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Melatonin is the only hormone that is secreted into the bloodstream by the pineal gland (located in the brain). This multi-purpose hormone regulates other hormones responsible for circadian rhythm; the body's rhythm during a 24-hour period of time. In addition, the release of female reproductive hormones, menarche, menstrual cycles, and menopause are all affected by melatonin.

Melatonin's antioxidant properties (anti-aging) make it an extremely efficient free radical scavenger. Not only can this hormone invade any cell, it is capable of protecting the nucleus (contains DNA). Glutathione peroxidase, another antioxidant, is stimulated by melatonin.

Since this hormone has the ability to affect sleep patterns, people use melatonin to treat jet lag and insomnia. Seasonal depression has been treated with melatonin. The effectiveness of certain drugs (eg, interferon, interleukin-2) used to treat certain types of cancer may be enhanced, and medication side effects may be reduced.

Additionally, melatonin may prove helpful in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, osteoporosis, heart disease, and premenstrual syndrome.

Sources of Melatonin
There are no food sources for melatonin. It is available in tablet, capsule, and sublingual tablet forms.

Guidelines and Cautions
A required dietary allowance (RDA) has not been established. Sensitivity to melatonin varies. Although there are no known serious side effects, some people experience vivid dreams or nightmares. If melatonin is not used properly, circadian rhythms may be disrupted.

Some sources suggest the following:

  • To treat jet lag: at destination, take 5 mg of melatonin one hour before bedtime. Continue for five days.
  • To treat insomnia: 3 mg one hour before bedtime. Depending upon individual sensitivity to melatonin, the dose may be adjusted down to 0.1 mg and as high as 6 mg.

Specific cautions include:

  • People who have lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, lymphoma, leukemia, or depression should only take melatonin under the direction of a medical professional.
  • Pregnant and nursing women should avoid taking melatonin.
  • Healthy children should also avoid taking the supplement, because they already produce sufficient amounts of melatonin.
  • Women who wish to become pregnant may want to avoid taking the supplement, because high doses have been found to act as a contraceptive.

There are potential interactions. Even some vitamins, such as B12, B6, and niacinamide, can affect the production of melatonin (increase/decrease). Certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (eg, aspirin, ibuprofen) reduce melatonin levels and may affect sleep if taken at bedtime.

Other drugs that interfere with melatonin production include:

  • Valium
  • Xanax
  • Diuretics
  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers

Disclaimer: Many people report feeling improvement in their condition and/or general well-being taking dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements. The Editorial Board of, however, cannot endorse such products since most lack peer-reviewed scientific validation of their claims. In most cases an appropriate diet and a "multiple vitamin" will provide the necessary dietary supplements for most individuals. Prior to taking additional dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements it is recommended that patients consult with their personal physician to discuss their specific supplement requirements.

Updated on: 03/16/16
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George D. Picetti, III, MD
In reviewing the above supplements several observations were noted. First of all there are no scientific papers that review the efficacy of these supplements in refereed journals. Therefore we are not able to comment on how effective they are on a scientific level. These supplements are not held to the same standards as other medications, and thus the dose and concentration may differ among different brands or companies. Although many people claim to have good results from taking these and other supplements, it is always best to discuss this with your doctor before taking these supplements. If you are taking any supplement and are scheduled for surgery, it is imperative that you tell your surgeon and anesthesiologist. Some of these supplements can cause significant changes in your body’s chemical functions, such as slowing blood clot formation, which can be a serious problem during surgery.
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