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Melatonin is commonly known for its role in regulating sleep. Recent studies have revealed that its benefits extend beyond just helping with sleep disorders. This naturally occurring hormone also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which contribute to its overall effectiveness in promoting health. In this article, we will explore the various aspects of melatonin supplements, examining how they help in improving sleep patterns, as well as their potential in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. By providing a detailed overview of melatonin’s multiple functions, this article aims to offer a comprehensive understanding of how this supplement can be beneficial in various health contexts.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that your body naturally produces to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle, also known as your circadian rhythm. It is made in a small gland in your brain called the pineal gland. Melatonin levels usually start to rise in the evening when it gets dark, which helps your body know that it’s time to sleep. As the morning comes and it gets lighter outside, melatonin levels decrease, signaling to your body that it’s time to wake up.
People sometimes take melatonin supplements to help with sleep problems, like insomnia, or to adjust their sleep schedules, like when dealing with jet lag. These supplements can be found over the counter in different forms, such as tablets, gummies, or liquids. It is important to talk to a healthcare professional before taking melatonin supplements to make sure they are safe and appropriate for your specific needs.
Melatonin is found in foods, but in tiny amounts that are orders of magnitude smaller than what is produced in the cells.
What are the Benefits of Melatonin?
There’s an explosion of new research being published on discoveries around melatonin. Here is a list of some health benefits of melatonin:
- Improves sleep: Melatonin can help regulate the sleep-wake cycle and is often used to treat sleep problems, such as insomnia. [PMID: 33417003]
- Supports eye health: Melatonin has antioxidant properties that may help protect the eyes from damage and maintain good vision by reducing inflammation [PMID: 31724508] and affecting pressure inside the eye. [PMID: 31560946]
- Boosts the immune system: Some research suggests that melatonin may help strengthen the immune system, supporting the body’s ability to fight off illnesses. [PMC3645767]
- Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Melatonin has shown promise in reducing inflammation in the body, which could be beneficial in various conditions, including TBI. [PMC7979486]
- Antioxidant Properties: Melatonin acts as an antioxidant, helping to combat free radicals in the body. This may support overall cellular health. [PMID: 27500468]
- Brain Health: Some studies suggest melatonin could improve brain function and possibly even offer some protection against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. [PMID: 33957167]
- Stress Reduction: Melatonin may help reduce symptoms of stress by lowering cortisol levels, the body’s main stress hormone. [PMC1395802]
- Digestive Health: Some research has shown that melatonin might help in the treatment of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Researchers state, “Melatonin can enhance the intestinal mucosal barrier, alter the composition of intestinal bacteria in favor of bacteria with anti-inflammatory properties, regulate the immune response, alleviate inflammation and attenuate oxidative stress.” [PMID: 36535545]
- Blood Pressure: Early studies have indicated that melatonin might have a role in improving heart health by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. [PMC1395802, PMID: 12019357]
- Pain Relief: There’s some evidence to suggest that melatonin could have pain-relieving effects, helping to reduce different types of pain. [PMC7291209]
- Migraine Prevention: Researchers reviewing studies on this topic stated that “Observational studies also support melatonin’s efficacy in migraine. As a result, melatonin is very likely to benefit migraine in prophylaxis and may have a similar effectiveness to other main preventive medications. Immediate-release melatonin 3 mg was established as effective, melatonin receptor agonist (Agomelatine) 25 mg… 3 months or more may be enough duration for migraine therapy.”[PMC6370052]
- Fertility: Melatonin can scavenge free radicals such as reactive oxygen species (ROS), a key factor in reproductive functions. It plays an important role in oocyte maturation, fertilization, and embryonic development as well. [PMID: 34624677]
- Reduces jet lag symptoms: Taking melatonin supplements can help adjust your sleep schedule when traveling to a different time zone, making it easier to adapt to the new schedule. [PMID: 26731279]
- Mitochondrial function: Melatonin’s antioxidant activity may reduce the oxidative stress that causes damage to the “powerhouses of the cell.” [PMID: 21244359]
Melatonin, MMP-9, and The Blood-Brain Barrier
Spoiler Alert: Melatonin can bind to MMP-9, the destroyer of the blood-brain barrier.
MMP-9 activity is linked to many pathological processes, including rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, gastric ulcer, tumor growth, and cancer metastasis.Melatonin inhibits matrix metalloproteinase-9 activity [PMC6932927]
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a protective barrier between the bloodstream and the brain that regulates the passage of substances into and out of the brain. It is formed by specialized cells lining the blood vessels in the brain and prevents the entry of harmful substances while allowing the passage of essential nutrients and oxygen. The BBB acts as a shield, maintaining the brain’s stable environment and protecting it from potentially harmful agents. It plays a vital role in preserving brain function and preventing the entry of substances that could disrupt normal brain activity.
A leaky blood-brain barrier (BBB) can let in substances that cause brain fog, problems with concentration and memory, headaches, feeling tired, changes in mood and emotions, and increased sensitivity to light and sound. These symptoms can affect cognitive function, cause fatigue, and impact mood and behavior. The causes of a leaky blood-brain barrier (BBB) can include inflammation, trauma, infection, certain diseases, chemotherapy, and disruptions in the normal functioning of the cells that form the barrier.
