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Orthomolecular Medicine

Medically Reviewed Fact Checked
Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Orthomolecular medicine, as modeled by double Nobel Prize-winning Dr. Linus Pauling, aims to recover the optimal environment of the body by correcting deficiencies and imbalances based on the unique biochemistry of each individual. One branch of orthomolecular medicine applied to mental health has shown great efficacy historically, reducing or eliminating the need for psychiatric medications for many seeking natural mental health.6

Orthomolecular medicine aims to correct health problems by creating balance and targeting underlying causes using natural substances and nutrients.

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What is the Meaning of Orthomolecular Medicine?

Defining terms is important. The term “medicine” means the practice of diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease using substances that heal.

Orthomolecular medicine does just that. Ortho means “straight” or “correct.” An orthodontist straightens teeth. An orthomolecular doctor corrects and straightens out the molecules of the body. What molecules are we talking about? Orthomolecular medicine utilizes the vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional agents that are either naturally occurring in the body or found in foods that build and support the function of healthy cells.

We are seeing a grand return to natural therapies across many disciplines. We see the return to natural regenerative farming practices to rejuvenate the life-giving properties of soil, and a turning away from GMOs, artificial fertilizers, and pesticides that have decimated farmland and lowered the nutritive values of crops across the planet. There is a health renaissance in progress, and we are happy to be part of it. The restoration of both mental health and physical health will benefit from this metamorphosis.

Restoring Balance With Naturally Occurring Substances

Restoring balance and correcting underlying causes is possible by using substances familiar to the body such as minerals, vitamins, trace elements, fatty acids, and amino acids, for example. Another primary concept in orthomolecular medicine is that hereditary factors can affect more than just the physical characteristics of a person. Biochemical settings are also found to be hereditary.3

Biochemical pathways in the body (the chemical chain reaction of enzymes and other factors) are of interest in studies of illnesses such as cancer, schizophrenia, atherosclerosis, and even depression. Research has shown that specific biochemical abnormalities can be isolated as contributing or causal factors of illness and that these abnormalities may respond to targeted supplementation and other natural treatments.2

“I believe all complicated phenomena can be explained by simpler scientific principles.” ~Linus Pauling, Proponent of Orthomolecular Medicine

Importance of Diet and Nutrition

In today’s Western society, the food industry has convinced many people to eat foods that are modified from their raw and original state into nutritionally dead, highly refined, processed food. Therefore, even when one eats these processed foods until they feel full, they are still undernourished. To persuade us into eating these foods; processed food manufacturers add artificial colors and artificial sweeteners. These chemically alter nutritionally dead products, which would taste horrible without all of the artificial modifications. Despite scoring high points for taste satisfaction, dead, overprocessed foods contribute nothing to mental health, and in fact, have been shown to have detrimental effects.8,9

“As long as the processing of food continues to take out essential nutrients, mental health will continue to decline.” ~Abram Hoffer

dr abram hofferDr. Abram Hoffer was right it seems. Since the brain utilizes the most blood, oxygen, and nutrients over any other organ, the brain, and the entire central nervous system start to feel the effects of biochemical deficiency long before any obvious physical symptoms manifest.

We realize that for true health to occur, the body and brain need to be well-nourished. These are aims that guide and inform orthomolecular therapy for mental health.9,10

At Alternative to Meds Center, orthomolecular medicine is a founding principle of our programs. We deliver personalized nutrient, mineral, amino acid, and other supplement-based therapies according to the results of lab tests and other medical assessments unique to each client.

Program participants at Alternative to Meds Center consume natural, whole, predominantly organic foods. Elimination of processed foods, chemical flavor enhancers, sugars, and caffeine is also beneficial. Fermented foods and other agents that support microbiome health are incorporated into a delicious daily menu. Residents may additionally participate in sauna therapy, exercise, counseling, and other healing treatments. This is truly a holistic approach that impacts every level of physical and mental health.

Education Components

medication titration & neurochemistryOur educational series (Medication Titration & Neurochemistry Series) covers very diverse subject matters. We are teaching graduate-level clinical nutrition and environmental medicine and demonstrate the research that supports the view that nutritional deficiencies and imbalances and toxic accumulations break down the neurochemistry and can manifest many forms of dysfunction, including addictive cravings, medication use, and a wide range of mental health issues.

