A number of people have written about their experiences with lithium orotate as an alternative to pharmaceutical lithium (lithium carbonate or lithium citrate). I wanted to know more about it, so I reviewed the research. The bottom line is that we know very little about lithium orotate – the data is scant and old and tells us very little about the safety or effectiveness of lithium orotate as a substitute for lithium carbonate, the standard formulation.

28 Comments to
Bipolar Disorder Medication Spotlight: Lithium Orotate

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  1. Thanks Dr Fink. It is very frustrating trying to obtain reliable information about lithium orotate, but there is huge public interest in it. I get many requests from people who want advice on using lithium orotate. The lack of data and FDA approval is concerning and I hope authorities such as yourself can get enough attention for some further research to be done – it would be very helpful to know if this is a supplement with genuine benfefits or not.

  2. My daughter is on lithium carbonate, and feels that it causes her to have insomnia. She has not been able to get off the lithium. Is there a substitute that she can use the will not cause insomnia?

    • I’ve been on lithium for about 27 years, and I’ve run free support groups for hundreds of bipolar folks. Having trouble sleeping because of lithium is something I, personally, have not experienced or heard of. Is your daughter also on an antidepressant? Some of those can interfere with sleep, either just because they are activating, or because they can make the patient a bit manic, in spite of the lithium.

      Another possibility is that her circadian rhythms are out of line. Bipolars tend to be night people. Some early morning exposure to bright light might help.

      Sometimes the doctors mis-identify a real concern of the patient with “resistance”. That may be why they are insisting she continue the lithium and are not saying much about the insomnia.

      If she can tolerate it, lithium is a better mood stabilizer for a young woman than Depakote. Somewhat more side benefit to the brain, and much safer should she get pregnant.

  3. granted this is anecdotal but sometimes since no one outside of big pharma cares to put money into research I choose good repeated anecdotes for my care all the time..

    a good friend of mine got toxic on lithium carbonate. He could have died of kidney disease. His kidneys recovered to some degree. he now takes lithium orotate and gets blood draws and there has been no continued kidney damage as there would have been with the carbonate…

    he has been stable on orotate for over 5 years.

    I also know many others who have found low doses to be very effective. I hang out in alternative mental health care circles and so hear hundreds of anecdotal stories.

    no one gets toxic…ever. blood tests show it’s much safer than carbonate…a drug that has killed three people I know personally.

    orotate is over the counter because it’s never killed anyone…believe me if there was any toxic reaction the FDA would have it off the market way faster than any pharmaceutical that kills since big pharma makes sure to milk the heck out of any drug that’s killing people before it finally gets taken off market…

    vioxx ring a bell?

    or zyprexa and lithium that currently routinely kill but are still on the market…

    no supplement ever gets that chance adding to my confidence that it is very safe.

  4. Anita
    I would strongly recommend that your daughter review all the options with her prescriber. Something like Lithium orotate may or may not make a difference in a side effect like insomnia – but even if she were to consider such a switch she should do it in conjunction with her doctor.

    There have been reported cases of toxicity on lithium orotate, so it still needs to be monitored carefully.

  5. I have been taking between 2 and 3.5 tables (10 to 17.5mg approx) of Lithium Orotate a day since mid June 2008 – a total of just over 400 tables (purchased from iHerb – California). I started taking the tablets during a hypomanic episode and felt the difference after 4 tablets. I have not had any Cyclothymia symptoms since (bliss) and I also have not had any side effects. I have been diagnosed by a psychiatrist so I do have Cyclothymia although I do not have a deep depressive cycle. It does work. I am also having regular blood tests (6 monthly) as recommended by my doctor.

    • Hi jim ,

      I too have cylcothymia ( diagnosed recently, but suffering for past 4 years , in denial). Was your Phychiarist open to considering Lithium Orotate ? or was that your decision without his support? Alternte medicine is not part of mainstream in canada and it is very hard to push in that direction although every fiber of mine wants to do that . Any detailed advice will be most gratefully accepted as I am groping in the dark.

  6. Dr I am with you 100% anyone taking Lithium Orotate should wait until more studies are done on its safety and those who are on it should have regular blood test

  7. Dr,

    One dose of lithium orotate taken yesterday has put me into lithium toxicity.. unfortunately, for me, I bought into the hype

  8. Hello, I want to start by saying that I am mostly anti-psychiatry. Most of their drugs are very addictive and I know this for a fact. Most of them will tell you to only take their drugs not because of your health but because of what goes into their pockets. (Notice how quick they are to start you on the medications)! Years ago the tobacco company denied that tobacco was a dangerous and addictive drug. Why? It’s very simple, it’s all about the money. And their drugs kill millions every year, including children!!! Yes, Lithium Orotate has not had much scientific study, but a lot of those standard medications are no good either. The grass is not exactly greener on the other side. Your best bet is to do your research on your own and talk to a REAL doctor about your issues. Google Citizens Commission on Human Rights “CCHR”. Be your own advocate. I have abnormal mood swings (during the month), PMDD, Anxiety and not to mention winter depression.If I go to one of them, I could easily be put on four medications. Well, Personally I would rather take a street drug like heroin that makes me feel good rather than me take their drugs and them profit off of me! I could die either way can I?

