What is Orthomolecular Medicine?

Orthomolecular medicine

Orthomolecular medicine is the use of natural substances, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other essential nutrients, to prevent and treat disease. The term ‘orthomolecular’ was coined by Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel Prize-winning chemist, to describe the concept of using the right molecules in the right amounts to promote optimal health.

Substances that are considered “ortho-molecules” include:

  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • amino acids
  • fatty acids and cholesterol
  • enzymes
  • hormones
  • neurotransmitters
  • other naturally occurring substances that are utilized in metabolic activity

Dietary proteins, carbohydrates, and fats (macronutrients) are also relevant to the practice of orthomolecular medicine.

The domain of orthomolecular research, knowledge, and application encompasses:

  • nutrition
  • nutrigenomics
  • nutrigenetics
  • biochemistry
  • cell biology
  • pharmacology 
  • physiology 
  • toxicology

Principles of orthomolecular practice

  1. Orthomolecules are considered first in medical diagnosis and treatment. Knowledge of the safe and effective use of orthomolecules is essential
    to assure a reasonable standard of care in medical practice.
  2. Orthomolecules have a low risk of toxicity.
  3. Every person is biochemically unique, and should be assessed and treated according to their particular biochemical and metabolic factors.
  4. Nutrient-related disorders are treatable and deficiencies are curable.
  5. Nutrient amounts required for a therapeutic benefit may be much higher than Dietary Reference Intakes and Reference Daily Intakes, whose values are intended only for healthy people.
  6. Blood and other laboratory tests do not necessarily reflect nutrient levels within specific organs or tissues.
  7. It is essential to identify and address the root causes of health issues and not just the symptoms.
  8. Orthomolecular treatments that are known to be safe and possibly effective for a patient’s condition warrant a therapeutic trial.
  9. Biochemical needs of a patient change over time and with treatment – nutrient recommendations need to change accordingly.
  10. Due to the likelihood and implications of food and environmental toxin exposures, assessing potential toxicity in patients is essential.
  11. When drugs are necessary, the lowest dose that provides therapeutic benefit should be used, and gradually reduced as the recovery of the patient permits.
  12. To deny the patient access to orthomolecular information and treatment is to deny the patient informed consent for any other treatment.
  13. Hope is therapeutic and a natural outcome of exposure to orthomolecular information and therapies.
  14. The patient’s right of freedom of choice in medical treatment must be respected.

Read more about Orthomolecular Medicine:

Orthomolecular Psychiatry: Varying the Concentrations of Substances Normally Present in the Human Body May Control Mental Disease
Pauling, L. (1968) Science, Vol. 160, No. 3825

History of Orthomolecular Psychiatry
Hoffer, A. (1974) Orthomolecular Psychiatry, Vol. 3, No. 4; 223-230

Origins of Orthomolecular Medicine
Carter, S. (2019) Integrative Medicine: A Clinicians Journal, Vol. 18 No. 3: 76–77

Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine

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Orthomolecular Medicine Directory

Profiles of individuals who have contributed to the advancement of orthomolecular medicine

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Orthomolecular Medicine Hall of Fame

Pioneers and leaders in Orthomolecular Medicine inducted into the Orthomolecular Hall of Fame

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