History Of Use
The use of lithium for medicinal purposes can be traced back 1,800 years to the Greek physician Galen, who treated patients with mania by having them bathe in alkaline springs and drink the water, which probably contained lithium. In 1817, the Swedish chemist, August Arfwedson, described the element lithium, which he named from the Greek word that means stone. It is the lightest of the alkali (soluble salt) metals. In the 1840s, lithium was mixed with carbonate or citrate to form a salt and was used to treat gout, epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, and sleeplessness. None of these treatments were effective, but interest in lithium as a medicine continued. In the 1940s, lithium chloride was administered as a salt substitute for patients requiring low-salt diets. This proved to be dangerous because an insufficient amount of sodium in the body causes lithium to build up. Too much lithium can cause poisoning and even death if the levels become too high.