Lithium (Li)

Li– Lithium is found in igneous rocks at 20 ppm; shale at 66 ppm; sandstone 15 ppm; limestone 5 ppm; fresh water at 0.00 11 ppm; sea water at 0. 18 ppm; soil at 30 ppm (Li – is freely mobile in the soil); marine plants at 5 ppm; land plants at 0. 1 PPM; marine animals at 1 ppm; land animals at 0.02 ppm.

Since 1915, the risk of clinical depression nearly doubles with each succeeding generation. Myrna M. Weissman, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, New York City, says that, ” Depression is a world wide phenomenon happening at younger and younger ages.”

In 1935, the age of early onset of depression was during the late 20’s; in 1955 onset dropped to between 15 and 20. One in lour women and one in ten men will develop depression. While the professional psychiatrist verbally says, that depression, and manic depression are due to “feelings that we are out of control of our lives, negative thinking, self recrimination (“I’m a loser”) are the root cause of depression,” they treat depression successfully with the trace mineral lithium –depression and manic depression with all that implies are simply a lithium deficiency aggravated by high sugar consumption. Prozac, America’s “leading” antidepressant pharmaceutical was introduced in 1987, sales soared to $350 million in 1989, more than was spent on all antidepressants just two years earlier – projections estimate Prozac sales to top $1 billion in sales by 1995 as a result of allopathic doctors generating 650,000 prescriptions per month!

Animal studies show that a deficiency of lithium results in reproductive failure, infertility, reduced growth rate, shortened life expectancy and behavioral problems. In humans, manic depression, depression, “Bi-polar” disease, rages, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde behavior, hyperactivity, ADD, “Bad Seeds” are hallmarks of Li deficiency.

Chelated Li supplemented at 1,000 to 2,000 mcg/d causes a dose-dependent increase in hair Li levels; hair Li levels increased after four weeks of supplementation and leveled off and became stationary after three months; when the Li supplementation was stopped, hair Li levels dropped to presupplement values in two months. This picture does not extend to lithium carbonate (metallic).

A comparison of 2,648 subjects showed that 65 % had hair Li values ranging between 0.04 to 0.14 mcg/G; 16 % contained more than 0.14 mcg/G and 18.4 % had less than 0.04 mcg/G. The highest levels of Li were found in university students from Tijuana, Mexico and the lowest levels were found in Munich, Germany.

Normal controls showed almost 400 times more hair Li than do the violent criminal from California, Florida, Texas and Oregon.

The estimated daily intake of Li by the EPA ranges from 650 to 3,100 mcg/d; however, much of this Li is metallic and not biologically available. Lithium supplementation increases the hair concentrations of V, AI, Pb, As and Co. Short term supplementation of Li elevates serum Vitamin B12 levels; with long term supplementation serum Vitamin B12 drops.

1.Schrauzer, G.N., et al.: Lithium in Scalp Hair of Adults, Students, and Violent Criminals Biol.TraceEle. Research. 34:161.1992.

2.Schrauzer,G.N., et al.: Lithium in Drinking Water and the Incidences of Crimes, Suicides, and Arrests Related to Drug Addictions. Biol. Trace Ele. Research. 25:105.1990.

Lithium, the lightest alkali metal, with a relative atomic mass of 6.94, occurs in Soils at concentrations of < 10 to > 100 mcg/g. Concentrations in plants vary widely (0.4-> 1000 mcg/g), depending on species and on the type of soil in which the plant is grown. Concentrations in human and animal tissues are much lower; values of 2-200 ng/g wet weight have been reported. Intake from typical diets in the USA has been estimated to be 60-70 mcg/day; the mean intake from Turkish diets was 102 and from Finnish diets 35 mcg/day.

Lithium exhibits two dose-dependent types of biological activity. The first of these, its pharmacological action, exploited in the treatment of manic-depressive psychoses, is exhibited when intakes are sufficient to raise plasma lithium to 7-10 mcg/ml. It is toxic at slightly higher levels. In addition, there is evidence from experimental animal studies that it has an essential functional role which is maintained even when blood plasma lithium falls below 1 ng/ml.

Lithium salts have been used worldwide as an effective treatment for manic-depressive episodes ever since their introduction by Cade, more than 40 years ago. Effective dosages, 250-500 mg of lithium/day in an adult, require close monitoring, because the margin of safety is not wide and effects on the thyroid and excessive weight gains are not uncommon. Lithium affects many metabolic pathways and organ functions at therapeutic and toxic intakes, but its basic function and mode of action are still unknown.

The low therapeutic dose of 250 mg/day is equivalent to approximately 625 mg/kg of dry diet, a concentration that produces chronic toxicity in experimental animals, as shown by reduced feed consumption in pigs, rats and chickens. Dietary lithium at 100 mg/kg reduced the weight gain of ruminants, while 500 mg/kg increased mortality in pigs.

