  These effects are mediated by inhibition of GSK-3 (R).

Chronic lithium treatment also has been found to induce a molecule (Bcl-2) in the frontal cortex that protects cells from dying (R).

3) Lithium Increases Neurotrophic Factors BDNF,NGF, and GDNF

Long-term treatment of cultured neurons with lithium induces BDNF. (R)

BDNF, a major neurotrophin essential for cognitive development, synaptic plasticity, and neuronal survival and has anti-depressants and anti-anxiety effects. (R)

This is likely a result of inhibition of GSK-3. (R)

Lithium also increases Nerve Growth Factor and Glial-Derived Neurotrophic Factor in the hippocampus, frontal cortex, occipital cortex and striatum (R).

4) Lithium Helps Remodel The Brain and Heart (VEGF)

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Lithium treatment increases the production of VEGF, which promotes cell proliferation and differentiation of newly born cells and neurovascular remodeling after stroke. (R)

By increasing VEGF (specifically in heart cells), lithium treatment can help people recover more quickly from a stroke. (R)

The likely mechanism is by inhibiting GSK-3. (R)

5) Lithium Induces Autophagy

Lithium’s ability to deplete inositol was recently identified as a novel route for inducing autophagy  (independent of mTOR). (R)

Autophagy is a physiological process for degrading and recycling junk proteins. (R)

It has recently been recognized as a principal response to cellular stress and an important regulator of neuronal function and survival. (R)

It plays a role in the destruction of cellular pathogens and aids the cell to eliminate the pathogens. (R)

As a ‘quality control’ process, autophagy (recycling) is believed to be particularly beneficial in neurodegenerative disorders – Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and Huntington’s.   This is because these disorders are, in part, characterized by the accumulation of misfolded disease-causing proteins. (R)

Research suggests that autophagy (recycling) is required for the lifespan-prolonging effects of caloric restriction (R) and for much of the health benefits of exercise (R).  Inhibiting mTOR increases autophagy, which is part of the reason mTOR inhibition increases longevity. (R)

6) Lithium Increases Neurogenesis and Improves Cognitive Function

Lithium was found to stimulate progenitor and stem cells in cultured brain neurons in the hippocampus (memory center) and to prevent the loss of proliferation induced by glutamate or cortisol (glucocorticoids).  Long-term lithium treatment then promotes the conversion of these progenitor cells into neurons.  (R)

In addition, chronic lithium treatment not only enhances neurogenesis in the hippocampus (memory center) of normal mice but also restores neurogenesis in the brain in an animal model of Down syndrome (R).

It also increases neurogenesis in the subventricular zone, the only other place except for the hippocampus (memory center) that it’s been found to occur, causing a sustained increase in gray matter volume in patients (R).

Lithium increases N-acetyl aspartate (NAA) (R).

NAA may be a marker of creativity and is correlated with IQ scores (R). One probable effect is more efficient inter-hemispheric data transfer, which enhances intellectual performance. (R)

Chronic lithium treatment increases long-term potentiation (LTP) in neurons of the hippocampus, which helps with learning and memory (R).

Chronic lithium treatment may also improve learning and memory in Alzheimer’s by blocking the formation of beta-amyloid and neurofibrillary tangles (R).

The likely mechanism is again through GSK-3β inhibition and the ERK pathway (R).

7) Lithium is Calming and Stabilizes Mood

In animals, lithium consistently decreases exploratory activity and aggression. (R)

Lithium is known to have a calming and mood stabilizing effect in people as well and is used to treat depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia (R).

The presence of higher than normal levels of naturally occurring lithium in drinking water supplies may reduce suicide rates (R).

Part of the explanation could be because lithium increases serotonin synthesis and release (it also decreases norepinephrine) (R).

Lithium increases CCK in the brain and this is part of the mechanism by which lithium prevents mania in bipolar.

8) Lithium Decreases Insulin Resistance

Lithium enhances  insulin-stimulated glucose transport and glycogen synthesis in insulin-resistant muscle in rats (R). These effects are dependent on p38 MAPK (R).

Lithium decreases insulin release (R).

9) Lithium Reduces Autoimmunity and Inflammation

By inhibiting GSK-3,  lithium has been found to beneficial in animal models of autoimmune conditions. (R)

Lithium suppresses T helper (Th1) cells and interferon gamma (but not Th17 cells). (R)

10) Lithium Increases Bone Density

A study assessed bone mineral density at the hip and lumbar spine in 75 lithium-treated outpatients and 75 normal subjects matched for age, sex, and body mass index.

