The Uses Of Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland in the brain, with the purpose of regulating our sleep patterns, making us feel sleepy when we should. It is the perfect example of how amazing our brains are. As evening draws near, the pineal gland begins to secrete Melatonin. The later it gets, the more Melatonin it produces, finally peaking around 2a.m., and slowly dropping off until dawn.


Synthetic versions of Melatonin are available as a nutritional supplement through health food stores, nutrition stores, on-line outlets, and drug stores. It has been used as a sleep aid for years, but has the potential for other uses as well. Research for Melatonin is underfunded, so it may be many more years before we know the hormone’s possible effects, but there are many promising possibilities. It has had minimal testing for many uses, from preventing skin damage caused by exposure to UV radiation, to a possible assistor in the fight against cancer.


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As a sleep aid, Melatonin has been found to be beneficial to women suffering from menopause related sleep issues. Before, during, and after menopause, many women report changes in sleep patterns. The use of Melatonin can help correct and maintain those patterns.


It has also been shown to promote bone growth by stimulating cells called “osteoblasts.” This could be a major agent in preventing Osteoporosis. More research is needed, but it is thought that Melatonin production is reduced in postmenopausal women, and could be a contributing factor to the development of the disease.


Some initial studies show that people with breast and prostate cancer have lower levels of Melatonin than people without the diseases. Studies indicate that lower levels of Melatonin can stimulate cancer growth, while lower levels may inhibit growth. It is also suspected that Melatonin may improve chemotherapy results when used a week prior to treatment, by preventing the lowering of blood platelets. Another benefit to cancer patients is that Melatonin could help prevent the malnourishment and weight loss that often accompanies cancer.


It is believed that Melatonin levels are lower in people with heart disease, but researchers cannot say if the low levels are a possible cause of the condition, or a result of the disease. Many more studies are needed. Tests on laboratory animals suggest that Melatonin may help protect the heart from damage caused by certain conditions that lead to heart attacks.


The possible uses of Melatonin are numerous, but for now, its most common use will remain a sleep aid. Since Melatonin was first made available as a sleep aid, scientists have warned that the supplement has had little research and that they are not sure what the effects of long-term use might be. The warnings have not changed, showing how little research has been done over the years. It has never been approved by the FDA, which is why it is sold as a supplement rather that a drug. It has been used in tests or marketed for over 30 years, and any negative long-term effects have yet to be reported.


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