People take lithium orotate to treat anxiety and depression, but there are many unknowns around its efficacy and the research supporting its use. Interest from the scientific community decreased in the late 1970s, but recently, researchers have a renewed curiosity in the possibilities of lithium orotate and its clinical applications.
Lithium orotate is widely available online as a dietary supplement. People who take it report many benefits, including having less intense depression or fewer bouts of depression, feeling calmer, being less impulsive, having fewer suicidal thoughts, experiencing less aggression, drinking less alcohol, and being able to handle stress more effectively.
Another form of lithium, lithium carbonate, is commonly used to treat conditions like bipolar disorder, but it has many side effects. Long-term use can lead to significant problems with the kidneys or thyroid.
Lithium orotate may be a suitable alternative as it tends to cause fewer side effects and is effective in smaller doses.
One of the problems with all forms of lithium, including lithium orotate, is its narrow therapeutic index, meaning the difference between an effective dose and a toxic dose is very small. Toxicity leads to many side effects, including vomiting, lethargy, and involuntary muscle movements. More severe side effects from long-term lithium toxicity include abnormalities with the heart and thyroid.
Though limited, there is some research into using lithium orotate as a treatment for mood disorders. Most studies have been done on rats to determine how the body absorbs, distributes, metabolizes, and excretes the drug.
Clinical studies in humans are scant, with one study showing the drug's success in assisting patients recovering from substance disorders with alcohol. In this study, lithium orotate reduced relapse rates. Of 42 people in the study, 23 remained sober for one to ten years after taking 150mg of lithium orotate every day for six months after they stopped drinking.
One risk of taking lithium orotate long-term is how it might affect kidney function. Original research cooled because studies demonstrated that the drug affected glomerular filtration rates, or how well the kidneys filter waste and remove fluid from the body, more than other forms of lithium. However, these studies used a much higher dose of lithium orotate than necessary, and the effects on the kidney may have been dose-dependent.
Some research hints that dietary orotic acid, like lithium orotate, may promote cancer cell growth; however, this study was done in rats and had some noteworthy concerns. The growth of cancer cells was only seen in rats who were pre-determined to develop cancer in the study. Plus, the rats that developed cancer were given large doses.
Anyone with a history of cancer or who is at risk for developing cancer should talk to their doctor before taking lithium orotate.
Though there are potential side effects for taking lithium orotate, the risk for severe complications appears to be low. Lithium orotate has been available for more than 40 years, and there are no reported cases of serious side effects or death in North America related to the drug. One reported case of toxicity resulted in nausea and mild tremors and resolved after three hours of observation in the emergency room.
Despite a lack of research, many people take lithium orotate renewed interest in lithium orotate in the scientific community, primarily because it requires a smaller dose to reach a therapeutic level of lithium in the body than other forms, like lithium carbonate.
While the use of lithium orotate is promising, more research is needed before it can be considered a front-line psychiatric treatment. Although there seem to be some clear benefits, concerns about toxicity, dosage, benefits, and risks need to be further investigated.
Supplements ordered online or purchased over-the-counter are not regulated and should be used with caution.
Lithium orotate and many other dietary supplements are easy to get online, but little data exists about the ingredients used in these supplements or their efficacy, dosages, benefits, and risks. Dietary supplements are not regulated by the government and many can cause significant problems, like interacting with other medications or leading to toxicity.
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