MMP-9 is an enzyme that breaks down the BBB. MMP-9 stands for “matrix metalloproteinase-9”. This enzyme breaks down the extracellular matrix components that act like the glue between the cells of the BBB. Inflammation can cause the release of MMP-9 leading to increased BBB permeability.
A leaky BBB allows substances, such as immune cells and molecules, to enter the brain more easily, which can contribute to neurological disorders or inflammatory responses in the brain. Therefore, maintaining the integrity of the BBB is crucial for the proper functioning of the central nervous system.
Melatonin For Brain Concussion
Concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Traumatic brain injury can have long-lasting effects and increase the risk of conditions like Alzheimer’s. Research is looking into whether melatonin could help prevent such future issues. So far, studies on animals are promising, showing that melatonin can reduce inflammation and improve brain function after a TBI. We don’t have enough studies on people yet to say for sure if melatonin is effective. [PMC8494149] A deep dive into the recent research with a lot of technical detail is covered in this Youtube Video.
Are there Food Sources For Melatonin?
The answer to this question is yes and no. Foods do contain minute amounts of melatonin, but these sources are orders of magnitude smaller than the amount in supplements as shown in the table.
|Foods vs. Supplements
|Estimated Melatonin (mg)
|0.0135 mg (~ 1/100th of a mg)
|0.00054 mg (~ 5/10,000th of a mg)
|Most common dosages
|1 mg to 5 mg
Is Melatonin Safe?
When used responsibly, melatonin is unlikely to cause significant adverse effects. Importantly, no known toxicity level has been established for melatonin. While mild side effects such as daytime drowsiness or headaches may occur in some individuals, they are typically temporary.
Medication Interactions with Melatonin
- Blood thinners (e.g., warfarin, aspirin): Melatonin may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with blood thinners, although more research is needed to confirm this interaction.
- Blood pressure medications (e.g., beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers): Melatonin may interfere with the effectiveness of these medications, potentially affecting blood pressure control.
- Antidepressants (e.g., fluoxetine, sertraline): Melatonin may interact with certain antidepressants, possibly causing drowsiness or affecting mood.
- Sedatives (e.g., benzodiazepines, zolpidem): Taking melatonin with sedatives may cause excessive drowsiness or increase the risk of side effects.
Supplements That Interact With Melatonin
- St. John’s Wort: This supplement is often used for depression and anxiety. It may interact with melatonin, potentially affecting sleep or mood.
- Valerian Root: Valerian root is commonly used to promote sleep and relaxation. Combining it with melatonin may cause excessive drowsiness.
- 5-HTP: This supplement is sometimes taken to increase serotonin levels in the brain. Combining it with melatonin may affect mood and sleep.
- Kava: Kava is used to help with anxiety and stress. Taking it with melatonin may cause increased drowsiness or other side effects.
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Melatonin 1mg by Ortho Molecular Products
Melatonin plays a key role in regulating the body’s circadian rhythm. Melatonin can be helpful in regulating sleep cycles in individuals who have irregular sleep patterns.*
1 or more tablets per day or as recommended by your health care professional.
Amount Per 1 Tablet Serving
Melatonin … 1 mg
Melatonin 3 mg (Immediate Release) by Now
Melatonin is a potent free radical scavenger naturally produced in the pineal gland.* It is involved in many of the regulatory processes of the body, including regulation of glandular secretory functions related to the maintenance of normal sleep/wake cycles and aspects of immune system function.*
Suggested Use: Take 1 lozenge just prior to bedtime as needed. Chew lozenge or hold in mouth until dissolved and swallow.
Amount Per 1 Lozenge Serving
- Vitamin B-6 … 3mg (from Pyridoxine HCl)
- Melatonin … 3mg†
Melatonin 3 mg (Prolonged Release) by Douglas Laboratories
Manufacturer Description: Melatonin P.R. tablets contain 3 mg of purest pharmaceutical grade melatonin, in a prolonged-release tablet.
As a dietary supplement, adults take 1 tablet 1 hour before bedtime as directed by your healthcare professional.
Amount Per One Tablet Serving
Melatonin … 3mg
Melatonin (High Dose: 20 mg)
Melatonin supports cellular health and antioxidant activity. Melatonin helps provide cellular support for tissues including the colon, breast, prostate and lungs.*
- Supports cellular health*
- Promotes immune cell activity*
- Made with hypoallergenic, vegan ingredients
Melatonin is primarily associated with supporting the bodys natural sleep cycle, however recent scientific advances suggest that it may play a role in cellular health. More than a dozen preliminary clinical trials have examined the role of melatonin in supporting healthy cells and tissues, in part by maintaining healthy angiogenesis balance, promoting immune cell activity, and scavenging free radicals. Randomized studies have revealed the potential for melatonin to positively support colon, breast, prostate and lung tissues. Take 1 capsule 1/2 to 1 hour before bedtime.
Amount Per 1 Capsule Serving
Melatonin … 20mg
Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.
Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.
To Sum It Up
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the pineal gland in the body that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. It is commonly used as a sleep aid to assist with occasional sleep difficulties or jet lag. Melatonin supplements are available over-the-counter and are generally considered safe for short-term use when taken at appropriate dosages. While mild side effects such as daytime drowsiness or headaches may occur, they are typically temporary. It is important to note that no known toxicity level has been established for melatonin. Consulting with a healthcare professional can provide personalized guidance on its usage.
This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice
Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.