Our educational courses help equip our residents with lifelong tools for health and happiness.

Collectively, this is called Orthomolecular Science. We inform you what foods to avoid, such as farm-raised fish, sugars, and processed foods. We teach the participant the exact nutritional precursors that provide balance for their own particular case, and how to read their lab tests so they may truly become self-health care savvy. Even some hygiene products may have been overlooked as contributors to the toxic profile that has chipped away at their ability to find balance.12

We are also administering learning modules such as trauma clearing, stress reduction, life coaching, art, family dynamics, and many other tools for the participant to succeed in life. By learning what was done to establish balance, clients can then understand and implement those skills to maintain it.

Fundamentals of Orthomolecular Mental Health Therapy

All orthomolecular psychiatrists are medical practitioners and many have received psychiatric training. However, orthomolecular psychiatrists reject the psychiatric drug-based model for treating mental health issues. While drug therapy may have been necessary for a short-term crisis, long-term drug use often results in worsened mental health.11,13

Rather, a “medical model” is used, one that searches for biochemical, nutritional, or organic causal and contributing factors for unwanted conditions. Orthomolecular psychiatry is a division of orthomolecular medicine, a phrase that was coined by Dr. Linus Pauling.

Dr. Pauling defined the principles of orthomolecular therapy as preserving good health and preventing disease through changing the concentration within the body of molecules of substances that are necessary for life, including amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and essential fats.

chemical-free nutrition for mental healthThe human brain best functions when it is chemical-free and properly fed.

Where psychiatry specializes in suppressing symptoms, Orthomolecular medicine offers a viable alternative therapy designed to correct the root causes of symptoms.

According to orthomolecular psychiatry, also known as OP, the human body is a biochemical factory. When that factory doesn’t receive an adequate amount of raw materials (nutrition) or receives polluted or impure materials, malfunctioning occurs and manifests as symptoms.

Nutrient deficiency and/or the stress of toxicity can cause mental disturbances according to the orthomolecular model.

Compounding the problem, mentally disturbed individuals may be out of touch as they can’t fully perceive reality. Their biochemically chaotic brains and sensory apparatus may view the world abnormally. In many cases, mental disturbances cease when the nutritional setting of the brain is changed and can correct the situation.

Prescription Drugs Are Not the Only Solution

If you have been told that the only solution for psychiatric problems is prescription drugs, please understand that orthomolecular psychiatry practitioners are available to help you.

At Alternative to Meds Center, and as research clearly shows, prescription medications are not a long-term solution for psychiatric problems.11,13 We use orthomolecular medicine models to identify the originating causes of psychiatric symptoms. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, addiction, ADHD, and other mental health issues can be treated holistically. We offer an alternative answer that educates people about how to cope with mental health naturally. Don’t get trapped in a non-stop routine of doctor visits, labels, and medications.

Orthomolecular psychiatry is practiced by orthomolecular psychiatry practitioners to treat mental illness. Our orthomolecular mental health center is the only one of its type in the United States.

prescription-grade supplementsThe approach uses lab testing, and individualized diagnosis to determine an etiology for each client’s specific symptoms and tailors treatment accordingly, utilizing a combination of dietary changes, and prescription-grade supplements blended with holistic therapies. The aims include enhanced functionality and improved quality of life. Other goals include the eradication or lessening of symptoms and reducing or eliminating the need for prescription drugs. Orthomolecular medicine also aims to reduce or eliminate cravings for recreational substances.

Our underlying assessments and ideas are that wholesome food and proper nutrition, elimination of toxic accumulations, and stress reduction are precursors for mental health.

With Orthomolecular Medicine, you can nourish your mind, eliminate the toxic burden, and become mentally and physically healthier.

Dr. Abram Hoffer was the first serious orthomolecular medicine practitioner in the 1950s. His therapies included niacin, and other nutrients, to address acute schizophrenia. Dr. Humphry Osmond, Dr. Carl Pfeiffer, and Dr. Linus Pauling continued the work that was started by Dr. Hoffer. Orthomolecular psychiatry follows “Pfeiffer’s Law”:

“For every drug that benefits a patient, there is a natural substance that can achieve the same effect.”

