Don’t throw out the Lithium Bath Water for treatment of Bipolar just yet


A friend of mine shared this on my Facebook page, quirkily asking me what I would reply? I replied: I would say: “Where’s the tea bag for the tea cup so I can drink and relax while soaking in some lithium bath salts? Then I’ll “pull the plug”….which is not a good term for that doctor to have used. Cause a normal person wouldn’t pull the plug.

Anyway, the exchange got me thinking about the section in my book: Med Free Bipolar (on Amazon) about lithium, lithium hot springs, and natural lithium supplements. So I went hunting for more information since there seems to be so little, and I found this little interesting exchange of info: (

Q:  Bath Salts w/Lithium & Bipolar
I am just starting down the road to working with the diagnosis of  cyclothymia, and dread trying out the usual meds because my body is HIGHLY sensitive to all inputs and have never easily tolerated ANY prescription drug. Antidepressants have crashed me into long periods of chronic fatigue.

I’m thinking about trying out bath salts that contain lithium. Whenever I visited a hot springs I have visited in another state, I always felt much better, no matter how horrible I felt going in. I later saw the mineral composition of the water and noted it contained lithium. I’ve just found some bath salts that are modeled after natural springs, and contain lithium. It’s not being promoted for mental health, but I want to try it.

So here’s the question: Have you heard of using bath salts containing lithium to treat cyclothymia or bipolar disorders?

“Dear D’ —
Haven’t heard of that. It does raise the interesting question: how much lithium might someone absorb from sitting in a tub with lithium? Surprisingly, there happens to be a study on that. Well, it’s from a company that I presume makes lithium cleaning agent for use in hot tubs, but it might shed a little light on this question.  They measured people’s lithium levels after sitting in a hot tub with 40 parts per million lithium ion, versus a tub with less than 1 part per million: think of it as a high lithium tub and a very low, almost zero lithium tub.
No difference in the blood levels of those sitting in these tubs for 20 minutes a day, 4 days a week for two weeks. 

This led me to wondering about the lithium concentration in “spa”-type hot springs. Searching Google (I love that tool): three “spas” had either no lithium at all or only a trace (less than 1 part per million). Looks like you’d get more lithium sitting in your neighbor’s pool, if he cleans it with lithium hypochlorite — but even that will lead to no appreciable lithium accumulation in your blood.  

As for your own tub and lithium bath salts: amazingly, there’s an article on that too!  Dr. Halevy and colleagues tested a salt from the Dead Sea, which happens to contain more lithium than average table salt, as a bath treatment for psoriasis. They dumped in what looks to me like a whole lot of salt (could it really have been “5 kilograms per packet? Like, 10 pounds in each bath?) and still there was no difference in the lithium concentrations in the participants’ blood, before and after, or compared to the table salt bath group. 

Looks like you’d have to use a really amazing amount of lithium in your bath salts to have any possible chance at affecting your lithium level.  We do think the level that matters is the one in your brain, not on the surface of your skin, right? So, the numbers here probably do answer your question: it almost certainly would have no impact at all.  On the other hand, I might feel better after a nice hot bath for 20 minutes every day, regardless of what was in the water!  

Dr. Phelps

June, 2005″ 

Ok, so even though the info is ten years old, it is still very applicable, and I think the question has still not been answered. So I am going to try and attempt to answer it, from my non-doctor, simply a fully-recovered BP 1 former psych patient viewpoint, if that’s ok with you? So why did “Dear D” claim that when she (or he) soaked in lithium-containing hot springs she/he felt better (as have MANY others, including myself), but the “scientific” evidence showed no difference in lithium amounts in the blood stream (“No difference in the blood levels of those sitting in these tubs for 20 minutes a day, 4 days a week for two weeks.”). Well, I think I know the answer why. Doctors always want to test and measure, to have analytical proof of something working or not working, but I want to know how those test subjects FELT. I know feelings are subjective, but sometimes they are all we have, and we want them to be better. Stable. Happy.  But from a scientific perspective, natural lithium in water and the lithium orotate that you can get over the counter from health food stores works on a cellular level, NOT in the blood, and it does NOT show up in blood tests. When natural (unlike prescription) lithium works in the cells instead of the blood, it takes a lot less amounts to achieve greater results!

It can be working without the kind of proof doctors are looking for in blood tests! 

Not sure yourself? Try it. You might like it, and so might your brain. 

But like the doc above said, the soak itself might be beneficial. Here is a great article on the benefits of salt soaking.

A few I liked from that site were:

  • “Repeated hot springs bathing (especially over 3- to 4- week period) can help normalize the functions of the endocrine glands as well as the functioning of the body’s autonomic nervous system.
  • Trace amounts of minerals such as carbon dioxide, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, and lithium are absorbed by the body and provide healing effects to various body organs and system. These healing effects can include stimulation of the immune system, leading to enhanced immunity; physical and mental relaxation; the production of endorphins; and normalized gland function.”

For a complete look at Lithium, see blog post: which is an excerpt from my book.

Have a Happy Life.

Aspen L. Morrow, CITRMS


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