Lithium Orotate vs. Lithium Carbonate

Safer Choices for Mood Stability

Possibly the greatest silver lining from the COVID pandemic has been the heightened awareness of mental health conditions and the realization that mood stability need not be viewed as an archaic psychiatric condition that results in heavy-duty drug therapy and institutionalization. There are safer choices that can completely change one’s life for the better. One of those choices is a poorly understood mineral called lithium, which is not only a very powerful essential trace mineral but also one of the most fascinating minerals on the planet.

Lithium is an essential micronutrient... it is present in all organs and tissues in the body. It has similar chemical properties to that of calcium and magnesium.

Mark Hyman MD

Bestselling Author of The UltraMind Solution

Different Forms of Lithium

Unfortunately, due to its historic connection to psychiatric disorders for mania and depression (see The History of Lithium for Mood Disorders, below), lithium in its prescription form (lithium carbonate) has long carried a stigma in the minds of most people because of its negative effects and association with the shock treatment known as Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT). Lithium orotate is an essential trace mineral with many beneficial effects for the brain and mental health that many practitioners are now turning to as a safter alternative to lithium carbonate.

Lithium Orotate

Lithium orotate is a natural form of lithium sold in health foods stores and online. It can be found in capsules, liquids, homeopathic remedies and combinations of supplements in dosages usually varying from 1mg to 20mg. Higher amounts may be given to a child or young adult who suffers from mood swings, anxiety and depression, but this should be done under a doctor’s supervision. Many psychiatrists and doctors recommend lithium orotate to their patients to “take the edge off” of someone who has a lot of stress.

Lithium orotate takes about a week to load up fully in the brain, but the benefits often can be visible quickly. Children with conditions such as autism spectrum disorders, mood disorders or PANS/PANDAS can often function throughout the day without getting angry and physical due to normal everyday frustrations by taking low doses of lithium orotate. This mineral helps:

  • Stabilize and elevate mood
  • Increase coping abilities
  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce anger and frustrations
  • Enhance earning and cognitive achievements
  • Allow for more socialiability and happiness

Lithium orotate can make all the difference in the world for the parents of children with anxiety just by having their children take consistently low-dose lithium orotate under a practitioner’s guidance.

Lithium Carbonate

Lithium carbonate is the drug form of lithium prescribed to bipolar patients by psychiatrists because it can aid in reducing mood swings, lowering anxiety and promoting sleep. There is some concern over long-term usage of the drug because it can impair kidney function when used over a long period of time. Low-dose lithium orotate, on the other hand, is generallly safe for long-term usage.

Benefits of Lithium

Lithium has anti-aging and restorative health properties. It is naturally occurring in bodies of water. For thousands of years, Lithia Springs in Georgia and other springs in North America have been part of sacred indigenous medicine. In more recent history, health resorts were often built around natural lithium springs, such as those in Georgia, Colorado, Florida, South Carolina and California. Recent archeological excavations have unearthed ancient Neolithic artifacts that are thousands of years old, indicating that people may have journeyed to these sacred springs to heal their bodies, minds and spirits since prehistoric times.

Even soft drinks have a history with lithium. In 1929, Charles Leiper Grigg marketed a new soft drink in the United States called Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda, saying that “it takes the ouch out of the grouch.” He touted that his drink improved mood and cured hangovers. It was the birth of the modern day 7 Up soft drink. The atomic weight of 6.9 (rounded off to 7) became the “7” in 7 Up, while the “Up” reflected the drink’s ability to lift spirits. Lithium remained an active ingredient in 7 Up until 1950.

Dr. William Shaw PhD, retired founder of Great Plains Laboratories, now known as Mosaic Diagnostics, maintains that today there is a greater susceptibility to psychiatric disorders because people have inadequate amounts of lithium. He views the switch to drinking purified water due to increased water contamination as a contributing factor.

There was a very famous study in Texas, where they looked at different counties, some of which had very high amounts of lithium in the water and some which had very low amounts of lithium in the water. The counties with low amounts of lithium in the water were associated with increased rates of mental health hospitalization, increased crime, increased murder, increased rape, increased drug abuse, and then of course, just the reverse: counties that had very high amounts of lithium in the water had excellent, favorable mental health issues.

William Shaw PhD

Founder, Great Plains Laboratory

According to Dr. Shaw, fluoride in the drinking water should be replaced with lithium, and this would likely reduce psychiatric care by 50%.

