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What Are the Health Benefits of Lithium?

By Gord Kerr

The main benefit of lithium is for the control of bipolar disorder, manic episodes and depression. Lithium is not typically considered a nutritional supplement but is used primarily as a medicinal drug for the health benefits it provides, including treating alcoholism and drug abuse, alleviating chronic headaches, balancing minerals in the body and benefiting diabetics. Consult your doctor or health-care professional about the possible risks before you consider using lithium.


Lithium is a naturally occurring trace element found in seaweed, dairy, eggs, potatoes and fruit and vegetables grown in lithium-rich soil. Lithium readily forms salts in the body that are necessary for cellular interaction, including the flow of sodium through muscle and nerve cells in the body.


Lithium might be important to diabetics because of its insulin-like effect on glucose transport and metabolism. A study at Washington University School of Medicine in Missouri found the administration of lithium significantly increased the ability of glucose to transport insulin by 2-1/2 fold and also increased insulin responsiveness. The conclusions of the study, published in the journal Diabetes, was that lithium might be of benefit in the treatment of non-insulin-dependent diabetes.

Absorption of Minerals

Lithium might help balance minerals in the body, including calcium, phosphate and magnesium. Scandinavian researchers found that lithium treatment had a continuous effect on calcium and phosphate, decreasing the excretion of these minerals in urine. The excretion of magnesium was increased. The studies, published in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, found the bioavailability of lithium to be 95 percent.

Psychotic Disorders

Lithium, taken under the control of a physician, is the most effective treatment for mania, schizophrenia and many other psychotic symptoms. The effectiveness of lithium as a therapeutic agent for bipolar disorder was demonstrated in German comparison studies, which focused on pregnancy, suicidal tendencies and possible side effects. Results, published in the journal Neurophsychiatrie, showed clear clinical benefits from long-term treatment of lithium to improve mood stability without side effects. The conclusion was lithium is a viable treatment for bipolar disorder.

Crimes, Suicides and Drug Addictions

Lithium might function as a nutritionally essential trace element in municipal drinking water supplies to reduce the incidence of suicide, homicide, robbery and rape. The University of California at San Diego used data from 27 Texas counties to conclude that lithium in water supplies has moderating effects on suicidal and violent criminal behavior, including the possession of opium, cocaine, heroin and morphine. No significant association was found with incidences of possession of marijuana and drunkenness. Findings, published in Biological Trace Elements Research, suggested that low dosages of lithium have a beneficial effect on human behavior and increasing consumption of lithium through supplementation or in community drinking water might be a possible means of reducing crime, suicide and drug-dependency problems.


Lithium might reduce the frequency and severity of certain types of recurrent headaches, including cluster and nocturnal hypnic headaches. Researchers at the Tottori University in Japan described successful treatment and complete disappearance of nocturnal headache with lithium carbonate treatment administered before sleep. Conclusions, published in Clinical Neurology, suggested that lithium is a beneficial treatment for forms of benign headaches and should be considered by neurologists.

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