Possible Causes of Mental Health Disorders

Allergies are believed by many orthomolecular psychiatry practitioners to be one overlooked cause of mental illness. Research has found a positive association between seasonal pollen exposure and anxiety, for example.15

Industrial development fills our air, food, and water with numberless substances that may be chemically damaging to our neurons and our well-being.

Hypoglycemia is another one of the most frequently overlooked issues associated with emotional symptoms. Hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, is an interruption in sugar metabolism that is implicated in several mental and physical problems. Potential symptoms include anxiety, heart palpitations, alcoholism, insomnia, irritability, decreased sex drive, nightmares, violent behavior, crying spells, and nervous breakdowns.14 Hypoglycemia appears to be easily overcome with the professional help of orthomolecular psychiatry practitioners.

We are a professional team that works to find and correct the underlying causes of your psychiatric symptoms.

See All Mental Health Issues

What We Consume Does Impact Our Health and Mental State

premium supplements for mental healthNutritional pharmacology is no longer on the outside of medicine.5 Food affects the brain. Food affects behavior. In order to address this pervasive problem, our orthomolecular psychiatry program offers clients orthomolecular nutrition and dietary therapy including organic, whole, natural food, we also recommend that sugar, caffeine, white flour, and white rice are eliminated from the daily diet. Since modern food processing strips most of the nutrition, an individual eating a modern diet often develops a vitamin and/or nutrient deficiency even though they might consider their diet is adequate. Psychiatric symptoms are frequently associated with a lack of proper nutrition and supplementation. One example from research published in 2021 clearly showed a positive association between anxiety and vitamin D deficiency in children.16

At Alternative to Meds Center, we create personalized treatment plans to meet the needs of each client.

When a person becomes symptomatic in a mental health way, they are almost always given psychiatric medication before any tests or other investigative work is done. Most of the time, medication is the length and breadth of traditional treatment. It is not uncommon for there to be no investigative efforts at all in conventional treatment. At Alternative to Meds Center, we have found more and more people with accumulated environmental toxicity, and these toxins disrupt the chemical relationships that are essential for mental health. These toxins include heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, cadmium, lead, aluminum, pesticides, and organic toxins.1,12

You do not have to suffer from psychiatric symptoms or endure the ineffectiveness and side effects of traditional medicine. We offer a safe, holistic, drug-free approach.

We know how to stabilize the neurochemistry in a comfortable, effective way.

Our orthomolecular medicine practitioner’s aim is to discover which toxins a person has and eliminate them while investigating nutritional deficiencies and restoring these correctly through diet and targeted supplementation.

</p> <h3>Counseling Components</h3> <p>
Alternative to Meds Center additionally provides counseling with cognitive-behavioral therapists along with numerous other genres of one-on-one therapy and peer-based therapy. Some of these include Trauma Release, Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, Reality Therapy, Adventure Therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Art Therapy, Equine-assisted therapy, and more.

The center provides a restful, safe atmosphere with plenty of outdoor and indoor spaces for contemplation and relaxation in which to reflect and rest.

</p> <h3>What About Genetic Factors?</h3> <p>
Some people have one or more genetic polymorphisms,3,5 meaning they have a genetic predisposition to detox poorly. Accordingly, people with certain of these genetic expressions will be unable to effectively detox everything from mercury, lead, and pesticides, to street and psychiatric drugs.

Those, for instance, who are less able to metabolize antipsychotic medications, are more likely to develop tardive dyskinesia, especially if the polymorphism behind this inability came from both parents (called a homozygous SNP).18

Using lab testing, we can discover certain genetic factors that inform forging a treatment plan that will mitigate these factors, and garner the very best results for the individual.

What About Heavy Metal and Chemical Toxicity?

Brain chemistry is the most sensitive to chemical toxicity. This toxic load interferes with the way neurotransmitters are synthesized. Neurotransmitters are our chemical expressions of emotion; therefore, their disruption can manifest a wide array of mental health issues including depression, psychosis, anxiety, addictive behaviors, and even chronic pain.

We commonly see mercury toxicity causing insomnia and anxiety.4 Arsenic toxicity has been known to contribute to painkiller abuse due to its effects on endorphin synthesis, and mercury-lead or mercury-aluminum combinations have been demonstrated in psychosis as they bind to neuronal receptor sites generally reserved for neurotransmitters.