    • No, very, very few psychiatric medications are addictive. You don’t have to like them, but don’t blame the medications for your personal taste. None of the antidepressants is addictive, and they aren’t marketed to street druggies. Lithium and Depakote are not addictive. Just go to the publicly available warnings on medication risks and side effects, and while you’ll see plenty of problems, you won’t see a word about addiction.

  9. If taking lithium orotate – how do you test for toxicity levels? Do you just get a regular lithium level test like with lithium carbonate???

  10. Hi Heather -
    Yes – the test is the same – looking for the concentration of lithium in the blood. I would strongly encourage anyone taking Lithium Orotate to work with a doctor and the doctor can order the tests and keep track of the level with you.

  11. Melatonin is ok to use with lithium……It will fix your daughters problem with insomnia….check with doctor for dosages …as it is a vitamin supplement …it is best to have a doctors advice before ….thanks

  12. I recently had a kidney removed (cancer and only
    12% use. I am also bipolar and use lithium
    1200mg per day. Would I be better off changing
    my lithium to something else. Depakote alarms me
    cause the weight gain seems to be a big issue.

    What can you recommend.

    Harry

  13. While I can’t comment on the safety of adding self-prescribed lithium ions to your body, there is a substantial amount of literature showing that the orotate ion is quite safe.

    A short article which discusses magnesium orotate and the orotate ion and it’s safety and side effects in reported literature can be seen at:

    http://www.aor.ca/assets/Research/pdf/Advances_10_May_2006_The_New_New_Magnesium.pdf

  14. Lithium Orotate has made such a difference in my life. I take 120 mg a day to start, then when I feel better I cut down to 1/2 tablet. It really helps my depression and PMS symptoms. I take it periodically, when stress is bad I take it for a while, then I was off it all summer, now I am back on. I have had no side effects whatsoever. What prescription drug leaves you feeling better with no side effects? I never found one. I am just grateful to have something that makes me feel better. Depression is horrible. My depression is more situational (job, money problems), so it is probably not as bad as some, but it really takes a toll on me.

  15. I have been taking Lithium Orotate for 4 weeks and can not feel nothing at all that has changed my outlook on life.

    maybe my brain is to toxic for Lithium Orotate to work ..

    I have had a very bad life and took alot of stuff.

  16. Your caution is disengenious. Really–no human trials? No FDA approval? Anyone who knows about Pharma trials and FDA approval knows you are using scare tactics.

    I went through years and years of psychmeds, and my bipolar worsened. I couldn’t take the pharmaceutical lithium due to hypothyroid. My psychiatrist put me through all the anticonvulsants, then the atypical antipsychotics. Sorry, I’m not ready to become a vegetable. The next step was electroshock. No thank you. Finally I tried lithium orotate, and it works without side effects. It doesn’t affect my thyroid, or my kidneys. It doesn’t even show up in bloodwork. But it keeps me stable. Certainly it doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me and millions like me.

    I’m sick of experts who suggest electroshock and antipsychotics, both of which are clearly extremely dangerous, as viable options, and then advise people against lithium orotate because “it hasn’t been studied enough.” Why hasn’t it been? Clue: it has nothing to do with helping people.

    Why don’t you try some antipsychotics and therapeutic shock therapy, and then tell us what you think.

  17. Beth’s comments above are worthy of attention.

    Lithium Orotate has been used extensively in Europe over many years. Here in the US, psychiatrists are using it with good results for people with mixed bipolar disorder (like myself).

    I asked my psychiatrist why there is such a push for the atypical antipsychotics. Her response: because there is very little profit left in the anti-convulsants (after they go generic like Lamotrigine). Lithium Orotate? That will never be researched as it is as cheap as dirt.

    ECT is again being touted as the miracle cure for depression. As a licensed clinical social worker I’ve seen first-hand the results of people who have been “treated” with ECT. If ECT is so safe and good, I’d like every doctor who prescribes it to have undergone one ECT treatment at the lowest possible strength. I wonder how much ECT would be prescribed after that.

    BW

  18. Just saw this article while researching for alternatives to lithium carbonate. I’m shocked there is no research since the 1970′s on this worldwide. With increased sales of it OTC as a supplement, maybe someone will do a 21st century study on it. I’m going to do more research and check with my doctor before I try, though based on the lack of research on safety, I would balk at taking it myself.

    That said, I also want to comment on one of the comments that were left here. One person suggested people google “Citizens commision on human rights”. I want to point out that group is actually run by the cult of Scientology and does not have your interests at heart. Their whole point is to be anti-medicine and anti-psychiatry and to get people into their cult instead of to real doctors. They are quacks and dangerous. Do not go to them under any circumstances for information.

  19. Does it work, or is this just another scam? (I have to quit Lithium Carbonate soon, and I am not inclined to take the new whizbang drugs that end up making you worse off than if you just went back to mood swinging.)