An essential function for lithium at very low levels of intake has been postulated independently by two groups of investigators using goats or rats. Lithium deficiency resulted in reduced birth weight and reduced weight gain at 0-6 months of age. As compared with normal controls, lithium-depleted females exhibited higher abortion rates and suffered higher postpartum mortality. In contrast, no growth depression was observed in rats raised for three generations on severely lithium-deficient rations, but the survival of the litters and reproductive efficiency were significantly reduced. Tissue lithium concentrations were found to reflect dietary lithium supply, except in some endocrine and exocrine glands and areas of the brain, in which near-normal concentrations were maintained even after prolonged depletion.

Epidemiological studies in the USA have shown negative correlation between lithium in drinking water and mortality, especially from heart disease, and admission rates to mental hospitals.

Lithium at high, near toxic doses effectively controls the symptoms of manic-depressive disorders. Toxicity from dietary lithium is unknown, the intake from dietary sources being approximately 100 mcg/day or less and, typically, less than 0.1% of the therapeutic or potentially toxic doses. Lithium may have essential functions in experimental animals but it is not known whether there is a human requirement.


Think young into your 90s with this anti-aging secret for your brain.

By Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. (

The biggest problem with lithium treatment is people’s perception of it. Since its most well known use is for bi-polar disorder, lithium sometimes encounters the same stigma as mental illness itself.

I’ve been taking a lithium supplement every day for several years. When I tell people about it, they sometimes get funny looks on their faces and start eyeing the corners of the room for straight jackets. These reactions don’t surprise me, since, as I said, lithium is usually associated with mental illness. But I’ve never suffered from a mental disorder (although certain mainstream medical doctors and possibly a federal agency or two might disagree). Treating manic-depressive (bi-polar) illness is lithium’s most widely known use–but it isn’t an anti-psychotic drug, as many people believe. In fact, lithium isn’t a drug at all. It’s actually a mineral-part of the same family of minerals that includes sodium and potassium.

You might remember reading several editions of Health e-Tips a few months ago that discussed various benefits of lithium. In addition to the benefits mentioned in the e-Tips, like controlling gout and relieving rashes caused by sebhorric dermatitis, lithium also has some great brain-boosting effects. In fact, I’ve reviewed both recent lithium research and the research spanning the past few decades, and I’m convinced that lithium is an anti-aging nutrient for human brains. And there are also some very strong reasons to believe that lithium therapy will slow the progression of serious degenerative mental problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, senile dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.

So there are obviously quite a few “pros” to using lithium, but you’re probably wondering about the “cons.” In the 1930s and ’40s, lithium chloride was sold in stores as a salt substitute. But (as frequently happens) some people used way too much and suffered toxic overdoses, so it fell out of common use. Fortunately, lithium toxicity is entirely preventable, and it’s also easily treatable if it ever does occur -but more about that later. Right now, let’s get into some of the specifics on just how you (and your brain) can benefit from lithium.

Taking (grey) matters into your own hands

Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s famous fictional detective, had an amusing quirk in his incessant concern for his “little grey cells.” I thought of Hercule several years ago when I saw the following headline in an issue of the Lancet: “Lithium-induced increase in human brain grey matter.”

That may not sound like an earth-shattering piece of news, but it actually was quite a major discovery. To that point, medical experts believed that once our brains matured, it was all downhill from then on. Decades of autopsies, x-rays, and, more recently, brain scans have repeatedly shown that brains shrink measurably with aging. But according to their report in the Lancet, Wayne State University (Detroit) researchers found that lithium has the ability to both protect and renew brain cells. Eight of 10 individuals who took lithium showed an average 3 percent increase in brain grey matter in just four weeks.

Lithium may help to generate entirely new cells too: Another group of researchers recently reported that lithium also enhances nerve cell DNA replication. DNA replication is a first step in the formation of a new cell of any type.

The Wayne State study used high-dose lithium, but I’m certainly not using that amount myself, nor do I recommend it. Prescription quantities of lithium just aren’t necessary for “everyday” brain cell protection and re-growth. Studies done years ago have shown that very low amounts of lithium can also measurably influence brain function for the better.

Protect yourself from brain damage you didn’t even know you had.

Aside from boosting brain mass, recent research also shows that lithium can help protect your brain from the “beating” it gets in the course of everyday life. Your brain cells are constantly at risk of damage from exposure to toxins of all sorts-even ones produced by your own body. Toxic molecules are formed naturally during the course of normal brain metabolism. Since these “normal” toxic molecules (sometimes called “excitotoxins”) are produced every day of your life, eventually they start to wear down or erode away brain mass.

Another well-known cause of brain cell injury is over-activated N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Lithium can inhibit this overactivity.8 And lithium also increases production of a major brain protective protein called “bcl-2” in both human and animal brain cells.

So it appears that lithium can protect against normal brain erosion and shrinkage that would otherwise occur over the course of our lives. But lithium also protects the brain from other less “normal” problems too, like damage caused by prescription medications and strokes.

