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Melatonin Supplements: Overview of History, Chemistry, and Biology

Melatonin Supplements: Overview of History, Chemistry, and Biology

Melatonin, an important hormone in regulating sleep, is an intriguing compound that has been extensively researched and studied for its various biological effects. This comprehensive article will delve into the history, chemistry, and biology of melatonin, examine the use of melatonin supplements, and explore other interesting facts related to this hormone.

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History of melatonin

The history of melatonin dates back to the early 20th century when it was first discovered by Aaron B. Lerner and his colleagues in 1958 at Yale University. The researchers isolated the hormone from the pineal gland of cows and identified it as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine. They named it melatonin after the Greek words "melas" (black) and "tonos" (stretch), as they observed that the hormone had a skin-lightening effect in amphibians.

Since its discovery, melatonin has been the subject of numerous scientific investigations, which have revealed its roles in sleep regulation, circadian rhythm maintenance, immune system modulation, and antioxidant properties.

Chemistry and biology of melatonin

Melatonin is a derivative of the amino acid tryptophan and is synthesized in the pineal gland located in the brain. The synthesis of melatonin begins with the conversion of tryptophan to 5-hydroxytryptophan, which is then converted to serotonin. Lastly, serotonin undergoes acetylation and methylation to form melatonin.

The secretion of melatonin follows a daily cycle, with the highest levels being produced during the night and the lowest levels during the day. The release of melatonin is primarily regulated by light exposure, which is detected by the retina and transmitted to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus. The SCN then sends signals to the pineal gland to modulate melatonin production.

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Melatonin supplements

Melatonin supplements have gained popularity in recent years as a natural sleep aid. They are commonly used to support jet lag and other sleep-related disorders. Melatonin supplements are available in various forms, such as tablets, capsules, gummies, and sublingual sprays.

Research has shown that melatonin supplements may potentially help support sleep quality, reducing the time it takes to fall asleep, and adjusting sleep-wake cycles. However, the appropriate dosage and timing of melatonin supplementation can vary depending on the individual and the specific sleep issue being addressed. There also melatonin supplements for pets.

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Other interesting facts about melatonin

  • Melatonin is not only produced in the pineal gland but also in other tissues, such as the gastrointestinal tract, retina, and skin.
  • In addition to humans, melatonin is found in various other organisms, including animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria.
  • Melatonin has been shown to have potential antioxidant properties, scavenging free radicals and supporting cells from oxidative stress.*

Melatonin is a fascinating hormone with numerous biological functions that extend beyond its well-known role in sleep regulation. As research continues to uncover more about melatonin's chemistry, biology, and potential therapeutic applications, our understanding of this hormone and its impact on human health will undoubtedly expand. You can also read about magnesium which is often found in melatonin supplements, as well as its history.

Melatonin supplements have emerged as a popular and natural option for addressing sleep-related issues, but it is crucial for individuals to consult with a healthcare professional before starting supplementation to ensure proper use and avoid potential risks. 

The diverse functions and roles of melatonin in various organisms, as well as its antioxidant and potential therapeutic properties, make it a subject of continued interest and investigation in the scientific community. As we learn more about melatonin, it is likely that additional applications and insights will be discovered, further highlighting the importance of this remarkable hormone.

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