Lithium orotate is a natural supplement that can be used as a treatment drug in much the same way as its prescription counterpart. Opinions differ as to its effectiveness and safety, though few actual studies have been done to verify or disqualify the drug. This article will address how lithium is administered, and what makes lithium orotate different in terms of side effects and effectiveness.
Lithium is a natural mineral salt in its chemical form. It is well known as an effective treatment for bipolar disorder, alcoholism, and aggression to name a few. In order be effective, lithium has to be absorbed by the cells' membranes. Lithium carbonate and lithium citrate are the actual chemical ingredients used in prescriptions brands. Both are formulated versions of the natural mineral salt. Lithium orotate is a formulated brand as well, however, studies have shown that its chemical make-up is absorbed more efficiently by the body. It is the orotate, or orotic acid ingredient, that makes for the higher absorption rate. The chemical makeup of orotic acid is readily absorbed by cell membranes. This allows more of the lithium ingredient to reach the cell interior, unlike the other two brands.
Side effects encountered with the prescribed brands of lithium are many. Possible effects include frequent urination, increased thirst, nausea, hand tremors and blood poisoning. Possible side effects encountered with lithium orotate include muscle weakness, apathy and loss of appetite. However, the biggest difference between the prescribed and over-the-counter brands is the risk of lithium poisoning. Prescribed brands are known to create high levels of the drug in the blood stream because of their low absorption rate. As a result, more has to be ingested in order to achieve a medicinal effect. In fact, the difference between toxic levels and medicinal levels is small, so toxicity is a very real concern. This is why doctors require patients on prescribed lithium to have their blood levels checked on a regular basis.
Controversial claims regarding the actual benefits and side effects of lithium orotate are widespread. Much of the debate centers around the last recorded study done on rats in 1979 by Smith and Schou. In the study, equal amounts of all three lithium derivatives were given to the rats. The results indicated that lithium orotate was not eliminated by the rats' kidneys, unlike the other two brands.
Scientists are at odds as to how valid the results are from the Smith and Schou study. Proponents of lithium orotate point out that administering all three brands in equal amounts made no sense, because of lithium orotate's high absorption rate. Which means the other two brands only left trace amounts of lithium for the kidneys to process, since most of it was never absorbed into the blood stream. Only two other studies were done prior to the Smith and Schou research, both of which showed conflicting results.
Because of the possibility of blood toxicity, it is not recommended that lithium orotate be taken without first consulting a physician. Its classification as a natural supplement makes it an over-the-counter drug that can be purchased online, in drugstores or in herbal-vitamin shops. However, this doesn't mean that it is entirely safe. Possible symptoms of toxicity to look out for include diarrhea, vomiting, drowsiness, muscle weakness, lack of coordination, blurred vision and ringing in the ears.
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