When a clot or other obstruction occurs in a blood vessel serving the brain, it causes a reduction of blood flow to that area. If it’s bad enough, the lack of blood flow will cause a stroke and death of brain cells. (This type of stroke is known as an ischemic stroke.) Research in experimental animals with deliberately induced ischemic strokes has shown that lithium reduces the areas of cell death.

In one of these studies, researchers blocked a brain artery in rats. Some were pre-treated with lithium for 16 days, the rest weren’t. The researchers reported that the lithium-treated rats experienced 56 percent less cell death and significantly fewer neurologic deficits than the control rats.

And sometimes medications designed to treat other problems end up having a negative impact on the brain. For example, anti-convulsant medications cause abnormal levels of brain cell death. But lithium significantly protects against this type of cell death-so much so that this effect has been called “robust” (a term scientists use to mean “It really works!”).

In fact, based on its general neuroprotective effect, researchers have recently suggested that “the use of lithium as a neurotrophic/ neuroprotective agent should be considered in the long term treatment of mood disorders, irrespective of the ‘primary’ treatment modality being used for the condition.” Translation: Lithium should be used along with any patent medicine being used for depression, anxiety, or any other “mood-altering” reason, since it will protect brain cells against their unwanted toxic effects. The researchers didn’t say so, but I will: Any list of “mood altering substances” should include alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, “uppers,” “downers,” and-for those who do inhale-marijuana. Harmless as some of them might seem, these substances can cause brain damage with medium to long-term abuse.

Keeping your brain’s lines of communication open -and healthy.

Scientists determine how healthy brain cells are by measuring levels of a molecule called N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA). A decrease in NAA is thought to reflect decreased nerve cell viability, decreased function, or even nerve cell loss.15 In a study of 19 research volunteers given four weeks of lithium, 14 experienced a significant increase in NAA, one had no change, and four had a small decrease.

Now, what about the interaction between those new, protected, healthy brain cells? Communication between brain cells and networks of brain cells is called “signaling.” And lithium is actually necessary for at least two signal-carrying pathways. Researchers have also reported that lithium may help to repair abnormally functioning signaling pathways in critical areas of the brain.

Lithium and Alzheimer’s: New hope for a “hopeless” situation.

As you know, there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and there’s very little available for patients (and families) that can offer even partial relief from the turmoil it causes. So when new treatments are developed or discovered, it’s usually big news — a ray of hope for people stuck in a seemingly hopeless situation. One of these newly developed patent medications, called Memantine,(tm) was recently approved in Europe. Even though it’s not officially “approved” in this country (yet), thousands of people are already importing Memantine to the U.S. via various Internet sources. But why go through all the trouble (not to mention risk) of getting and using this new patent formula? Apparently, it “works” by protecting brain cells against damage caused by a major excitotoxin, glutamate. But protecting against glutamate-induced nerve cell damage is also one of the well-known actions of lithium. So if it’s true that this newly approved patent medication slows the progress of Alzheimer’s disease in this way, then lithium should slow Alzheimer’s disease progression, too. Of course, lithium treatment, which isn’t patentable and doesn’t have nearly the profit potential of patented Alzheimers medications, hasn’t made any headlines. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a promising option for patients struggling with Alzheimer’s disease.

There are many other research findings that also strongly suggest that lithium will protect against potential Alzheimer’s disease and slow the progression of existing cases. Researchers have reported that lithium inhibits beta-amyloid secretion, and also prevents damage caused by beta-amyloid protein once it’s been formed. Beta-amyloid peptide is a signature protein involved in Alzheimer’s disease: the more beta-amyloid protein, the worse the Alzheimer’s becomes.

Overactivation of a brain cell protein called tau protein also contributes to neuronal degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease, as does the formation of neurofibrillary tangles Lithium inhibits both of these nerve-cell damaging problems.

And you’ve likely read that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease usually have excess aluminum accumulation in brain cells. While it’s not yet known whether this excess aluminum is a cause, an effect, or just coincidental, most health-conscious individuals take precautions to avoid ingesting aluminum. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to completely avoid all aluminum, since it’s naturally present in nearly all foods. But lithium can help protect your brain against aluminum by helping to “chelate” it so that it can be more easily removed from the body.

Although Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia aren’t technically the same, they do share many of the same degenerative features so there’s every reason to expect that lithium will help prevent or slow the progression of senile dementia too.

A younger, healthier brain with just one small dose a day.

As I mentioned earlier, some of these studies used rather high doses of lithium. And in some instances, as in the case of manic depression, doses as high as 90 to 180 milligrams of elemental lithium from 900 to 1800 milligrams of lithium carbonate are necessary. Quantities of lithium in that range must be monitored closely to guard against overdose and toxicity.

But you really don’t need large amounts to improve your “every-day” brain function. Studies have repeatedly shown that substantially lower amounts of lithium can significantly improve brain function (as reflected in behavior).

