Overview

Lithium is a type of metal that is consumed in the diet, mainly in grains and vegetables. Various forms are used in supplements in small doses.

Lithium gets its name from "lithos," the Greek word for stone, because it is present in trace amounts in virtually all rocks. It might help mental disorders by increasing the activity of chemical messengers in the brain. Lithium might also be needed for other functions, like the development of blood cells.

People use lithium supplements for alcohol use disorder, Alzheimer disease, depression, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support any of these uses.

Lithium carbonate and lithium citrate are approved by the U.S. FDA as prescription drugs for bipolar disorder. These and other lithium drugs aren't covered in this topic. Lithium supplements contain much lower doses of lithium than drugs.

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