Lithium is a mood stabilizer commonly used in the treatment of bipolar disorder. It helps people manage anxiety, limit mood swings, and even improve sleep. Lithium orotate is a salt of lithium and orotic acid, and it comes as an over-the-counter (OTC) supplement.
The prescription form of lithium is very potent. When used in lower doses, it has strong potential to help with cognitive decline, decreasing the effects of amnesia and Alzheimer’s disease. Lithium orotate supplements have lower doses of lithium compared to the prescription form, and experts debate about the potential benefits of these products.
Read on to discover all benefits of lithium orotate, the best time to take lithium orotate, lithium orotate dangers, and more.
What Is Lithium Orotate?
Lithium orotate is a salt of orotic acid (commonly found in the body) and lithium (alkali metal). Since lithium is unstable, all supplements use some form of salt.
Lithium orotate is sold over the counter because it is a lot less potent than prescription lithium. The reason is due to orotic acid making up for most of the supplement’s weight. In standard dosages, 120 mg supplements contain 4.6 mg of elemental lithium.
However, the lithium orotate dose can vary between supplements, which could affect lithium orotate health benefits.
What Does Lithium Orotate Do?
Lithium is vital for early fetal development, but lithium supplements are not recommended in pregnant women. Lithium is a go-to option for bipolar disorder because it has neuroprotective properties associated with the expression of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) associated with neuron growth.
Although the exact mechanisms are not known, lithium helps stabilize and improve mood, which is why it is a part of treatment for anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more. Because of the neuroprotective properties, it also can slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Lithium Orotate Dosage
As we mentioned, 4.6 mg of lithium from 120 mg of lithium orotate is standard, as 3.8% of this salt is composed of lithium. However, the lithium orotate dosage recommended by doctors may vary. The evidence suggests an intake of at least 1 mg of lithium per day, and most supplements fit in the 1-5 mg range. However some go as high as 20 mg, as explained in our lithium orotate reviews.
Be aware of dosages when checking the labels, as manufacturers are not always transparent about them. Sometimes it may not be clear whether they state the salt quantities or the lithium weight. A good rule of thumb is that if you see hundreds of milligrams, it’s the total weight of lithium orotate, while a dose of a few milligrams typically refers to elemental lithium.
Lithium is not metabolized, and is eliminated through the kidneys within 48 hours. The expected lithium orotate half-life is around 24 hours.
Lithium Orotate vs. Lithium Carbonate
Lithium carbonate is a standard form of lithium prescribed for bipolar disorder. It contains 18.8% elemental lithium by weight, and the recommended dosage can vary between 600-1800 mg of lithium carbonate per day.
Once the lithium salts enter your body, they dissolve, and lithium ions affect several pathways in your body. Because lithium carbonate has a much higher dosage of this alkali metal, you can expect faster absorption, quicker effects, and higher potency than with lithium orotate supplements.
Some lithium orotate research found higher concentrations of lithium in the brain of rats that were given lithium orotate vs. carbonate. These findings hint at the possible ability of lithium orotate to cross the blood-brain barrier more efficiently. However, later lithium orotate studies suggested that the experiments used high doses, which might have affected the renal function and clearance, explaining the higher lithium concentrations in the brain.
Lithium Orotate vs. Lithium Aspartate
Lithium Aspartate is another OTC supplement, similar to lithium orotate. Since lithium has long been used for bipolar disorder, it is only natural that people are trying these OTC supplements to improve mood, decrease brain aging, and improve cognitive performance.
However, studies examining lithium aspartate are scarce. If you decide to get this supplement, you should check the label and determine how much lithium it has. If it’s in the same range as lithium orotate (1-5 mg), you can expect similar effects.
How Long Does It Take for Lithium Orotate To Work?
Some people taking lithium therapy for bipolar disorder claim improvement in manic episodes in as quick as 5-7 days. However, most experts agree that it takes at least 2-3 weeks before the effects fully kick in.
But, how long does lithium orotate take to work?
Since lithium orotate contains much lower doses of this essential micronutrient, you will probably have to supplement 3-6 weeks before the full lithium orotate effects start to show. Many people claim to feel effects faster, so you may not have to wait as long. It is vital to track your health status and communicate any sudden changes with a medical professional.
Some people also wonder about the best time of the day to take lithium orotate. People who take it once a day usually do so in the evening, while people taking two capsules split them between morning and evening. It’s important to stick to the same schedule and keep the same time every day to maintain steady lithium levels.
Lithium Orotate Benefits
Lithium orotate acts as a mood stabilizer, which means that it prevents both depressive and manic episodes in bipolar disorder, which can significantly improve the well-being of people with this condition. However, research on lithium orotate is not yet conclusive, and the FDA has not approved it for any medical use.
With that in mind, some people mention the benefits of lithium orotate for depression, anxiety, insomnia, migraines, Alzheimer’s disease, and cluster headaches. It could also help relieve stress, improve mood, relieve pain, and improve memory. But until we see solid clinical research, these benefits remain anecdotal.