The amounts of lithium I recommend for brain anti-aging range from 10 to 20 milligrams (from lithium aspartate or lithium orotate) daily. I’ve actually been recommending these amounts since the 1970s. At first I was exceptionally cautious and asked all of my patients taking lithium to have regular “lithium level” blood tests and thyroid function tests. After a year or so, I quit asking for the lithium level blood tests, since 100 percent of them came back very low. Another year after that, I stopped requesting routine thyroid function tests, too, only doing one when I was suspicious of a potential problem. In the 30 years since, I’ve rarely found one.

Protect your brain starting today — no prescription necessary.

High-dose lithium is available only by prescription. But low-dose lithium (capsules or tablets containing 5 milligrams of lithium from lithium aspartate or lithium orotate) is available from a few natural food stores and compounding pharmacies. We also add Lithium Chloride in 5mg doses to many of our I. V protocols in our office. W. Greene, D.C.

If you’re interested in keeping your brain as young as possible for as long as possible, you should definitely consider lithium therapy. Review this information with your physician…but make sure he is skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional and natural medicine!

A better sense of direction in just 24 hours.

“Spatial memory” is the scientific-lingo term for what most of us call “sense of direction.” If you’ve ever “lost” your car in a crowded parking lot, you know just how handy a good “spatial memory” can be. Now it looks like it might be possible to improve your sense of direction in as little as 24 hours.

When researchers study this concept they usually use animals in mazes. The experiments generally involve examining what effects various things have on the animals’ ability to remember how to navigate their way through the maze. In one such study, researchers observed the navigating ability of lithium treated and untreated rats for four months. They found that lithium improved the rats’ spatial memory with as little as 24 hours of exposure.19

Using lithium Safely

Over a decade ago, a woman visited the Tahoma Clinic on the advice of her psychiatrist. She was severely bipolar, requiring a maximum dose of lithium carbonate to keep her symptoms under control. Despite close monitoring of serum lithium levels to maintain a safe range, she was starting to show many signs of lithium toxicity, including hypertension, tremor, nausea, and protein in her urine. She and her psychiatrist had tried other medications, but none provided the control of her bipolar symptoms that lithium did. So she came to the Tahoma Clinic to see if there were any natural options for her.

Fortunately, there was a simple solution. Without changing her lithium dose, the clinic doctor treating her asked the woman to start taking 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil along with 800 IU of vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) three times a day. One month later, the woman’s blood pressure had normalized, her tremors and nausea were gone, and there was no further protein in the urine. And best of all, her bipolar symptoms remained under control. At that point, she was able to cut the flaxseed oil to 1 tablespoon daily along with 400 IU of vitamin E. Several years later, her lithium toxicity hasn’t returned.

To be on the safe side, we always recommend that anyone taking lithium also take a teaspoonful or two of fish oils (or other essential fatty acid such as BIOMEGA-3) along with 400 IU of vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols) each day.

The misunderstood mineral,
Lithium fights crime and some of your most nagging health concerns

By Jonathan V. Wright, M.D.

Turns out it’s not only the strict use of the death penalty lowering crime rates in some areas of Texas. And while I’m sure “Dubya” would be quick to take credit, it’s not stricter laws or changes in sentencing guidelines either. Using 10 years of data accumulated from 27 Texas counties, researchers found that the incidence of homicide, rape, burglary, and suicide, as well as other crimes and drug use, were significantly lower in counties whose drinking water supplies contained 70-170 micrograms of lithium per liter than those with little or no lithium in their water.

The researchers wrote: “These results suggest that lithium at low dosage levels has a generally beneficial effect on human behavior…increasing the human lithium intakes by supplementation, or the lithiation [adding lithium] of drinking water is suggested as a possible means of crime, suicide, and drug-dependency reduction at the individual and community level.”

And that’s not to mention all of the lithium health benefits we went over last month: It may be useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease, senile dementia, and possibly Parkinson’s disease. Lithium not only protects brain cells against normal wear and tear, but also offers additional protection against a whole variety of toxic molecules, including patent medications. It can also promote brain cell regeneration and increase brain cell mass. In essence, the research suggests that lithium is a brain anti-aging nutrient.

All of these results are every bit as good as (if not better than) the data that led to dumping toxic waste (fluoride) into so many public water supplies. So why haven’t public health and safety “authorities” been pushing for further intensive research on water-borne lithium and criminal behavior?

I’m certainly not in favor of the government adding anything to pure drinking water. But if it insists on forcibly mass-medicating us through our water supply (a thoroughly un-American concept I’m 100 percent against no matter what the added substance is), why haven’t they considered adding something that might actually do some real good for people’s health and safety? Isn’t the possibility of reducing homicide, suicide, rape, robbery, burglary, theft, mental hospital admissions, and drug addiction related arrests just as important as the possibly of preventing tooth decay?

