Orthomolecular Psychiatry

"Mental Deficiency & Brain Chemistry." May 1, 1964.

"Mental Deficiency & Brain Chemistry." May 1, 1964.

Ortho means ‘right’ — the right molecules in the right amounts. Orthomolecular medicine is the use of the right molecules or orthomolecular substances that are normally present in the human body in the amounts that lead to the best of health and the greatest decrease in disease. It is the most effective prevention in the treatment of disease.

-Linus Pauling. Interview by Deborah Kesten. Healthline. April 1983.

Linus Pauling was well known — though not always celebrated — for his steadfast endorsement of the health benefits of megadoses of vitamin C. He began promoting the use of vitamin C as a preventative measure against colds in the mid-1960s. In the late-1960s, he published some of his early findings, calling his theory of vitamins and health “orthomolecular medicine” stemming from the Greek root ortho meaning “right” or “correct”.

Pauling applied his orthomolecular research to mental health as well, describing numerous psychological problems as the result of an imbalance of molecules.

Listen: Pauling describes the rapid evolution of his research agenda

In 1968, Pauling introduced the concept of orthomolecular psychiatry to the medical community with his publication of “Orthomolecular Psychiatry: Varying the concentrations of substances normally present in the human body may control mental disease” [PDF]. This article first appeared in Science and has since been reprinted in a number of other journals as well as the book Orthomolecular Psychiatry: Treatment of Schizophrenia, for which Pauling was a co-editor.

In his article, Pauling stated his belief that mental disease is caused almost entirely by the combination of abnormal reaction rates and abnormal molecular concentrations of substances essential to the human body.

The majority of chemical reactions that take place in humans employ an enzyme as a catalyst. As such, if a certain enzyme fails to function properly, the rate of the reaction that utilizes the enzyme will be severely reduced. Pauling developed two ways to push reactions in the forward direction, consequently solving the problem of rate reduction. He stated that this molecular propulsion could be accomplished by either introducing large amounts of the enzyme’s substrate or by somehow increasing the amount of the enzyme that is synthesized. He came to these conclusions by manipulating the Michaelis-Menten equation, which gives the rate law for a reaction catalyzed by an enzyme.

In his 1968 article, Pauling likewise described a variety of vitamins and other essential substances as well as the consequences of deficiencies of each. Among the substances discussed are vitamin B12, nicotinic acid, and vitamin C. Pauling believed that simply introducing more of a deficient substance would alleviate the effects of the deficiency.

Pauling’s concept of orthomolecular psychiatry is in application today. For example, Phenylketonuria, or PKU, is caused by poor functioning of the enzyme that processes phenylalanine. According to Pauling, this disease could be treated in two ways. One option is the introduction of mass amounts of the enzyme’s substrate to counterbalance the effects of the dysfunction. The second, and practiced, treatment is to require PKU patients to adhere to a strict low-protein diet, which significantly lowers the amount of phenylalanine they consume. (This approach also happened to have been an important component of the treatment that Pauling himself followed when battling glomerular nephritis in the 1940s)  Nevertheless, both treatment possibilities are examples of orthomolecular therapy.

Anecdote published in Chemtech, September 1994.

Anecdote published in Chemtech, September 1994.

Orthomolecular psychiatry was an exciting theory for Pauling. The orthomolecular concept was originally applied only to the brain, but it wasn’t long before Pauling began to extend it to the entire body. Eventually, he would consider problems ranging from diabetes to cavities as treatable using the orthomolecular concept.

For more information on orthomolecular psychiatry and related topics, visit It’s in the Blood! A Documentary History of Linus Pauling, Hemoglobin, and Sickle Cell Anemia. To view more content related to Linus Pauling, visit Linus Pauling Online.

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13 Responses

  1. I have a family member on pyschiatric medicine and wanted to transition off of meds. I need to find a doctor who can do this in Houston, Texas.

    Don’t know where to start since not all doctors are the same and it is costly. I have been hesitant because I am trying to narrow down to the “right” doctor. Some are only nutritionist others naturapathy and others practice orthomolecular. I would like an medical doctor who knows about transitioning at the same time orthomolecular at the same time psychiatric knowledge at the same time one who cares about the patient. Do you have any leads in Houston, Texas that you know is reputable with these necessary qualities.
    Please respond. thank you very much.

  2. I am looking for the same kind of Doctor for my 16 year daughter if you here of someone also in the Texas area please e-mail me back. It is very hard to find a competent Doctor who can offer alternatives to anti-psychotic medicine.

  3. [...] breakthroughs in the medical understanding of schizophrenia paralleled similar work being conducted by Linus Pauling.  As Pauling noted in 1991 Dr. Hoffer, over 40 years ago, [...]

  4. I am in the same situation like Ignacio and Patricia. I have a 23 year old son who was diagnose with schizophrenia at the age of 14. He is currently on meds. he was taking pills but a week ago they started him on an injection. Even with meds he still has outburst sometimes. I don’t like him taking meds because of the different side effects. I’ve been searching for alternative medicine or a psychiatrist who can heal my son and deliver us from our misery in Los angeles. Must be inexpensive and care about the patient.

  5. Please see comments above.

  6. I am in the same situation like Ignacio and Patricia. I have a 23 year old son who was diagnose with schizophrenia at the age of 14. He is currently on meds. he was taking pills but a week ago they started him on an injection. Even with meds he still has outburst sometimes. I don’t like him taking meds because of the different side effects. I’ve been searching for alternative medicine or a psychiatrist who can heal my son and deliver us from our misery in Los angeles. Must be inexpensive and care about the patient.

  7. I am looking for an orthomolecular psychiatrist in Houston, Texas. Help!

  8. oh i love alternative medicines, they are usually effective but with lesser bad side effects compared to conventional medicatio `

  9. you can say that alternative medicine is cheaper too and usually comes from natural sources :*.

  10. I am in a similar boat as all the people below. I have been on antidepressants for 10 yrs and I am looking for an orthomolecular psychiatrist in Houston tx did anyone ever find one?? Please let me know, thx.

  11. As indicated in my blog on February, I’m still searching for the Orthomolecular Doctor to help my son in Los Angeles. Please help!!!!!

  12. I will post information that I found previously. There are some organizations that have what we are looking for but their fees are very costly. I need to locate it first. In the mean time, believe, pray and have faith in the God who does answer prayers and works miracles. With man it is impossible but with God all things are possible.

  13. Hello,I know an orthomolecular that can help you guys.She is located near Houston and has treated people successfully from California to Holland.Please send me an email at pngy@live.com and I can answer any questions you have and provide you with her info.

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