The study found a lower bone turnover state in those receiving lithium.  The mean bone density in lithium-treated patients was 4.5% higher at the spine, 5.3% higher at the femoral neck and 7.5% higher at the trochanter (R).

The mechanism is thought to be increased levels of a protein called Wnt (R),

11) Lithium Can Helps Entrain Our Circadian Rhythm

Lithium is the drug of choice for treating patients suffering from bipolar disorder, which is characterized by the presence of mania and depression (R).

One mechanism by which lithium can help bipolar disorder is by lengthening the circadian rhythm. People with bipolar disorder tend to have a shorter circadian rhythm than the near 24h period (R).

Lithium helps entrain our circadian rhythm more quickly in response to light and darkness (R).

12) Low Dose Lithium Increases Longevity

Researchers have found a positive correlation between lifespan and drinking-water lithium levels.  There was a decreased risk for all causes of death in Japanese neighborhoods with higher lithium levels.

They also found that low doses of lithium improved the health and increased the lifespan of worms.

The study concluded that “long-term low-dose exposure to lithium may exert anti-aging capabilities and unambiguously decreases mortality in evolutionary distinct species.” (R)

Another study also found that lithium treatment increased both the lifespan and health of worms.  The improvements in health were accompanied by improved mitochondrial function. (R)

One mechanism might be that lithium should theoretically increase NAD+, which is associated with longevity.

(Lithium inhibits mir-34a, which in turn inhibits NAMPT, the enzyme that makes NAD+ (R, R2). Therefore, lithium probably increases NAD+.)

13) Lithium Combats Depression

Lithium is one of the best-studied strategies for resistant depression (R).

Lithium increases serotonin 5HT1A postsynaptic sensitivity, which is in part responsible for its anti-depressant activity. (R)

Lithium also elevates BDNF (R, R2), which combats depression.

Lithium ameliorates depression in animals, in part, by increasing neural stem cells.

14) Lithium Improves Mitochondrial Function

Lithium treatment of worms increased lifespan and improved markers of health, including mitochondrial energy output (R).

Lithium may improve mitochondrial function by increasing the turnover of dysfunctional mitochondria (R).

Other

Potential Risks/Negatives

  • A common side effect that comes with lithium is fatigue.  This may be a result of  a significant reduction in orexin-producing cells, but there’s a tendency for the remaining cells to have a “stronger signal” in compensation (R).
  • Lithium is a competitive inhibitor of magnesium, which is part of its mechanism of action (R).
  • Lithium may reduce thyroid hormone levels.
  • Lithium may increase inflammation in the intestines- IL-8 (R) and Nf-kB (R).  If you have colitis or Crohn’s I would not take this. Colitis is caused in part by IL-8 and this increases IL-8 (R).

Buying Lithium

I generally go for lithium orotate, but lithium aspartate is also fine.

Dosing

If you’re completely healthy, I recommend 1-2 mg a day in the long term. There is an association with low doses of lithium (1-2mg) and longevity (R).

However, I wouldn’t expect to feel anything at that dosage.  I’ve been taking 1mg for quite a few months, with no noticeable effect.  I’ve recently upped it to 5mg.

Positive Reviews From the Web

-These tablets have changed my life, I suffered from severe insomnia for 7 years, tried everything possibly imaginable to relieve my symptoms. This supplement has calmed my mind, and switched off my erratic moods. It has eliminated my emotional attachment to most things in life. I am now far more level headed and deal with situations much easier – life seems less stressful! I take two in the morning with vitamin b and fish oil and one in the afternoon with vitamin b Really recommend this tablet to anyone suffering from any of the above listed symptoms, anyone who has ever questioned their own sanity, dealt with depression, mood swings or those who emotionally attatch themselves to most situations – you will learn to observe life and not absorb it. Best thing i have ever done

-I have spent my whole life, trying to feel better and the deleterious effects of pharmacueticals are not worth the delivery they never produce. I have seriously never felt sustained happiness in my life. I have ADHD and I do not say or do impulsive behavior with this product.I take divided doses of 30 mgs total per day and I am calm. For those who do not suffer, it is unimaginable that one like me had to wait till I was 56 to live my life, calm cool and collected. I feel the smoothness of neurotransmission and sequential duties are no longer an issue. It is my long awaited miracle!! To say I feel JOY is an understatement!!!!!