Call me pessimistic, but I suspect lithium is still being ignored because no huge, politically connected industry has enormous quantities of lithium-containing waste lying around. (In the 1940s, that’s exactly how water fluoridation began, by using up huge quantities of fluoride-containing toxic waste generated by the politically connected aluminum industry.)

But if there’s one thing we all know about the U.S. government, it’s that we shouldn’t wait for the people running it to do anything to help us, especially when we can help ourselves. So today let’s go over a few more of lithium’s benefits and I’ll tell you how you can help yourself to this valuable mineral right now.

Lithium tackles another addiction

In 30 years of nutritionally oriented practice, I’ve been told by many alcoholics and their relatives that low-dose lithium can be very helpful for both alcoholism and associated mood disorders. For “practicing” alcoholics, I recommend a trial of lithium orotate, 10 milligrams three times daily (along with diet advice, niacin, glutamine, and other supplements). I ask recovering alcoholics to try 5 milligrams, three times daily (occasionally more). The majority of these patients report improved mood and decreased desire for alcohol after about six weeks using lithium therapy.

According to one review article in the British Journal of Addiction, “both controlled and uncontrolled experiments show that symptoms of both alcoholism and affective disturbance are reduced in patients treated with lithium.” (All of the studies reviewed used high dose prescription lithium.)

I also often recommend direct blood relatives of alcoholics (parents, children, or siblings) consider a trial of lithium orotate, 5 milligrams two or three times daily, even if they have never noticed a mood problem. I explain that this is a “personal clinical trial,” and a safe one, that they can discontinue in six to eight weeks if they don’t feel a difference. I also ask that the individual discuss this personal clinical trial with their husband, wife, or other close household member, since I’ve found that the individual doesn’t always notice subtle (or even not-so-subtle) mood changes in himself. But immediate family members notice-particularly when the changes are for the better! I haven’t kept a count of exactly how many individuals have tried this approach over the last 30 years, but it’s probably somewhere in the vicinity of 300 to 400-maybe more. And the majority report positive changes: less depression and irritability for women, and less irritability and “temper” for men.

Can lithium help solve your health mysteries?

So far, you’ve read about how lithium can help combat mental illness, mood disorders, and chemical dependency. All of these benefits, in turn, help communities become safer places overall by reducing rates of violent crime. And, yes, increased safety does benefit you and me. But right now, let’s discuss some ways that you might be able to put lithium to work in your own life with some surprising applications for a few rather “mysterious” conditions.

By “mysterious,” I don’t mean brand-new, mutated viruses like the recent outbreak of SARS. No, the conditions I’ll go over today have been around for quite a while. But the mystery lies in the fact they each of them is still considered “incurable.” Let’s start with one of the most painful.

Fibromyalgia relief: This “last resort” could rank No. 1

This condition primarily strikes women and causes debilitating pain and stiffness. Lithium can help alleviate these symptoms without the problems associated with conventional fibromyalgia treatments, which include tranquilizer, antidepressant, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (which only temporarily mask the pain and sleeplessness that often occur).

One study examined three women suffering from fibromyalgia, none of whom had responded to conventional treatment. When researchers added lithium to the women’s current treatment, all three noticed a marked reduction in their symptoms.

The authors of the study didn’t explain why they didn’t have the women discontinue their ineffective conventional treatments, but I’ve got a pretty good idea that their motives might have had something to do with the fact that the conventional treatments, as useless as they were for these women, are the “standard” protocol. But I digress.

The gout-eliminating combination that tastes as good as it feels

You might remember reading the Health e-Tip on lithium and gout several months ago (2/3/03, subject line: “Help! My big toe is on fire!”). As the e-Tip mentioned, gout occurs when the body can’t process and eliminate excess uric acid. The result is a painful burning or stabbing sensation usually in the ball joint of the foot.

Although there are no published studies on this topic, over the years I’ve found the combination of low-dose lithium (10-15 milligrams twice daily) and vitamin C (2 grams twice daily) can be very effective in preventing recurrent attacks of gout. Vitamin C significantly reduces serum uric acid levels. Lithium makes uric acid more soluble so it doesn’t crystallize into painful “needles.” These two actions combine to significantly reduce gout attacks. If you have gout, I also recommend that you drink 32 oz. of cherry juice at the first sign of an attack. Just please make sure it’s real cherry juice–no sugar added. Although no one is sure why or how it works, studies have shown that cherry juice usually eliminates the pain of acute gout.

85 percent cluster headache relief in just two weeks

Cluster headaches are another one of those inexplicable conditions that my patients tell me always seem to come on at exactly the wrong time. In fact, they might actually be one of the most “mysterious” of the conditions I’ve listed so far since, like fibromyalgia, the cause isn’t known. They tend to attack relentlessly for weeks to months and then often go into remission for months or even years. But lithium (in relatively high doses) can significantly reduce both the severity and frequency.

