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The hormone melatonin ((N-acetyl-5 methoxytryptamine) is a natural substance made by the pineal gland located in the brain. Adequate melatonin levels help to establish healthy sleep patterns. It is released primarily during the night. Melatonin levels decrease as we get older.

Changes in magnetic fields alter melatonin secretion and affect circadian rhythms. Environmental magnetic fields (MF) have diminished strength during the winter months and in some individuals this may allow the circadian rhythm to drift, and cause depression. Both acute exposure to light and exposure to MF suppress melatonin secretion and so may be beneficial for patients with winter depression.

Melatonin is now a popular therapy for jet-lag and disturbances of sleep, and it has also been claimed to improve sex-life, assist longevity and lower blood pressure. Although melatonin appears to be useful in the treatment of jet-lag and sleep disorder syndromes, the exact dose regime still requires to be refined as there is wide variation in recommendations. Getting the dosage wrong may actually make jet-lag worse

Melatonin is unlicensed for sale in chemists and pharmacists the UK at the present time but can be bought over the counter in health food shops. Despite a complete lack of evidence of any harmful effects, the Medicines Control Agency appears to be attempting to make melatonin available only on prescription.

Melatonin is a powerful anti-oxidant and is particularly valuable for protecting the brain from free radial damage as it easily crosses the blood/brain barrier.




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