Melatonin, scientifically known as 5-methoxy-N-acetyltryptamine, is one neuro-hormone produced by the brain, particularly the pineal gland. Melatonin is synthesized through the use of the amino acid known as tryptophan. Interestingly, the synthesis (production) of melatonin is enhanced and stimulated by the presence of darkness and suppressed in the presence of light. This implicates melatonin in many diverse regulations of the body, including the natural circadian rhythm. Due to this fact, melatonin levels are typically highest prior to a normal bedtime at night.
Melatonin: Biological Functions
Melatonin has been implicated in several biological functions within the body produced by the presence and activation of melatonin receptors. It also has certain antioxidant effects within the body and is necessary for the protection of both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).
Melatonin: Light Dependence
The production of melatonin in the brain by the pineal gland is successfully inhibited by the presence of light and permitted during periods of darkness. This fact has given melatonin the name of "the hormone of darkness." This is due to the fact that melatonin is produced with influences from a specific nucleus of the hypothalamus known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus. This nucleus receives information from the retina of the eye as to the presence of light and darkness, enhancing or inhibiting the production of melatonin.
Melatonin: An Antioxidant
Melatonin functions as a powerful antioxidant within the body and is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier and cell membranes. Melatonin is different from other antioxidants in the fact that it can only be utilized once, whereas other antioxidants can be utilized multiple times for the completion of specific reactions. Melatonin, once used, forms several products that are relatively stable and interact with free radicals.
Melatonin and Hypertension: The Link
There are several controlled studies that have correlated the ability of melatonin to cause reductions in overall blood pressure. However, these studies are limited and therefore more research is necessary to confirm these preliminary results. The exact mechanisms by which melatonin is cause for these decreases in hypertension remains unknown and debated.
Melatonin: Recommended Dosages
The studies evaluated a dosage range from 1 to 3 milligrams of melatonin. However, these studies were limited and again, more research is necessary to both confirm the overall effects of melatonin and the adequate dosage to produce the wanted results of decreasing overall blood pressure.
Melatonin: Safety First
As with all supplementation, it is recommended that you discuss any and all medications with your physician. There are some reports of allergic reactions to melatonin, so exercise caution if you are unsure as to your specific allergies. According to the available studies, melatonin is a safe supplement to use for short periods of time. However, dosage should be monitored. Melatonin is associated with a variety of complications, but these are particularly rare. Exercise caution and put safety first. Before beginning any supplementation or medicinal routine, discuss these changes with your physician. Sources: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/melatonin/NS_patient-melatonin http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/tc/melatonin-overview