One study examined lithium’s effects on 19 men with cluster headaches. Eight had rapid improvement-an average 85 percent reduction in their “headache index” in just two weeks. Four individuals had both cluster headaches and psychiatric symptoms; these four had almost complete elimination of their headaches. The remaining seven had only a slight benefit.

Another research group tried lithium therapy (again, relatively high quantities) for 14 individuals with cluster headaches. Five individuals had complete disappearance of their headaches, four had significant improvement, and four had no change.

There’s no guarantee that lithium will cure your cluster headaches, but there is a good chance that it might help. With so few other options available, it’s at least worth a try.

Simple relief from those annoyingly persistent problems

Along the same lines as these mysterious conditions are a few other conditions that lithium can benefit. But these are less on the mysterious side and more in the vein of annoyingly persistent. Even so, lithium can still help in a number of ways.

One research group reported that lithium inhibits the reproduction of several viruses, including herpes simplex viruses (HSV 1, HSV 2), adenovirus (the “common cold” virus), cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus (associated with mononucleosis and many cases of chronic fatigue), and the measles virus.

Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of lithium carbonate (doses ranging from 150-900 milligrams daily) demonstrated “a consistent reduction in the number of herpes episodes per month, the average duration of each episode, the total number of infection days per month, and the maximum symptom severity. In contrast, treatment with placebo resulted in an increase in three of the four severity measures.”

In addition to lithium, selenium, lysine, and other nutrients can also help suppress the reproduction of herpes simplex (and other viruses) and speed the recovery process should an active infection occur. I tend to think it’s better-and safer-to follow this approach (using small quantities of several effective nutrients rather than a larger quantity of just one), so nearly 10 years ago I worked with Bio-Tech Pharmacal to create a useful anti-herpes formula. We combined low-dose lithium with selenium, lysine, vitamin C, olive leaf extract, and other nutrients into two formulas, one (called HPX) for prevention of herpes simplex, and the other (called HPX2) for treatment of outbreaks. Those who have used it tell me it does the job, cutting down or eliminating recurrent herpes infections and/or helping them heal more quickly when they do occur. HPX and HPX2 are both available through natural food stores, compounding pharmacies and the Tahoma Clinic Dispensary.

A quick end to a Grave disease

Hyperthyroidism can be persistent and difficult to treat. It comes on either very suddenly or very gradually, so gradually, you might not even notice that something is really wrong until the symptoms become severe. Graves’ disease is one of the common names for hyperthyroidism. In this condition, the immune system disrupts the functioning of the thyroid gland, causing it to become enlarged and to secrete too much hormone.

Mainstream treatments completely shut down the production of thyroid hormone using dangerous patent medicines. But lithium can get to the root of the problem much more safely.

In 1972, Mayo Clinic researchers published the first clinical investigation of lithium treatment for Graves’ disease. Using high-dose lithium for 10 individuals, they reported that thyroid hormone levels fell by 20-30 percent within five days.

Twenty-six years later, in a review of more than 10 successful trials of lithium therapy for Graves’ disease, the authors wrote: “a small number of studies have documented its [lithium’s] use in the treatment of patients with Graves’ disease… it’s efficacy and utility as an alternative anti-thyroid [treatment] are not widely recognized…” They also note lithium’s rapid effect: “Lithium normalizes [thyroid hormone] levels in one to two weeks…” But they also caution that “toxicity precludes its use as a first-line or long-term therapeutic agent.” If they’d just added flaxseed oil and vitamin E to their treatment, they would have basically eliminated the risk of toxicity.

Lithium’s benefits: Ripe for the picking

Perhaps the budding evidence about lithium and brain protection will spark even more interest in researching this mineral. Maybe researchers will accumulate enough evidence to prove that lithium can slow or even reverse brain aging. And perhaps researchers will conclude that putting very low dose lithium into drinking water to reduce violent crime is even more important than adding fluoride to prevent tooth decay.

But I won’t hold my breath. Lithium isn’t patentable, so I doubt that patent-medicine companies will even consider funneling huge amounts of research dollars into it. And if the patent-medicine companies aren’t interested in it, it isn’t likely to be “approved” for these or other uses any time soon. But remember, “approval” does not ensure safety or effectiveness; it just means that procedures have been followed, forms have been filled out, and money-lots and lots of money-has changed hands.

Now for the good news: Just because lithium won’t be formulated into the next wonder drug and isn’t likely to be making the headlines of your local news, that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy all of its benefits from brain anti-aging to headache relief right now.

If you decide to give lithium a try, as with any new treatment or preventive measure (even an all-natural one), it’s always a good idea to consult with a physician skilled and knowledgeable in natural medicine as part of your decision.

A light at the end of the anorexia tunnel

Eating disorders remain a mystery to many people because those who battle with them keep their struggle a secret for as long as they possibly can. By the time someone recognizes the problem, it’s often very difficult to help the victim. Lithium may offer a bit more hope to these people and their families. Although zinc is a usually successful mainstay of anorexia treatment, lithium can help in regaining much-needed weight. Two adult women suffering from anorexia for many years were given (high dose) lithium; in just six weeks, one gained 26 pounds and the other 20 pounds. Although neither woman was cured of anorexia, they both experienced significant improvements.