  20. I’ve enjoyed Li. Orotate for close to a year and enjoy only benefits as I take one or two tablets every day, sometimes three over a 24 hour period. My blood is checked and I have no toxicity every three to four months. I enjoy greater freedom in self-esteem and positive esteem as I have other supplements, that are from an anti-aging company also. I see a Psychiatrist for major depression in remission for four years taking Abilify and prolixin. These medicines and vitamins have enabled me to lead a normal life but sedated and unemployed but content and in pursuit of happy.

  21. I’ve been on a bad depression for over a year i think I’m bipolar but my Dr. will not give me Lithium until I’m in the hospital or dead. I started taking Lihium Orotate and i finely feel better.

  22. I just want to comment that it is the lithium, not the compounds it is attached to, that is important in the treatment of bipolar. Just because sometime is heavily researched, such as pharmaceutical lithium, does not mean it is good. If you need more proof just Google Vioxx.

    Second, all supplements are goverend by the FDA. That is an brash statement to throw out there. The truth is supplement companies are goverend by the FDA (DSHEA Act), but that does not mean all companies are equal. Furthormore, very few physicians are actually trained on supplements let alone the differences on companies. Go to http://www.worldhealth.net. Not all of these physcians use supplements but they will be able to refer you to someone who does.

    • To the person who said its lithium not the the compound its attached too. While lithium is the element that causes stabilization the compound its attached to might effect bioavailability, half-life, etc. For example magnesium oxide is very poorly absorbed by the body whereas magnesium citrate and certain others are absorbed rather well. You would not get the same amount of magneium with both compounds so the type of lithium compound you take could very well influence how much is utilized.

  23. My Girlfriend was recently diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 2, and was put on Lithium Orotate, which showed immediate positive effects.

    I would like to point out from a chemistry perspective, that Lithium Carbonate is a synthetic chemical which is why it can be patented and sold to the public, and Lithium Orotate is naturally occurring and from what I have read, actually causes no toxicity, unlike Lithium Carbonate.

    We will continue to use the naturally occurring, cheap alternative to what big pharma is trying to sell us. After all, if I was them I would poison every american too so I could keep them sick ad continue to make money off of them. Then I would pay med schools to train doctors to treat symptoms and not solve the cause. Then I would be rich!!!

  24. I’ve tryed many mediactions because of my moodproblem.

    Noy I’ve a actinic dermatitis because of SSRIs and a blepharospasm because of antypsychotics. Since the blepharospasm I also have problems feeling my right side of the face.
    If I would have known it, I’d rather just stayed depressed. This has nearly destroyed my live. I was much worser than bevore. I didn’t know that this can happen.

    And those are just the most serious side effects who stayed.

    My new psychiatrist doesn’t want to give me any medication, because of my experiences in the past because she doesn’t wants to be responsible.
    I can’t blame her, it’s just the way it is.

    I started to try OTC more or less natural medicine.
    And ended up with:
    * Rhodiola Rosea
    * Cod Liver Oil
    * Melatonin
    * Lithium Orotate

    I take those since nearly two months and lithium orotate since one week in addition and the first time since years I’m nearly free of depressions.
    Allready Melatonin (being able to sleep again), Rhodiola Rosea and Cod Liver Oil has helped me a lot. I also took Tyrosine for a while. It also helped, but I wasn’t totally hapy with my mood. So now I look that my food has a lot of Tyrsoine and Lysine, but don’t take it as a medication.
    Even my skin got a lot better because of the Cod Liver Oil (it contains a lot of vitamin D).

  25. Could you please correct the info on your site about lithium orotate and kidney Danger? Info below. Thank you.

    There is no research or study of any kind showing that lithium orotate is dangerous to use. The much-quoted conclusion of the 1978 Smith and Schou study that can be found at PubMed is INCORRECT for the reasons explained below.

    The study compared the effects on kidney function of lithium carbonate and lithium orotate.

    Results indicated lowered kidney function with lithium orotate, and concluded that it seemed inadvisable to use lithium orotate in the treatment of patients.

    However, THE CONCLUSION OF THIS STUDY WAS SKEWED BECAUSE IT COMPLETELY DISREGARDED THE FACT THAT SIGNIFICANTLY SMALLER AMOUNTS OF LITHIUM OROTATE ARE ADMINISTERED IN ACTUAL USE.

    An effective dose of lithium orotate typically contains 15 mg of elemental lithium compared to the 126 mg of elemental lithium from lithium carbonate.

    Based on the information from the Smith and Schou study stating that equal amounts of lithium carbonate and lithium orotate were used,
    THIS STUDY ADMINISTERED 700% TOO MUCH LITHIUM OROTATE.

    Ironically, the 1978 Smith and Schou study which concluded that lithium orotate was inadvisable for treatment of patients, was done as a direct follow-up study to one performed earlier in 1978 by Kling, Manowitz and Pollack. That study suggested that lithium orotate could be used in lower amounts than required of lithium carbonate to achieve therapeutic results.

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Candida Fink, M.D. and Joe Kraynak are authors of
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