The kinetics of lithium (Li +) distribution after a single dose was studied in healthy human subjects. Experiments were performed by simultaneously following changes of Li+ concentration in plasma, erythrocytes (RBC), and urine. The data were fitted by a simple but physiologically realistic model, so that extracted rate constants could be assigned to real body compartments and compared with independent measurements of cellular transport characteristics. The extracted rate constants were used to calculate steady-state cell-to-plasma Li+ ratios for RBC and for inaccessible cells (mainly muscle). In both cell types, the intracellular Li+ concentration is far below electrochemical equilibrium. This finding suggests that the Li+ countertransport efflux mechanism of RBC may be shared with muscle. We also present evidence for a circadian rhythm in Li+ excretion that parallels the daily cycle of Na+ and K+ excretion.