Other signs of heavy metal toxicity and chemical toxicity include:
  • Frequent unexplained headaches
  • Tingling in the hands & feet
  • Lethargy, sluggishness
  • Memory failure, psychotic behavior, unexplained seizures, irritability
  • Chronic respiratory problems, sinus problems, or asthma*
  • Abnormal body odor, bad breath, or coated tongue
  • Environmental sensitivities, sensitivity to odors
  • Food allergies, nausea, poor digestion, constipation, intestinal bloating, and gas
  • Unusually poor memory, learning disability, chronic insomnia, depression, chronic fatigue
  • Brittle hair and nails, psoriasis, adult acne, unexplained weight gain

Each toxin has its own hold on the body and needs to be treated in a specific way.

* NORD (National Organization for Rare Diseases) states that dental hygienists and others working with mercury should be aware that brain damage, asthma, pneumonia, and other health conditions have been found linked to breathing in mercury vapors.

sedona drug rehab personalized treatment plansWe facilitate chemical and heavy metal toxin removal based on toxicity testing and provide treatment via customized chelation and targeted neurotoxin holistic detox protocols. The detoxification protocol used by Alternative to Meds Center was designed for people who have accumulated toxins and is tailored to specifically remove those toxins.

Chelation agents are proteins that can bind heavy metals. Chelation means “claw-like.” A chelator is a protein that has a higher affinity for the heavy metal than does the fatty tissue and will grab or “claw” the toxin. A protein chelate, such as DMPS, binds the heavy metal toxin and allows it to be escorted out of the body via the elimination pathways.

Conjugation means “to join with.” In order for fat-soluble toxins to be eliminated via sweat and the usual elimination routes, they must be converted to a water-soluble form. This is done by adding something to the toxin such as a sulfur group, methyl group, or acetyl group. This addition is chemically termed conjoining. The specific elements in our detoxification process take full advantage of this process so that the toxins can be liberated from the fatty tissue and safely eliminated.

By identifying which toxins a resident is burdened by, chelating those toxins, and conjugating them so that they can then be safely eliminated, we consistently help some truly broken people get healthy and remain so.

If you would like to determine if you have one or more genetic polymorphism factors, we can help you find out. Please contact us today for more information on this or any other aspect of the Alternative to Meds Center’s natural mental health treatment. We will take time to speak with you about the benefits of Orthomolecular Medicine used every day at Alternative to Meds Center.


1. Flora S, Pachauri P, “Chelation in Metal Intoxication.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health [Internet] 2010 Jun 28 [cited 2023 June 22]

2. Lakhan SE, Vieira KF. Nutritional therapies for mental disorders. Nutr J. 2008 Jan 21;7:2. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-7-2. PMID: 18208598; PMCID: PMC2248201.[cited 2023 June 22]

3. Jones C, Nemeroff CB. Precision Psychiatry: Biomarker-Guided Tailored Therapy for Effective Treatment and Prevention in Major Depression. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2021;1305:535-563. doi: 10.1007/978-981-33-6044-0_27. PMID: 33834417. [cited 2023 June 22]

4. NORD, “Rare Disease Database” [Internet] 2006 [cited 2023 June 22]

5. “Nutritional Pharmacology- Regulation of Drug and Hormone Metabolism by Components of the Human Diet.” The Rockefeller University Hospital [Internet] N D [cited 2020 Nov 2]

6. Carter S. Origins of Orthomolecular MedicineIntegr Med (Encinitas). 2019;18(3):76-77. [cited 2023 June 22]

7. Himmerich H, Erbguth F. Ernährung und Nahrungsergänzungsmittel bei psychiatrischen Erkrankungen [Nutrition and dietary supplements in psychiatric diseases]. Nervenarzt. 2014 Dec;85(12):1512-20. German. doi: 10.1007/s00115-014-4163-y. PMID: 25421417. [cited 2023 June 22]

8. Lachance L, Ramsey D. Food, mood, and brain health: implications for the modern clinicianMo Med. 2015;112(2):111-115. [cited 2023 June 22]

