When people hear the word melatonin, many people think of the supplement commonly used as a natural sleep aid. But melatonin is also a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, a small endocrine organ in the brain that is responsible for releasing melatonin into the bloodstream. The pineal gland responds to darkness by initiating melatonin production and then stops producing it in response to light. Melatonin regulates the sleep-wake cycle, the most important of the body’s circadian rhythms, and is also said to affect deep body temperature (the body’s internal temperature). As we age, this melatonin hormone declines, and after a certain age, people have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, which is why melatonin supplements are used. However, melatonin’s function is not only “the hormone that controls sleep”. It is also an important hormone that performs a variety of functions.
Melatonin also has antioxidant properties and is involved in processes involving apoptosis (cell death). Melatonin exerts its antioxidative function directly through its radical scavenging ability, indirectly through stimulation of antioxidant enzymes, and via stimulation of synthesis of other antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase. Melatonin is different from other classic antioxidants in that it participates in a ‘cascade reaction’. Via this cascade reaction, one melatonin molecule has the capacity to scavenge up to 10 reactive oxygen species versus the classic antioxidants that can scavenge one or less.
Additionally, Melatonin has anti-inflammatory properties. Melatonin has an excellent effect on the prevention of inflammatory diseases. Studies have shown that in a mouse model of sepsis, melatonin reduced inflammation by decreasing serum levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-a (TNF-a). Melatonin can modulate interleukins and tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and melatonin supplementation is believed to reduce levels of inflammatory markers and be useful in both the prevention and treatment of inflammatory diseases.
In addition, melatonin activates cells involved in the immune function. Scientists have found that melatonin sends signals to the immune system and the immune system “talks” back. This “cross talk” fine-tunes and coordinates healthy immunity. It bolsters innate defenses that guard against a wide range of pathogens, from viruses to cancer cells. It also improves immune attacks on specific viruses and disease-causing bacteria and parasites.
Melatonin is also thought to help prevent neurological disease by maintaining the integrity of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Many neurological diseases that affect the elderly, such as Alzheimer’s disease, begin with damage to the BBB. Melatonin helps neurotransmitters and glial cells, which can benefit someone living with Mental health struggles such as depression, anxiety, bi polar, depersonalization, OCD, plus unexplained deep sadness, feelings of being lost, foggy brain, forgetfulness, panic attacks, nervousness, mild fatigue and more. Melatonin can also stop the brain from shrinking and atrophying and can help reduce tumors and cysts and help prevent them from growing in the first place.
As you can see, melatonin has a variety of functions and is an essential hormone. Melatonin decreases with age, but consuming foods rich in melatonin such as tart cherries, goji berries, and nuts, as well as making good use of melatonin supplements, can help prevent various diseases. Also, when taking melatonin supplements, combining them with antioxidant-rich foods (e.g., wild blueberries, raspberries, leafy greens, apples, sweet potatoes, etc.) can help stop the oxidation of toxic heavy metals in the brain and protect it from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, brain tumors, etc. The nutrients in these foods also bind onto the melatonin and make it more easily accepted by the brain and body and enhancing its medicinal sleep effects and ability to help with stress relief.