High, low, very small: Which lithium dose is which?

Mainstream uses of lithium usually call for 300-milligram lithium carbonate capsules, which contain approximately 30 milligrams of elemental lithium per capsule. A typical daily recommendation is one or two capsules, three times daily for a total of 90 to 180 milligrams of elemental lithium. It’s much more likely that you could experience toxic effects with these amounts, so if you need this much, you should work closely with a physician who can monitor your levels.

But most of the uses for lithium covered in this issue and in last month’s issue don’t require such high amounts. Low-dose lithium is available in supplement form in natural food stores. The most commonly available forms include lithium orotate and lithium aspartate, each containing 5 milligrams of elemental lithium per tablet.

Even at a quantity of two low-dose tablets three times daily (for a total 30 milligrams of elemental lithium), patients’ serum lithium usually stay in the “non-detectable” or “below therapeutic.” range, which means that they’re very safe. In my 30 years of practice, I’ve never had a patient report symptoms of lithium excess. But just to be on the safe side, I always recommend taking extra quantities of essential fatty acids to prevent any possibility of lithium toxicity.

Some of the research I wrote about this month didn’t use either higher dose prescription lithium or lower dose supplemental lithium, but examined the effects of “very small dose” lithium present naturally in some drinking water. But even these very small doses produced some amazing effects in lowered crime rates and other general benefits.

Build a better internal defense with just two doses a day

Keeping a normal white blood cell count is one of the very basic necessities for good health. Your body uses white blood cells to fight off viruses, bacteria, and all sorts of potentially harmful foreign invaders. If your levels fall for some reason, you’re much more prone to illness. Chemotherapy and radiation are probably the most well-known offenders causing low white cell counts, but levels can fall for any number of reasons. This is where lithium comes in: Researchers have found that it can increase white cell numbers again in people whose levels fell due to radiation and/or chemotherapy (and even if the person continues those treatments).

Lithium achieves these effects by stimulating the stem cells in bone marrow, which then turn into platelets and white blood cells. I’ve observed that low dose lithium (5-10 milligrams twice daily) will also usually raise a low count to normal even if radiation and chemotherapy aren’t the culprits.

Life Sci 1997;61(16):1613-1617

Lithium deficiency reduces thymus weight and alters differential blood count in rats.
Ono T, Iijima M, Shinoda S, Wada O

Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Tokyo Metropolitan College, Akishima, Japan.

Effects of lithium (Li) deficiency and/or immobilization stress on the thymus weight and differential blood count of rats were studied. The thymus weight of the rats fed a low Li diet were lighter than those of rats fed a Li supplemented diet, whether the rats were exposed to stress or not. Of the rats not exposed to stress, those in the low Li diet group showed a significant decrease in the ratios of neutrophils and T helper lymphocytes. However, there was an increase in the total number of lymphocytes in the low Li dietary group. It was shown that Li deficiency altered the responses to stress in rats.

Biol Trace Elem Res 1995 May;48(2):131-139

Effects of nutritional lithium deficiency on behavior in rats.
Klemfuss H, Schrauzer GN

Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Diego, CA, USA.

To demonstrate whether nutritional lithium deficiency is associated with behavioral changes, male Sprague-Dawley rats were placed on a lithium-deficient diet (Li content < .01 ppm). A lithium-deprived group, receiving drinking water containing 31 microM NaCl, were compared to a control group receiving drinking water containing 31 microM LiCl. Growth and general appearance were the same in both groups. However, lithium-deficient animals demonstrated decreased aggression in social interactions with other rats and also in response to handling. The phase of wheel-running activity was delayed by 0.8 h and exhibited decreased amplitude (p < .05). Other behaviors, including acquisition and retention of a passive avoidance response, were unaffected by lithium deprivation.

Biol Trace Elem Res 1997;59(1-3):159-165

Effect of lithium on hepatic drug-metabolizing enzymes of protein-deficient rats.
Tandon A, Nagpaul JP, Dhawan DK

Department of Biochemistry, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India.

Protein deficiency was produced by feeding synthetic 8%-protein diet. Lithium carbonate at the dose level of 1.1g/kg diet was administered to normal and protein-deficient rats for a period of one mo. A significant inhibition in the levels of cytochrome (cyt) P450, cyt b5, glutathione (GSH), glutathione S-transferase (GST) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx), but an increase in gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (gamma-GT), was observed in low-protein LP-fed rats. Lithium treatment to normal rats caused no significant change in the activities of cyt P450, cyt b5, GST, and GSH levels, whereas there was elevation in the activities of gamma-GT and GPx and suppression in glutathione reductase (GRd) activity. Lithium administration to LP-fed rats resulted in significant increases in the hepatic gamma-GT and GPx activities.

