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Home :: Melatonin

Melatonin - Uses And Side Effects

Melatonin is a hormone made by a part of the brain called the pineal (say: "pin-ee-all") gland. Melatonin may help our bodies know when it's time to go to sleep and when it's time to wake up. Melatonin supplements (in pill form) can also be taken. There are two types of melatonin that may be used in these pills: natural and synthetic (man-made). Studied for many conditions, it has been promoted most widely for preventing and treating jet lag and other forms of insomnia.

Melatonin also controls the timing and release of female reproductive hormones, affecting menstrual cycles, menarche, and menopause. Overall levels of melatonin in the body also respond to the process of aging.

Common doses of Melatonin

Melatonin comes as:

  • extended-release capsules (3 milligrams)
  • tablets (500 micrograms and 1, 1.5, or 3 milligrams)
  • liquid (500 micrograms per milliliter)
  • injectable forms.

Some experts recommend the following doses:

  • For cancer (solid tumors) as a single agent, 20 milligrams injected into muscle for 2 months, then 10 milligrams taken orally once daily.
  • For cancer (given with interleukin-2 [IL-2]), 40 to 50 milligrams taken orally at bedtime, starting 7 days before IL-2.
  • For chronic insomnia, 75 milligrams taken orally at bed time.
  • For delayed sleep phase syndrome, 5 milligrams taken orally at bedtime.
  • For jet lag, 5 milligrams taken orally once daily, starting 3 days before and ending 3 days after departure.
  • To normalize nocturnal melatonin levels, 4 micrograms per hour for 5 hours by in travenous injection.
  • For insomnia in blind people, 5 milligrams taken orally at bedtime.
  • For insomnia in elderly people, 1 to 2 milligrams of an extended-release form taken orally 2 hours before bedtime.

Uses of Melatonin

Melatonin is widely used to relieve insomnia and the symptoms of jet lag, two common problems of modern life. Unlike many other sleep aids, melatonin isn't addictive. The hormone may promote health in other ways as well. As an antioxidant, it hunts down and eliminates cell-damaging free radicals, possibly helping to prevent or delay the development of heart disease, cancer and other conditions. When combined with certain cancer drugs, it may destroy malignant cells. Other preliminary findings suggest a possible role in lessening the nerve damage associated with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, and an ability to prevent strokes and heart attacks by reducing high blood pressure. Specifically, melatonin may help to:

  • Birth control
  • Cancer
  • Insomnia
  • Jet lag
  • Eating Disorders
  • Depression
  • Other sleep disorders

Side effects of Melatonin

Call your health are practitioner if you experience any of these possible side effects of melatonin:-

  • altered sleep patterns
  • chills
  • confusion
  • drowsiness
  • headache
  • itching
  • rapid pulse


Combining melatonin with certain drugs may alter their action or produce unwanted side effects. Don't use melatonin while taking:

  • DHEA (a steroid hormone)
  • magnesium or zinc supplements
  • methamphetamines such as Desoxyn.

Use caution when taking melatonin along with tranquilizers such as benzodiazepines (for instance, Klonopin, Librium, or Xanax).

Important points to remember

  • Don't take melatonin if you have kidney or liver disease.
  • Avoid melatonin if you have a history of stroke, depression, or a neurologic disorder.
  • Before surgery, tell the anesthesiologist that you've been taking melatonin. This information may influence the type of muscle relaxant he or she administers.
  • Know that comprehensive therapy for sleep disorders may include behavior modification, light therapy, drugs, and counseling.

What the research shows

Melatonin seems to be a promising treatment for jet lag, although more controlled trials must be done to find the best administration schedule. Melatonin also may benefit people with other sleep disorders and aid blind people with abnormal body rhythms.

More research may tell if melatonin has a role in treating cancer or preventing pregnancy. For now, medical experts are withholding judgment.

Other names for Melatonin

Other names for melatonin include Mel and n-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine.

Products containing melatonin are sold under such names as Bevitamel, Melatonin, Rapi-Snooze, and Tranzone.

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