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Ask the Mental Health Expert Archives 2001-2004

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Organic Form of Lithium

Q. Could you give me your unbiased opinion of the organic form of lithium and why there is not much discussion out there about it (organic lithium orotate--lithium with a mineral transport carrier)?

A. My unbiased view is that there is virtually no published human research on the use of lithium orotate (LiO); therefore, it's impossible to make any clinical recommendations regarding its use. (In my own literature review, I found only 6 published studies of LiO). Apparently, the use of LiO arose from Dr. Hans Nieper's theoretical explanations of so-called mineral transporters. The theory, called "fixed pore mechanism", suggests that a carrier molecule, in this case Orotic Acid (B-13), is attached to the compound being transported.

Apparently, the goal was to increase bioavailability of lithium or other minerals. In one of the few published studies of LiO, (Sartori HE, Alcohol 1986 Mar-Apr;3(2):97-100),42 alcoholic patients (33 males and 9 females) were treated with lithium orotate during an alcohol rehabilitation program in a private clinical setting for at least six months. Lithium orotate was given, 150 mg daily, with a diet low in simple carbohydrates and containing moderate amounts of protein and fat.

In addition, calcium orotate, magnesium orotate, bromelaine, and essential phospholipids (for cardiac problems), and supportive measures were instituted, if required. Lithium orotate proved useful as the main pharmacologic agent for the treatment of alcoholism. Ten of the patients had no relapse for over three and up to 10 years, 13 patients remained without relapse for 1 to 3 years, and the remaining 12 had relapses between 6 to 12 months.

Lithium orotate therapy was described as safe and the adverse side effects noted were minor, i.e., eight patients developed muscle weakness, loss of appetite or mild apathy. However, given the lack of a control group and the use of other chelates besides LiO, it's hard to draw any conclusions from this study.

My concern is that non-physician, unaccredited nutritionists may be providing this compound to patients, without a sound data base, and without appropriate monitoring of serum lithium levels--but this is based only on a few comments from users I saw posted on a nutrition web site.

Still, at this point, I believe there is no scientific basis for recommending lithium orotate in clinical practice.

December 2002

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