Additional Benefits of Lithium

In addition to playing a large role in mood stabilization in bipolar, depression, anxiety and other mood disorders, lithium may also provide additional benefits such as:

How to Take Lithium Orotate

Amy Yasko PhD ND, a well known methylation expert in nutrigenomics, recommends 5-10 mg of lithium orotate a day to correct and prevent deficiencies in lithium. (As always, work with your child’s practitioner to determine the bioindividual dosage.) Many people with chronic illness are low in lithium especially those who have the genetic MTHFR mutation with the C677T variant or the MTR, SHMT or CBS mutations are all at risk for lithium deficiency because these genetic SNPs will dump lithium. Lithium “dumping” may affect many children with conditions such as mood disorders, autism and PANS/PANDAS with one or more of these specific genetic mutations. This may be a reason why these children exhibit mood swings. Supplementing with low-dose lithium orotate may be very stabilizing and effective for them, although they may also need mitochondrial support with other supplements. We recommend working with a knowledgeable practitioner for specific advice on your child’s needs.

It should be noted that according to Nancy Mullan MD, a close associate of Dr. Amy Yasko and expert in lithium and genetic mutations, increasing vitamin B12 levels when lithium levels are low may further deplete lithium levels. Therefore, check with your practitioner to see if there is an adequate amount of lithium before adding vitamin B12.

The History of Lithium for Mood Disorders

Treating psychiatric disorders and stabilizing mood swings with lithium, usually in the form of the lithium carbonate medication, is a recognized modern-day treatment protocol for depression and mania. However, the use of lithium for these disorders may go back thousands of years.

Lithium in Roman Empirical Times

In Greek and Roman literature, people suffering from depression were described as having melancholy, lethargy, sleeplessness, irritability, agitation, fears, and hopelessness. Soranus, a physician from Ephesus, the area where modern day Turkey is, lived from 98 to 138 AD. He observed that the condition of melancholia – which is analagous to modern-day depression – improved after they drank from certain mineral springs. These springs were determined many centuries later to be alkaline in nature and contained the mineral lithium. Soranus was known to prescribe this mineral spring water to people who were manic or melancholic. He was unaware of the name of the exact mineral in the water but saw the positive effects the water had on people who suffered from emotional difficulties.

Lithium in the Middle Ages

Unfortunately, by the Middle Ages, mental illness was seen as a punishment from God, and people were burned at the stake for having this kind of condition.

Lithium in the Victorian Era

In 1848, Dr. Alfred Baring Garrod of London, England used lithium as a medication to treat his patients with gout. He discovered that there was an abnormal increase in uric acid in the blood of his patients with gout. His research led him to find that uric acid stones were dissolved in vitro with lithium carbonate. His hypothesis was that gout could be a cause of mood disorders such as mania and depression due to the high uric acid in the blood. Gout at that time was a disease of the wealthy who drank too much and ate heavy rich meals with a lot of meat. In 1859, he published The Nature and Treatment of Gout and Rheumatic Gout where he recommended lithium as a treatment for mental illness.

Depression and Mania Treatment in the Early Twentieth Century

By the early 20th century, lithium was forgotten and not really seen in early psychiatry as an option to treat mental illness. The early beginnings of modern-day psychiatry were brutal and barbaric as psychiatrists searched for ways to treat mania and depression. By 1934, psychiatry began experimenting with more advanced treatments to try and desperately treat these two mental health conditions. However, their attempts were often unsuccessful and brutal in nature.

Convulsive Therapies

At that time in Europe, chemical convulsive therapy was introduced as a drug therapy to medically induce convulsions. Cardiazol was the drug of choice but there were many debilitating side effects such as vertebral fractures following severe epileptic seizures, unpleasant sensations, intense fear preceding the loss of consciousness, general anxiety, and vein thrombosis. The following year, prefrontal lobotomy practice began in 1935 as seen in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Unfortunately, John F. Kennedy’s family learned that lobotomy did not always result in success, as was the case with his sister, Rosemary.

By 1937, Electric Convulsive Therapy (ECT), which was the electric stimulation of the brain while the patient is under anesthesia, was first introduced into clinical practice in Rome and rapidly spread to other countries in Europe and Croatia. Due to the nature of this therapy, it was known as “shock treatment” and psychiatrists observed that after a seizure, patients with schizophrenia improved, so they began using ECT to induce seizures. However, there were subsequent serious medical complications from these procedures which lead psychiatrists to keep searching for better solutions.

Reintroduction of Lithium

It wasn’t until 1949, when John Cade, an Australian psychiatrist, reintroduced lithium once again to psychiatry for mania and depression. He knew the significance and success of Dr. Garrod’s work with lithium 100 years earlier and realized that uric acid may be an underlying condition of his manic patients because he saw that manic patients had higher uric acid output in their urine. He also observed and hypothesized that uric acid might cause some sort of psychotic excitement.

Dr. Cade treated 10 of his patients with lithium citrate and lithium carbonate and had great success with the therapy. However, his article appeared in an obscure Australian medical journal during a time when there were failed experiments with lithium chloride as a substitute for sodium chloride in patients with heart failure. Even though lithium was not getting good press, it did eventually became firmly established as a treatment for bipolar disorders because of the contribution he made in understanding the efficacy of lithium even though he was not recognized for it at that time.

