Melatonin has beneficial effects on many different medical conditions. It is a substance naturally produced by the body that, if it is lacking, can be easily introduced from outside through a specific dietary supplement. Melatonin is a hormone that acts right out of various organs. Both animals and plants produce it, and it is from the latter that can be extracted to produce supplements that, by law, can be used to treat certain diseases, avoiding the use of drugs.
Starting from the analysis of the molecule and of its functions within the organism, we will find out in this article for which pathologies can be useful to take it.
Melatonin: description and functions
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, a gland in the brain whose function is to regulate the sleep-wake cycle, inducing sleep and even a whole series of physical changes of the body, such as the regulation of breathing, slow heartbeat and muscle relaxation in the light of a really restful sleep.
The hormone is produced in relation with external light stimulus coming from the eye. It is produced in particular at night when stimulus is lacking while its concentration in the blood decreases a lot during the day. Furthermore, the production of melatonin is also induced by a personal cycle that is created over time (in small children is not present), and that is to form what we call biological clock which makes us wake up every morning at the same time and it provides us every night, at the same time, the stimulus of sleep. Clearly this natural cycle can also be modified by our habits.
The effects of melatonin on the organism
The external integration of melatonin is done orally. The action of the food supplement is milder than that of melatonin produced by the body because part of the molecule is lost in the process of absorption. The absorbed molecules maintain their property and therefore they are able to increase the action of endogenous melatonin, or compensate the insufficient quantity produced by the pineal gland.
It is possible to avoid or at least reduce the outbreaks of diseases related to poor production of melatonin by an adequate integration of it.
Main uses of melatonin:
Sleep-wake cycle regulation. The main function of the molecule is to naturally induce sleep. If taken in the evening, it allows both to compensate for the scarcity of melatonin secretion by the body, and to enhance feeling sleepy. Even the time zone changes, which can cause problems with sleep regulation, improve with the use of melatonin.
- Stress and anxiety problems. In general, anxiety activates contrary mechanisms to those of sleep but it can improve thanks to melatonin. It is important to note that the supplement reduces symptoms of anxiety but does not act on the causes that should be investigated and dealt with a psychotherapeutic approach. Anxiety and stress, although activated by different mechanisms, lead to common symptoms. For this reason, similarly to what has been said about anxiety, stress can also benefit from the oral integration of melatonin. The benefit will be greater if the stress is accompanied by insomnia.
- Lowering of pressure. Melatonin cannot replace the specific drug for hypertension, melatonin is able to significantly lower blood pressure. Over time, it enhances blood pressure regulation, except in the most severe cases, so to minimize the need for medical therapy.
- Neurological degeneration. In the elderly, some studies show benefits against degeneration typical of Alzheimer’s disease. In this case, however, the molecule must be taken for preventive and non-therapeutic purposes.
- Female reproductive system problems. The molecule mimics the action of ovarian hormones that stimulate melatonin. When they are no longer present, for example due to menopause, external integration can be useful to solve problems and alleviate symptoms related to their deficits.
- Finally, melatonin is recommended in all abstinence syndromes that may involve alcohol, drugs or, much more commonly, smoking, reducing its entity.
Melatonin has the advantage of not having side effects, in contrast to drugs and so action it can be taken without risk. However, it may occur interactions with some substances and some drugs making recommendable to hear the doctor’s opinion.