Lithium orotate has been researched as a treatment for alcoholism, and it showed promise since this addictive behavior is propelled by mood swings. Low-dose lithium could also be used to augment treatment for severe depression.
Interestingly, the studies examining rates of suicide, homicide, and rape found a higher incidence of these events in places where little to no lithium was found in drinking water. That’s why some experts have suggested low-dose supplementation of lithium to decrease aggression and violence incidence, and lithium orotate seems to be a good candidate for that.
Lithium Orotate For Bipolar Disorder
Since lithium carbonate is commonly used to treat bipolar disorder, many people wonder about the potential of lithium orotate. Bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings, and even though lithium carbonate is a good treatment option, lithium orotate is not used because it contains less lithium by weight.
However, a psychiatrist may prescribe lithium orotate to people who have gone off lithium therapy or experience milder symptoms.
Lithium Orotate: Weight Loss
Lithium orotate may indirectly aid weight loss. Even though it doesn’t affect your metabolism or digestion, it could help people who are trying to eat their problems away.
Emotional or stress-eating is a real issue for many people, and by stabilizing mood, lithium orotate could prevent it from happening.
Here is a user review that highlights lithium’s weight loss potential:
“After thirty years of marriage and a lifetime of bipolar imbalances, my husband had a doozy of a manic episode which cost us over two hundred thousand dollars. He ended up in jail and in a mental health facility and just about wrecked our entire life. When he came down and came home, I insisted that he try this, daily. He couldn’t take prescription medicines since his liver was fried. Nine months ago, he began taking between three and five pills a day. He weighs around 260lbs. The change has been subtle but quite dramatic and incredible when considered long term.”
You may also find extra motivation to keep active or get your diet in order, which could additionally support weight loss.
Lithium Orotate For Anxiety
Anxiety is prevalent in people with bipolar disorder, so the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments recommends lithium as one of the treatments to help stabilize mood, reduce anxiety, and prevent manic episodes.
There are no clinical studies examining lithium orotate, anxiety, and their correlation, but there has been some anecdotal evidence where people used this supplement to help relieve stress and tension. Even some doctors prescribe it off-label for easing anxiety symptoms, but we still need some large clinical trials to draw definite conclusions.
Here is what one user had to say about lithium orotate effects on their mood and anxiety:
“I’ve been using these supplements for a few months now, and I totally notice a difference in my mood swings. I have depression and anxiety and last year decided I wanted to come off of my prescription medication under my doctor’s supervision and use supplements instead! I’m so very happy I did, and this is a must-have in my daily routine!”
Lithium Orotate: Depression
Lithium orotate supplements are low-dose and therefore not an effective treatment for clinical depression. As it could help with a variety of different symptoms related to mood swings, it is expected to affect people with depression.
Studies comparing the efficacy of lithium and antidepressants for treating unipolar affective disorders determined that both therapies effectively prevented relapses and depressive episodes. It can be a vital part of effective unipolar depression treatment, especially for people with high suicidal risk.
Many online reviews celebrate lithium orotate effects on depression, including this one:
“I’ve been taking this for years now. I don’t have mood swings or depression anymore, and my anxiety is a lot less.”
Lithium Orotate Interactions
Lithium orotate drug interactions can disrupt a variety of prescription drug regimens. It can interact with antidepressants, anticonvulsants, ACE inhibitors, loop diuretics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, methyldopa, meperidine, and dextromethorphan.
That is why people taking one of the mentioned medications should only take lithium orotate supplements after consulting with a medical professional.
Lithium Orotate Side Effects
Because quality clinical research is lacking, we don’t know enough about lithium orotate safety at higher doses. We know it is safe in doses up to 5 mg of elemental lithium a day, which is the amount used in most supplements, so it’s best to stick to that.
Going over 5 mg per day may result in acute nausea and tremors. Long-term high doses could lead to classic symptoms of lithium orotate toxicity, such as impaired kidney function. Thyroid and parathyroid glands may also be affected.
Some case reports state confusion as one of the possible side effects, but it may result from other conditions. One study examining the effects of long-term low-dose lithium treatment found that it doesn’t impair kidney function. However, several other side effects were observed, such as a higher incidence of diabetes mellitus, increased body weight, increased neutrophils and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and occurrence of arrhythmias.
Lithium orotate supplements are not recommended for pregnant women, as they could increase the risk of cardiac defects in infants.
Lithium Orotate Weight Gain
As you’ve seen in the previous section, one of the possible lithium orotate side effects, weight gain, is sometimes observed with long-term use.
Many people with anxiety, depression, and other mood impairments suffer from loss of appetite. By fixing that, lithium orotate can indirectly lead to weight gain– albeit often in situations where weight gain may be desirable.
If you’re still interested in lithium orotate, read our lithium orotate reviews for specific brand recommendations.