By 1952, a Danish psychiatrist, Erik Strömgren, read Cade’s article and conducted a randomly controlled study of patients on lithium. He conculded that “The lithium therapy appears to offer a useful alternative to ECT since many patients can be kept in a normal state by administration of a maintenance dose.” Doctors in France and Melbourne were also trying lithium on their patients and concluding that lithium was a much better alternative to ECT.

By the 1960s, lithium had slowly been introduced into the United States but was not FDA approved until the 1970s. Even though internationally lithium had been having great success since the 1950s in treating psychiatric illnesses such as mania and bipolar disorder, the United States was not as quick to accept lithium because of the use of the drugs valproate and antidepressants with patients who had depression and mania.

Overall, mental health has a very negative history due to the historic barbaric treatment methods for depression and mania. Although psychiatry claimed that ECT was the most effective treatment protocol for people with depression at that time, lithium carbonate eventually became the treatment of choice as the single-most effective treatment in psychiatry after ECT. The side effects are manageable, and many patients stay on low-dose lithium carbonate for decades. However, low-dose lithium orotate, which is safer, may now become the preferred form of the mineral for these disorders.

About Teresa Badillo

Teresa Badillo received her Honors Bachelor degree from the University of Toronto in 1977.

In the 1980s she worked overseas in Rome, Italy at the Japanese Embassy in the office of the United Nations (FAO) as a speech writer. She also began her long journey in alternative healing while living in Rome.

After moving to New York and while raising her family of seven children, Teresa embarked on a mission to find alternative non-invasive biomedical, therapeutic, sensory and educational solutions for autism after the diagnosis of her son in the early 1990s.

She won a court case in 1995 against the Rockland County School District in New York to enable ARC Prime Time for Kids to be the first school using Applied Behavioral Analysis teaching method for autism that was paid for by the Rockland County School District. The following year she was instrumental in getting the New York Minister of Education to approve an extension of the ARC license from 5 to 21 years.

She has worked over the years in a number of alternative medical practices with doctors and practitioners organizing various biomedical intervention options for children with autism. Since the mid 1990s, Teresa has served on several boards:

  • Foundation for Children with Developmental Disabilities
  • The Autoimmunity Project
  • Developmental Delayed Resources
  • Epidemic Answers

She continues to consult and advise parents on all different areas of autism especially nutritional protocols. Since 2006 she has worked with NutraOrgana, LLC and BioCellular Analysis Testing. She currently researches, writes the newsletter and blogs Teresa’s Corner for The Autism Exchange (AEX) as well as for Epidemic Answers.

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Sources & References

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Leeds, P.R., et al. A new avenue for lithium: intervention in traumatic brain injury. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2014 Jun 18;5(6):422-33.

Lundberg, M., et al. Lithium and the Interplay Between Telomeres and Mitochondria in Bipolar Disorder. Front Psychiatry. 2020 Sep 29:11:586083.

Marshall, T. Lithium as a Nutrient. J Am Phys and Surg. 2015;20(4): 104-109.

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Resources
Articles

Chandra, Suruchi. Is Lithium an Essential Mineral for Your Mental Health? Accessed 16 Jun, 2024.

Greenblatt, James. Lithium’s Billion Year Journey: A Cinderella Story for Brain Health. 24 Aug 2017.

Greenblatt, James. Lithium for Irritability Related to Autism. Psychiatry Redefined, 12 Jan 2023.

Greenblatt, James. Nutritional Lithium: Orchestrating Our Genes & Optimizing Our Moods. 8 Sep 2017.

Group, Edward. Is Lithium Orotate Good or Bad for You? 16 Apr 2024.

Mullan, Nancy. So, what’s the big deal about lithium anyway? 27 Jul 2015.

Serena, Katie. The Forgotten Story Of Rosemary Kennedy, Who Was Lobotomized So That JFK Could Succeed. All That’s Interesting, 2 Mar 2022.

Shaw, William. Deficient Cholesterol: A Common New Factor in Autism. Townsend Letter, Apr 2008.

Shaw, William. Lithium Deficiency: Common In Mental Illness And Social Ills. Mosaic Diagnostics, 24 Nov 2015.

Waldman, Meredith. New clues to how lithium soothes the bipolar brain may shed light on other mental illnesses. Science, 18 Oct 2016.

Books

Yasko, Amy. Feel Good Nutrigenomics. Neurological Research Institute, 2014. (Chapters 13 and 14 on lithium and vitamin B12 available on Scribd for free with a subscription.)

Lab Tests

Doctors Data Hair Elements Test

Videos

Greenblatt, James. Low Dose Lithium for the Treatment of Mood, Behavioral, and Cognitive Disorders. Mosaic Diagnostics.

Yasko, Amy. Lithium Connection – Yasko Protocol Conference. 2011.