9. Opie RS, Itsiopoulos C, Parletta N, Sanchez-Villegas A, Akbaraly TN, Ruusunen A, Jacka FN. Dietary recommendations for the prevention of depression. Nutr Neurosci. 2017 Apr;20(3):161-171. doi: 10.1179/1476830515Y.0000000043. Epub 2016 Mar 2. PMID: 26317148. [cited 2023 June 22]

10. Butler MI, Mörkl S, Sandhu KV, Cryan JF, Dinan TG. The Gut Microbiome and Mental Health: What Should We Tell Our Patients?: Le microbiote Intestinal et la Santé Mentale : que Devrions-Nous dire à nos Patients? Can J Psychiatry. 2019 Nov;64(11):747-760. doi: 10.1177/0706743719874168. Epub 2019 Sep 17. PMID: 31530002; PMCID: PMC6882070. [cited 2023 June 22]

11. El Moheb M, Herrera-Escobar JP, Breen K, Orlas C, Haynes AN, Levy-Carrick NC, Nehra D, Sanchez SE, Salim A, Velmahos G, Kaafarani HMA. Long-term outcomes of psychoactive drug use in trauma patients: A multicenter patient-reported outcomes study. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2021 Feb 1;90(2):319-324. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000003032. PMID: 33264267. [cited 2023 June 22]

12. Genuis SJ. Toxic causes of mental illness are overlooked. Neurotoxicology. 2008 Nov;29(6):1147-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2008.06.005. Epub 2008 Jun 24. PMID: 18621076.[cited 2023 June 22]

13. Cartwright C, Gibson K, Read J, Cowan O, Dehar T. Long-term antidepressant use: patient perspectives of benefits and adverse effectsPatient Prefer Adherence. 2016;10:1401-1407. Published 2016 Jul 28. doi:10.2147/PPA.S110632 [cited 2023 June 22]

14. Aucoin M, Bhardwaj S. Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Hypoglycemia Symptoms Improved with Diet Modification. Case Rep Psychiatry. 2016;2016:7165425. doi:10.1155/2016/7165425 [cited 2023 June 22]

15. Postolache TT, Langenberg P, Zimmerman SA, Lapidus M, Komarow H, McDonald JS, Furst N, Dzhanashvili N, Scrandis D, Bai J, Postolache B, Soriano JJ, Vittone B, Guzman A, Woo JM, Stiller J, Hamilton RG, Tonelli LH. Changes in Severity of Allergy and Anxiety Symptoms Are Positively Correlated in Patients with Recurrent Mood Disorders Who Are Exposed to Seasonal Peaks of Aeroallergens. Int J Child Health Hum Dev. 2008;1(3):313-322. PMID: 19430577; PMCID: PMC2678838. [cited 2023 June 22]

16. Głąbska D, Kołota A, Lachowicz K, Skolmowska D, Stachoń M, Guzek D. The Influence of Vitamin D Intake and Status on Mental Health in Children: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2021 Mar 16;13(3):952. doi: 10.3390/nu13030952. PMID: 33809478; PMCID: PMC7999324. [cited 2023 June 22]

17. Hofmann SG, Asnaani A, Vonk IJ, Sawyer AT, Fang A. The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses. Cognit Ther Res. 2012;36(5):427-440. doi:10.1007/s10608-012-9476-1 [cited 2023 June 22]

18. Tiwari AK, Deshpande SN, Rao AR, Bhatia T, Mukit SR, Shriharsh V, Lerer B, Nimagaonkar VL, Thelma BK. Genetic susceptibility to tardive dyskinesia in chronic schizophrenia subjects: I. Association of CYP1A2 gene polymorphism. Pharmacogenomics J. 2005;5(1):60-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.tpj.6500282. PMID: 15505641. [cited 2023 June 22]

19. Zell M, Grundmann O. An orthomolecular approach to the prevention and treatment of psychiatric disorders. Adv Mind Body Med. 2012 Fall;26(2):14-28. PMID: 23341413. [cited 2023 June 22]

20. Bourre JM. Effects of nutrients (in food) on the structure and function of the nervous system: update on dietary requirements for brain. Part 1: micronutrients. J Nutr Health Aging. 2006 Sep-Oct;10(5):377-85. PMID: 17066209. [cited 2023 June 22]

Originally Published Jan 12, 2021 by Lyle Murphy, Founder

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Medical Disclaimer:
Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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