In the beginning, Lithium!

Having nearly exhausted the extensive modern work on micro-lithium (as compared to high doses used for bipolar disease) I thought it would be interesting to look at historical facts.  Part of this is that I have lost faith in the gold standard double-blind study.  This seems to be only as good as the questions asked, the study design, for those that carry it out and the various analyses and indices that measure its success.  A great deal was taught years ago on the history of the development of drugs before it was superseded by the rather leaded feet of a double-blind study.

With Lithium, and especially the research carried out by epidemiological studies in Texas one would obviously focus on mineral wells in Texas.  James Alvis Lynch was a small ranch owner in Texas.  In 1877, he decided to find new pasture for his herd.  James and his wife suffered from rheumatism.  Rumours of a Comanche attack made them decide to move to a northern part of Texas.  The land they “purchased” in 1888 had one disadvantage, there was no fresh water for 4 miles.  The first well they drilled on the proper yielded water with “a funny taste” however it didn’t seem to affect the livestock and so it became the source of their drinking water.  It was interesting to note that after a few weeks, their arthritis seemed to improve, the area they settled in did have a drier climate but the results of climate on rheumatism is not proven.

The word of their arthritic response to the well water spread quite widely and strangers came from all over the state to drink and purchase the water.  The original well produced 100 gallons per day and this was soon found to be insufficient.  Based on this response, the town of Mineral Wells was laid out in the fall.

Of the various wells drilled, some seemed to be more therapeutic than others and later on the water was tested and found to contain significant amounts of Lithium.  The therapeutic healing effects of the water in Mineral Wells brought tourists from many areas not to mention many companies setting up to bottle the healing water.  To reduce the cost of transportation, the water was evaporated and the crystals (composed of Lithium) could be added to your tap water.  Bottled water production from Mineral Wells declined for a number of reasons – the Depression, new rules from the FDA, and the advance of the so-called wonder drug pills.  At the time of writing this brief note, one company still sells the famous “mineral water”.

It is hoped to be able to find the concentration of Lithium in the water from the old literature and also the instance of rheumatic illnesses, mental illnesses, and the general health of the population.  This sounds like the perfect micro chasm to study although I imagine the town water has been purified.


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