-fantastic product from a reliable brand. the change in my mood (@5mg/day) was almost immediate and is very pronounced. it seemed to shut off the stress->depression cycle.

-I HAVE BEEN USING RX FOR DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY FOR YEARS…THIS IS BETTER THAN ANY OF THE RX’S I HAVE TAKEN IN THE PAST WITH NONE OF THE SIDE EFFECTS!! I LOVE IT!

-Noticed it calmed me down and regulated my breathing since I am a shallow/irregular breather especially if stressed. This effect was subtle but significant. Liked the product overall and love doctor’s best brand.

-Initially purchased for mother who has alzheimers. I’ve only had her on it for about a week so I have not noticed any difference, however I figured why not try it myself. I have noticed my depression is gone and thoughts of suicide have all but disappeared! I take about 10 mg per day and figure even if it doesn’t help her, I can now cope.

-I love this product… it has brought me back to my true self. The price and the reviews caught my attention. I’ve struggled with social anxiety and depressive/manic phases for decades and tried antidepressants/antianxiety medications to no avail and comitted to finding a natural regimen instead. I’ve been taking one tablet daily sometimes a second in times of extreme stress along with vitamin c, iron, time release multi, easily digestible protein shake, and a good Fish Oil/DHA+EPA each day. At first I was taking it before bed but started taking it the morning about a month ago. It induces a sense of calm, clarity and presence. I’m able to interact with ppl more spontaneously, sleep better, and think/judge more clearly. I suggest that if anyone wants to try this, research and use with accompanying nutritional supplements. It started working for me on day 1 and I hope others discover this incredible product. Shipping to Canada took a while but I was checking the mailbox obsessively each day for the delivery.

-My husband and I both take this. No noticeable effect, but after the first week I realised we hadn’t had any outbursts of temper, or any fits of depression. Six weeks later, and the one cranky episode followed a missed tablet. I was undiagnosed cyclothymic, and with Lithium I find the unstable, silly racing head and the dull unmotivated head don’t happen. Instead I feel balanced and stable. My husband had anger management problems which, amazingly, he doesn’t have any more. We both take one or two tablets a day. They have no effect on my sensitive stomach, but for the first week or so I had to carry a bottle of water around to deal with the extra thirst. This works so well I’m a little anxious in case it becomes unavailable.

-I don’t write to many reviews but I had to for this supplement. I have been on Paxil for 5 years and had just been informed that my insurance company was raising the price on my meds. It became to expensive for me so I went looking for something else I could replace it with. I read the reviews for this Lithium and decided to try it. FYI my main issue is anxiety. I weaned myself off of the antidepressant and started taking this in its place. Well, It works! Im not having the bad withdrawals that can come with getting off of Paxil and so far, I feel great! I will continue to take this.

-My response to lithium orotate was so overwhelmingly positive, I suspect some sort of conspiracy is afoot to keep it from public knowledge. Problems with Anxiety, Insomnia, Moodiness – completely solved with this nutrient. I can’t recommend it enough.

-Excellent product. I purchased this for my 17 year old daughter who has been trying to give up her addiction to Marjiuana and has suffered from rage attacks and severe irritability. Her mood has completely evened out and she no longer suffers with irritability. Which means we all no longer suffer from her irritability. I am so pleased to have found this product on iherb

Amazon’s Bestsellers

Bestseller No. 1
NCI Advanced Research Dr. Hans Nieper Lithium Orotate Tablets, 120 mg, 200 Count
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Weyland: Lithium Orotate - 5mg of Elemental Lithium per Vegetarian Capsule
  • Each bottle of Weyland: Lithium Orotate contains 60 vegetarian capsules.
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Comments

  1. jane

    What is the actual dose of the Lithium ions in mg in the lithium orotate 5mg dose?

    Does the reported 1.5 mg dose on the Trace Minerals label refer to the Lithium ions only? I would assume so, since the salt is dissolved in the solution, but the label does not so state.

    Thanks,
    Jane

  2. RK

    Where do you find lithium orotate 1mg? The lowest dose I can find is 5mg and that is with n acetyl-cysteine. I do not tolerate n acetyl-cysteine. Thanks.

