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Melatonin is a natural hormone that can be found in most animals, algae and humans, and is responsible for regulating the body s circadian rhythm, an internal system which determines when a person sleeps and wakes.

Naturally secreted by the pineal gland found at the brain's base, Melatonin production peaks during nighttime and decreases when daylight appears. This is why it is also known as “the hormone of darkness”. Melatonin is a determining factor in the release of the reproductive hormones of females, controlling the start, duration and frequency of the menstrual cycle, including menopause.

Irregular production of Melatonin occurs when the body starts to age, as well as with excessive exposure to light in the nighttime (e.g., graveyard shift work, jet lag). This can cause sleep disorders, particularly among older adults.

A synthetic form of Melatonin in the form of supplements is available to treat insomnia. It can also be used to treat jet lag. Melatonin is considered a powerful antioxidant that has been found to be able to penetrate cell membranes and cross the blood-brain barrier. Some evidence suggests that it has the ability to boost the immune and endocrine systems, and fight free radicals in the body.

Melatonin supplements increase the levels of Melatonin in the body to provide a better quality of sleep, and lessen the symptoms brought about by jet lag, without posing any of the risks and side effects of sleeping pills. People taking this supplement wake up refreshed and energized, without the tiredness and hung-over sensation brought about by prescription sleeping aids.

Melatonin positively affects osteoblasts, cells that stimulate bone growth. This makes it an ideal supplement for women experiencing menopause who have low levels of Melatonin in their bodies, in order to prevent accompanying post-menopausal bone disorders like osteoporosis. It can also aid menopausal women by regulating their sleep patterns.

In a recent study participated in by post-menopausal patients, Melatonin was proven to decrease bouts of anxiety, depression and panic attacks characterized by a low level of Melatonin in the body. It was also found effective in treating patients with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, a mild form of depression dictated by the seasons of autumn and winter. Further studies showed that Melatonin causes an increase in a chemical called serotonin, responsible for relieving the symptoms of depression.

Since Melatonin causes drowsiness, patients taking this supplement should refrain from engaging in activities which require a high level of concentration, such as driving or operating machinery. People who are suffering from autoimmune disorders, kidney ailments or liver disease are not advised to take Melatonin. It should also be taken in careful doses, and properly timed with circadian rhythms when administered to patients suffering from depression. Improper dosages of Melatonin can deepen depression.

Giving children Melatonin supplements is not advised. Likewise pregnant women and nursing mothers should not take Melatonin without first consulting their doctor, as Melatonin can affect their fertility and can result in developmental disorders in the unborn child.

People with high blood pressure should be aware that Melatonin can reduce the potency of their beta blocker and calcium channel blocker medications. This is also true with corticosteroids and other drugs which work to suppress the immune system. Conversely, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, consuming caffeine, alcohol, and smoking can lower the body's Melatonin levels. Meanwhile, patients who are taking blood-thinning medications like warfarin should avoid taking Melatonin to prevent the risk of bleeding.

Melatonin can cause side effects like sleepiness, headaches, stomach discomfort, and mood changes. Melatonin can also lower body temperatures, reduce sperm count, cause irritability, sleepwalking, vivid dreams or nightmares.

Since Melatonin is a heath supplement, it can be purchased in health food stores throughout the United States even without a doctor's prescription. People taking this supplement should be aware, however, that Melatonin has not been approved by the FDA, hence its purity, effectiveness and safety are not guaranteed.

Melatonin comes in tablet, capsule, cream and lozenge form, and dosage will depend on each person's need. Melatonin is usually taken 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime to get the best results.

Melatonin has the following structural formula:

Chemical structure of melatonin

• Molecular formula of melatonin is C13H16N2O2
• Chemical IUPAC Name is N-[2-(5-methoxy-1H-indol-3-yl)ethyl]acetamide
• Molecular weight is 232.2783 g/mol
Melatonin available : 3mg tablets

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