Lithium – a trace metal we need in our bodies?


I remember being fascinated at hearing how lithium was first discovered. I’m not sure if the story is historically accurate, but supposedly in ancient times people with mental health problems were found licking cave walls to provide relief. This led to the eventual discovery of lithium for mental health – or so the story went.

Often we intuitively find what our bodies crave, so I found it somewhat believable. When trying to confirm whether it was true or not, I learned a lot more about lithium in the process – as well as the possibility that it may be added to our drinking water – a very controversial subject for some.

Guess what – You’re happier if you live near lithium deposits.

Evidence is mounting that lithium in drinking water makes a marked difference in human behavior for the better. In fact there’s a movement now to included it in public water systems to help the public at large. This is based largely on a state-wide sample of 3,123 lithium measurements in Texas, where it was determined that trace amounts of lithium were clearly associated with lower suicide rates. More testing needs to be done. Additionally,  some studies have shown that violent behaviors, such as murder rates, rapes and robberies decreased when lithium was added to drinking water.

In fact, according to the Journal of Psychiatric Research, among the 226 Texas counties tested, ones with higher trace levels of lithium in the public water supply had lower rates of suicide in the general population than counties with lower lithium levels. This has also been tested in Japan, another study in Texas, and Austria.

While apparently very effective, many still wrestle with the ethics of “medicating” the unsuspecting population. This is possibly because most associate lithium with being a prescribed drug, rather than a naturally occurring element. In spite of that concern, there’s a growing suspicion that perhaps those suffering from depression or violent behaviors may simply be suffering from a lack of this element in their bodies, much like any other imbalance, such as an iron deficiency. It’s very likely this will be added to the list of necessary trace elements for human health – not just a prescription.

Lithium can help brain neurons create better connections, and can aid in plant growth. There is also some evidence that lithium increases metabolism in plants, causing them to grow faster and stronger – however too much is toxic to both animals and plants.

Where’s the lithium?

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Click on the map for an enlarged view. The red dots show the highest concentration of natural trace amounts of lithium in US aquifers. Image courtesy of Illinois State Water Survey http://illinois.edu/blog/view/789/95197

In addition to high amounts in the Texas panhandle, Lithium occurs naturally near coastal areas, in the ocean, certain rivers and springs. Mineral water offers the highest levels of lithium, perhaps due to the groundwater being so close to rock formations. Purified water, by comparison, removes lithium as well as other minerals.  Interestingly, it’s been said that holy water sources have high lithium content – reporting very high amounts of lithium in holy water in Karlsbad, Marienbad and Vichy.

Coca-Cola had Cocaine, 7-Up had Lithium, and tobacco also has a high lithium content. Coriander leaves, tomato and garlic have higher levels of lithium than other foods, as well as sea salt (as compared to regular salt). Strangely, lithium cannot be dissolved in spas or springs through the skin.

If you’re interested in learning more, here are additional links:

http://jpgmonline.com/article.asp?issn=0022-3859;year=1980;volume=26;issue=1;spage=39;epage=44;aulast=Jathar

Article Name: Lithium & Water
http://www.lenntech.com/periodic/water/lithium/lithium-and-water.htm

Article title: ‘Lithium Content of Water In United States Cities’
http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/211/6/1012.1.short

Article Title: “The lithium contents of some consumable items”
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2621.1969.tb01519.x/abstract

Article name: Lithium in drinking water and the incidences of crimes, suicides, and arrests related to drug addictions.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1699579

Article: Lithium: occurrence, dietary intakes, nutritional essentiality.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11838882

Article name: Lithium in scalp hair of adults, students, and violent criminals. Effects of supplementation and evidence for interactions of lithium with vitamin B12 and with other trace elements.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1381936

Article name: The Metal Marvel That Has Mended Brains for 50 Years
http://discovermagazine.com/2010/the-brain-2/27-metal-marvel-mended-brains-50-years-lithium

Liquid medicine: Controversial call to add lithium to drinking water for mental health
http://www.thedaily.com/page/2011/05/22/052211-news-lithium-1-5/

Article title: Study of Lithium Absorption by Users of Spas Treated with Lithium lon

http://het.sagepub.com/content/13/5/315.short

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