Melatonin: Not Just for Sleep Anymore! Part 1
Arguably the most popular and well-known supplement for sleep aside from the herb valerian, the hormone melatonin has been extensively studied for many years. In recent years research has revealed this key hormone to be more important and vital to human physiology than ever suspected. Far from merely regulating circadian rhythm (the body's internal clock) and thus improving sleep in most cases, melatonin seems to be involved in nearly every body process in some capacity. Bone formation, metabolism, reproductive function, physical growth, brain health, and the immune system, among many others, are all impacted by melatonin. Receptors for melatonin are found in the nucleus of every cell, positively affecting cellular energy in the mitochondria, with profound influences in the body.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone released by the pineal gland at night (during darkness). It then travels throughout the body performing a daunting array of tasks. Other organs of vertebrates also produce melatonin. The retina and gastrointestinal tract are sources as well. The most well-known role of this hormone is that of regulating the body's clock, or circadian rhythm. Melatonin is produced when the retina at the back of the eye registers darkness. Exposure to artificial light, and specifically blue light, reduces production. For this reason it is wise to discontinue use of electronic devices (cell phones, computers, television) at night at least two hours before bedtime. Children produce twice as much of the hormone as adults, and production gradually declines from our twenties to our fifties. As mentioned, the most well-known attribute of melatonin is its regulation of the circadian rhythm, and many studies have shown that people of any age who deal with jet lag, shift work (unusual hours) and even seasonal changes may benefit from supplementation to restore harmony in this regard. Circadian rhythms also synchronize the production and release of hypothalamic and pituitary hormones, therefore a stable regulation of this process is invaluable. We will look at some other roles of this important hormone which research has shown us.
Melatonin has been shown to be a powerful antioxidant substance. It is capable of reducing oxidative stress under many circumstances. It directly disables reactive molecules and also indirectly stimulates antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase. Its high concentration in the mitochondria of cells seems to be one reason it is so effective at reducing oxidative stress. During the cellular energy cycle in the mitochondria, large amounts of free radicals are produced. Regular antioxidants such as vitamin E do not pass into this part of the cell to reduce inflammation and oxidation.
The aging process is thought to be partly a result of deteriorating mitochondria and thus cell death. In several studies melatonin was shown to have profound cell protective qualities compared to other mitochondrial-entering antioxidants such as Mito-Q, a super ramped up version of CoQ10. Researchers feel that this action may help with many diseases of aging. It has also been shown to prevent the damage caused by hypoxia, in which cells are deprived of oxygen and are damaged or destroyed. In addition, it may help to chelate heavy metals, which can form some of the most dangerous hydroxyl radicals.
Melatonin has been shown to protect the brain through a variety of mechanisms. It has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and exert its antioxidant power to protect brain tissues from oxidative stress. Its ability to prevent the damage from hypoxia may help in cases of stroke and other conditions. It may help prevent neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, and others. During sleep, it activates a waste-clearance system that is needed for removal of toxic amyloid protein deposits seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer's. Melatonin has also been shown to improve myelination of nerve fibers, thereby protecting the brain's white matter. Learning and memory are partly a result of brain plasticity (the ability for nerve cells to adapt and change). Melatonin facilitates this process of plasticity.
Evergreen carries a variety of melatonin products — lozenges, capsules, liquids; fast acting and sustained release — in a range of doses from 1 mg to 10 mg. We also have a plant-based melatonin called Herbatonin that is available in 0.3 mg dose, the same amount of melatonin naturally produced by the brain.
In the second installment of this newsletter we will look at melatonins's role in respiratory and immune health. Stay tuned!
- Melatonin: Not Just for Sleep Anymore! Part 2
- Melatonin: Not Just for Sleep Anymore! Part 1
- Which Whey is Best for You?
- Cruciferous Veggies & Your Health, Part 1
- Cruciferous Veggies & Your Health, Part 2
- Go packs: Ready to Go Now!
- Stress, Anxiety & Your Microbiome
- Stress Wreaks Havoc on the Body
- Welcoming Yaakov Levine
- The Mineral Boron
The information provided here is for educational purposes only. None of the research or evidence presented here is intended as a substitute for consulting an appropriate healthcare professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you believe that you may have a disease condition, please consult your healthcare practitioner before using this or any other dietary supplement.
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