  3. Emmie

    We live in Europe. My daughter takes 400mg lithium carbonate a day for BiPolar Disorder. She is doing well and works successfully in a creative job. She does have lithium induces skin problems and problems with her intestines ( not every day ) . Would extra magnesium and inositol be bad for her ? She takes now active B vitamins and magnesium ( and more ).
    Would it be a good idea for her to ask for lithium orotate and then in a lower dose ?
    ( I understand perfectly weel if you do not know the answers ).

    Next week we will try your SelfDecode.

    • Kelly

      Be cautious the bi carbonate version your daughter is taking is very different from orotate. Orotate crosses the blood brain barrier where as bicarbonate does not, hence the high dosage. With lithium Orotate a very small dose is all that is required to effect a positive outcome with little side effects.

  4. I just started it yesterday. I am amazed how calm I feel. I have autoimmune and stuggle with brainfog, ear ringing, poor memory, inflammation, insomnia, anxiety and depression. My ear ringing is less, I can think clearer and my inflammation is a lot less. Brain fog and fatigue is a lot better. I have chronic fatigue. I am hoping it will reverse some of my brain issues. I am 50 and am tired of feeling like I am 90.

      • Tina

        Dante….I did not post but want to comment and the only way I could figure was to hit reply….I noticed less aggression in 2 hours….No LIE….I was honestly FRANTIC FRANTIC FRANTIC on the day I started this and HONESTLY felt better in 2 hours. I thought this feeling was Pychosymatic but after reading all the others and the immediate and dramatic effects I would have to say YES it works VERY QUICKLY : )

  5. DC

    I have a rage disorder along with obsessive thoughts. 30 mg of this lithium orotate daily has dramatically changed my life. I feel that 40 mg is what my brain needs. Is this okay long term? Will I need to discontinue for my upcoming surgery? I really do not want to stop taking it. Thank you for your time.

  6. Oh help help! I’m looking for a comparison of liquid ionic lithium and lithium orotate. I’ll divide each 5mg capsule into 3 capsules every day for the rest of my life if I have to but it sure would be nice to switch to the liquid. I just want to be certain of dosage. Can’t say enough about it, except it’s too bad I had to suffer from anxiety, mood swings, difficulty focusing, side effects of prescription meds for over 50 years before I found lithium orotate.

    • Kelly

      Check your facts before you start spouting incorrect information please. This discussion is about Lithium Orotate Not Bi Carbinate !! Do your research

    • Cristobal

      Two of the big differences is that oratate is absorbed better and crosses the “blood-brain-barrier” more effectively, meaning much smaller doses can be used. The doses used in l.carbonate are close to toxic and need to be monitored. My ex-wife actually went toxic on a prescribed dose and suffered amnesia for a while (the real kind, not the fictional version). The above poster mentions pharmaceutical lithium is “300+ stronger”, but what I think he means is that many times the amount of lithium carbonate is needed to provide the same amount of lithium ions to the brain. Why haven’t medical practitioners switched? It cost at least tens of millions of dollars to do the effectiveness and safety tests. Pharmaceutical companies need to forecast high profit margins to do these tests and market the alternative forms of lithium. That money just isn’t there according to finance. In a way, lithium carbonate is a kind of scam by neglect. Think Big Pharma and medicine isn’t capable of that? Tell me where the new antibiotics that are so desperately needed? Why are so many dying of hospital infections. If you want better living through chemistry, you need to do your own research.

  7. loane

    I used one capsule of lithium orotate 5mg from Swanson… my blood glucose from 88mg/dl went to 136mg/dl. Is this normal?

  8. Simi

    Some research shows Lithium orotate to be beneficial for Inflammatory bowel disease but this article says not to take in Crohn’s??

  9. Devildog

    Hi Joseph,

    In my Lithium Orotate studies, I just came across your site. I am on the tail end of 61 and have been burdened by Adult ADD for decades. All of my life actually looking back. Conventional drugs had more negative effects than positive, so I couldn’t continue with them. And so called natural remedies failed to work miserably. Then a few weeks ago I stumbled across information about lithium orotate on the internet and I have been reading everything I can get my eyeballs since.

    Today is my second day of taking 20mg of it. I determined that 20 mg once a day is more than safe since this form of lithium has not proven to be toxic at much higher dosages. I believe it is a high enough dose to have an affect, if it is going to have an affect on me and I am withholding judgment for at least 30 days…unless I get a positive/negative result too obvious to ignore earlier. Too early to report any affects yet, but I am highly encouraged by all of the research (although no large scale trials have been performed that I have read of) and testimonials from users across the web about how it has finally solved their or their children’s various issues that meds and other remedies had failed to perform or presented too many negative side effects to be able to enjoy any positive benefits received.