Biol Trace Elem Res 1997 Oct;60(1-2):131-137

Assisting effects of lithium on hypoglycemic treatment in patients with diabetes.
Hu M, Wu H, Chao C

Institute of Metabolism and Endocrinology, Second Affiliated Hospital Hunana Medical University, Hunan, PROC.

In this article, we report the assisting effect of lithium on hypoglycemic treatment in patients with diabetes. Thirty-eight diabetic patients, 15 male and 23 female, aged 20-70 yr, 33 noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) patients, and 5 insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) patients, were recruited in this study. Fasting and 1-h postprandial blood glucose (BG) profiles were undertaken from three groups of patients with diabetes before and after short-term of treatment of lithium carbonate. Group I was treated with diet only, Group II with oral hypoglycemic agents (OHA), and Group III with insulin. The fasting blood glucose (FBG) level and 1-h postprandial blood glucose (1-h PBG) level before and after treatment of lithium were: Group I: FBG: 7.67 +/- 0.48 vs 7.13 +/- 0.82; 1-h PBG 15.13 +/- 0.88 vs 10.33 +/- 0.96; Group II: FBG: 8.84 +/- 0.67 vs 6.04 +/- 0.57; 1-h PBG: 12.33 +/- 0.72 vs 9.95 +/- 0.82; Group III: FBG: 10.87 +/- 0.83 vs 6.83 +/- 0.79; 1-h PBG: 12.45 +/- 0.93 vs 9.17 +/- 1.00 mmol/L, respectively. The FBG and PBG of all three groups decreased significantly after lithium treatment, except the FBG in Group I. These data suggest that combined with other therapy, lithium could improve glucose metabolism in most patients with diabetes. Our results suggest that lithium has an assisting hypoglycemic effect on antidiabetic treatment.


Could a small daily dose of lithium reduce the incidence of suicides, violent crimes and drug use?

A recent study showed that communities in Texas with little or no lithium in the drinking water have consistently higher rates of suicides, homicides, rapes and arrest rates for serious drug use than communities with naturally high levels of lithium in the drinking water.

The study was conducted at the University of California, San Diego by Drs. Gerhard N. Schrauzer and K. P. Shrestha and was recently published in the internationally acclaimed journal, Biological Trace Element Research. (The Abstract is included in the next section.)

Lithium is widely used as a drug to treat certain forms of manic depression. However, according to Drs. Schrauzer and Shrestha, lithium is also a newly recognized essential trace element for animals and probably for man whose supply may be deficient in some areas.

“The fact that the rates of suicides and violent crimes are higher in areas with low drinking water lithium levels suggests that lithium has subtle but enormously ‘important moderating effects upon human behavior, If said Dr. Schrauzer, a Professor of Chemistry and noted trace element expert.

The researcher also cited work that showed that violent offenders have lower hair lithium levels than nonviolent controls.

“Human hair normally contains, or should contain, small amounts of lithium, 11 said Bob Smith, President of Doctor I s Data, Inc., a West Chicago, IL analytical laboratory which has perfected methods of determining lithium by modern instrumental techniques.

“By analyzing human hair for lithium it is possible to detect possible deficiencies of this element,” said Dr. Schrauzer, who recommended further research using controlled studies with violent prisoners and subjects with, aggressive or self-destructive behavior.


Biol Trace Elem Res 1994 Jan;40(1):89-101

Effects of nutritional lithium supplementation on mood. A placebo-controlled study with former drug users.
Schrauzer GN, de Vroey E

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0314.

A total of 24 subjects, 16 males and 8 females, average age 29.4 +/- 6.5 y, were randomly divided into two groups. Group A received 400 micrograms/d of lithium orally, in tablets composed of a naturally lithium-rich brewer’s yeast, for 4 wk. Group B was given normal, lithium-free brewer’s yeast as a placebo. All the subjects of the study were former drug users (mostly heroin and crystal methamphetamine). Some of the subjects were violent offenders or had a history of domestic violence. The subjects completed weekly self-administered mood test questionnaires, which contained 29 items covering parameters measuring mental and physical activity, ability to think and work, mood, and emotionality. In the lithium group, the total mood test scores increased steadily and significantly during the period of supplementation. The 29 items were furthermore placed into three subcategories reflecting happiness, friendliness, and energy, as well as their negative counterparts. In Group A, the scores increased consistently for all subcategories until wk 4 and remained essentially the same in wk 5. In Group B, the combined mood test scores showed no consistent changes during the same period. The only positive change in some members of Group B occurred during wk 1 and was attributed to a placebo effect. In Group B, the placebo effect was noticeable for the subcategories of energy and friendliness; the happiness scores declined during the entire period of observation. Based on these results and the analysis of voluntary written comments of study participants, it is concluded that lithium at the dosages chosen had a mood-improving and mood-stabilizing effect.