Orthomolecular Medicine


Orthomolecular medicine is designed to help patients meet their highest level of health. This practice is often used as a method of disease prevention or treatment. This type of therapy is a diet-based practice, which relies on supplements, as well as an active participation from patients in the form of changing the way they live. Practitioners of orthomolecular medicine often make use of megavitamins. This means that they recommend large amounts of specific vitamins that are shown as effective in balancing the specific condition of a person. This school of thought is also used for mental problems such as depression and even schizophrenia.

The History of Orthomolecular Medicine

A Nobel Prize winner by the name of Linus Pauling is the person who changed the term for this type of practice, which had been more commonly known as megavitamin therapy.

The basis of Pauling’s theory was to improve the feeling of nutritional wellness and the environment that was taking place at the cellular level. This meant that the body needed to get just the right levels of things such as minerals, amino acids, vitamins and enzymes. In his theory, these changes would help to re-balance the system and stop the body from being attacked by diseases and degenerative disorders. He also felt that such a practice would allow people to live in the healthiest way possible, allowing for a more finely tuned physicality, mental state, and even spiritual wellness. With his plan he felt that people could live longer and happier lives by changing the way they eat and the way they supplemented their diet.

Pauling died in 1994 at the age of 93, but not before he was able to promote his ideas about these natural alternative treatments from speaking in public and writing books on the subject.

His theories have been used by orthomolecular medical practitioners to improve all sorts of problems, including to help curb addictions. At the farther reach of the treatment spectrum this therapy has been used to help with serious conditions such as cancer and heart problems.

Vitamins gained in popularity during the 1920s and continued to progress through the 1940s. During these times, nutritional experts began developing new ways to use vitamins to achieve better health and to wipe out problems such as scurvy.

This therapy found its way into the world and a doctor in North Carolina began treating pregnant women with larger doses of vitamin C to help prevent illnesses and to improve the health of the children they would deliver.

During the 1950s, it was found that high levels of vitamin B3 could be used to help those suffering with schizophrenic conditions. Abram Hoffer and Humphrey Osmond were the practitioners who founded these practices which eventually developed into orthomolecular psychiatric treatments.

These natural options have been highly overlooked by those in the world of technical and scientific medicine, and doctors often claim that if people would just consume the proper foods they would get all the vitamins that they need.

However, as many find traditional methods failing them in this modern age, there is an increased interest in orthomolecular medicine.

The Practice of Orthomolecular Medicine

Many different types of doctors practice this type of medical treatment today. From traditional practitioners to those who study only this field, osteopaths, naturopaths, and even chiropractors are beginning to see the benefits of this type of treatment.

Orthomolecular medicine is practiced through testing the diet and lifestyle of the person. Often lab tests are performed to see where there are deficiencies. Stress levels are looked at as well as activities such as exercise programs.

Practitioners often recommend supplements, but they also promote lifestyle changes. For instance,  practitioners point out things that could be causing problems, such as poor diets filled with fast food, drugs, and allergens.

Conditions That May Benefit From Orthomolecular Medicine

Conditions that may benefit from orthomolecular medicine vary greatly, ranging from those which are physical to mental capacities. Those who live lives that are more natural are often the first to adapt this form of treatment when they are having health-related problems.

Some studies have revealed that beta-carotene may lower a person’s risk for developing a particular cancer.

Magnesium sulphate, delivered through intravenous methods, has been used in hospitals for those suffering from heart attacks in an attempt to improve the rate of recovery. Other vitamins and minerals such as G, B6, and zinc have been used by some physicians practicing orthomolecular medicine to help patients deal with conditions such as high blood pressure before and after surgery.

Folic acid, as part of the B vitamin family, has been shown to help stop neural tube defects in developing babies. This is one of the most common compounds in a prenatal vitamin, and is given to help improve the health of the unborn child. This same vitamin has also been proven useful in the problem of cervical dysplasia, a condition  that is known to be a precursor to cancer in the uterus. Many women who take birth control pills are also encouraged to take folic acid supplements.

One of the most common applications of this type of treatment is as a preventative measure, and it can help to prevent everything from the common cold to some types of cancer, if used under the supervision of a trained professional.

It is important to remember that the improper levels of any of these vitamins or minerals can be dangerous and should not be taken without the supervision of a medical professional. When considering this type of treatment, an individual should meet with an orthomolecular medicine practitioner and have them make recommendations on dosages. This therapy should not be considered a self-treatment.

If a person is being negatively affected by therapy it is important to inform the medical practitioner involved as the dosage may be more than the individual’s system can handle. The doctor will then recommend a lower dosage of these vitamins, and the adverse effects should go away shortly after changing the dose. Any changes or symptoms experienced by a person undergoing orthomolecular medicine should be relayed to their doctor for discussion.



  1. Bratman, S. The Alternative Medicine Ratings Guide: an expert panel rates the best treatments for over 80 conditions, Prima Health A Division of Prima Publishing (1998)
  2. Brown, L. Alternative Medicine, NTC/Contemporary Publishing (1999)
  3. Deepak Chopra, M.D. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Celestial Arts (2002)
  4. Nancy Allison. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Body-Mind Disciplines, The Rosen Publishing Group (1999)
  5. Servan-Schreiber, D. The Encyclopedia of New Medicine: Conventional & Alternative Medicine For All Ages, Rodale International Limited (2006)


Posted in Orthomolecular Medicine

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