    I am looking for relief from issues around lack of focus and the inability to stay on task for any length of worthwhile time. As well as with maintaining motivation to finish projects. The suggested long term benefits regarding increased general brain health will be appreciated also, but immediately, help with lack of focus and my brain from switching channels too often to allow for completing tasks in a timely manner or at all.

    Great site you have here. I will sign up for updates. Thanks.

  10. Samantha

    Hi! Are there any other drugs, supplements, or herbs that should not be mixed with Lithium Orotate? I’d like to know before I start taking it.

  11. Kevin

    Question: Do you think that chronically administered, small (+-6mg) doses of lithium orotate would, over time, increase the amount of grey matter in the brain? I believe the studies point to a therapeutic level of lithium used for 4 weeks or so… Thanks!

  12. JoAnn

    “This confirms that the benefits of other lithium salts prescribed by doctors can be achieved through the orotate version commonly sold.”
    Suggest “that some of the benefits”

  13. Lithium Orotate

    Thanks for getting the word about lithium orotate out there. Your site is very helpful and the community thanks you for it. Keep up the great work man

  14. And don’t forget it’s impact on thyroid physiology. Lithium is not an antipsychotic. It is used as a mood stabilizer particularly effective for suicidal ideation and behaviors in bipolar depression and mania both of which can occur without psychotic symptoms per se, psychotic symptoms being defined as symptoms/ signs indicating lack of insight/ judgment/decision making logic out of conjunction with consensual reality (that is for a philosophical/ linguistic discussion). Lithium also works through the inositol system: http://www.bipolar-lives.com/inositol-and-bipolar.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inositol_monophosphatase. Due to the narrow therapeutic vs toxic window for lithium dosing it’s probably to the well being of all beings to state a very strong caveat that dosing for recreational experimentation is highly likely to cause irreversible cerebelar damage and we know how much we hate that when it happens. Thanks for this treasure trove work in progress.

  15. Britt

    I’m thinking that some bipolar is caused by a mild form of thyroid instability, switching back and fourth between hypo and hyper and the reason MDs put patients on such high doses that almost cause toxicity and almost always cause tremors is they need to see a stabilization affect sooner rather than later–instead of letting it build up over months and letting the patient’s body get used to it. But that’s an anecdotal guess.

    But really how much of Medical Science is just guesses anyway, a ton of persciption meds I see say “Medicationon is thought to work by XYZ.” emphasis on the “is thought.”

  16. Lithium @ 2.5mg increases symptoms and increases anxiety, should I be tested for Crohns, again? Or is there anything else you can advise for me to do?

  17. Hi, Can you give reference to where you found Lithium Orotate increasing IL-8 and can make intestinal issues such as Chron’s worse? I only find studies that show it helps reduce intestinal inflammation?

  18. K

    Joe you say about not taking smart drugs as you are better off taking natural stuff instead so how is this any different as it is a drug after all, Why cant you just eat veg and fruit would that not do the job, Is it because of this freaking modern world? Can it ever just be simple? You are a smart man.

  19. Rae

    Taking lithium orotate for 2 months. First month a miracle!! Nothing bothered me and Now I feel irritable anxiety and pissed off mode all the time. Any suggestions???

  20. chris

    I have two questions. One is I’ve been taking orotate because I read one review saying it was the best then I recently saw one saying orotate can lead to cancer. What are your thoughts on this? My second question is what time of the day do you take it? I’ve been doing the morning but I read on another forum someone said they take it at night and it helps them go to sleep. If that’s the case is taking it in the AM making me tired during the day?

  21. Ooo I’ll try this out. I had a question though, I know that the prescription lithium requires blood tests to make sure it doesnt get to toxic levels. I assume with this OTC lithium the dose is too low to warrant blood tests or is it due to something else?

    • Selfhacked

      Hi CC,
      you are correct in that it’s the lower dosage that makes it less toxic. Supposedly it gets absorbed better so you need to take less.

    • With Lithium Orotate the delivery mechanism is straight into the blood and brain allowing for much lower dose which is no. Toxic levels. Lithium carbonate on the other hand requires massive amounts to a hive the same effect which can be very toxic. Bottom line stick with over the counter Orotate

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