Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
April 23, 2023
Melatonin has been having a moment. Many people are familiar with this popular sleep aid. In fact, it’s one of the most widely purchased supplements among children and adults in the United States. What if I told you the benefits of melatonin far exceed its reputation as a “sleep aid”? In fact, melatonin may be an important factor in the treatment and prevention of many chronic diseases and cancers.
Read on, and I’ll tell you exactly what you need to know about melatonin and how it can have a positive impact on your own health journey!
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a central part of the body’s sleep-wake cycle known as circadian rhythm. It is often referred to as the sleep hormone. Its production increases as the sun sets and darkness progresses, promoting healthy sleep.
The body naturally produces melatonin, which is called endogenous melatonin. It is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and then released into the bloodstream. Melatonin is also produced in small quantities in the retina, the gastrointestinal tract, the skin, bone marrow, and lymphocytes.
But there is much interest in the external sources of melatonin, which are called exogenous melatonin. Many people take various liquid and capsule “supplements” of exogenous melatonin. In the United States, melatonin is one of the most widely purchased supplements among adults and children to help with sleep. For exogenous melatonin to work its magic, quality is critical.
But there is more to melatonin than just a sleep aid.
Melatonin is More Than a Sleep Aid
Melatonin is one of the most important antioxidant molecules in the body which can neutralize excessive free radicals. It also stimulates the synthesis of glutathione and other important antioxidants like superoxide dismutase and catalase. In addition, the immune system stimulates the synthesis of melatonin, and, in turn, melatonin has immunoregulatory properties. Added to all this, it has potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Endogenous melatonin is not only created in the pineal gland and other sites as I mentioned. It is also created in your mitochondria after regular sun exposure.
The near-infrared spectrum of the sun is invisible. It hits the skin and triggers the generation of melatonin in your mitochondria. Melatonin stimulates antioxidative enzymes in the mitochondria, where the bulk of free radicals are created. Melatonin is very efficient at protecting mitochondria from damage. It is important to note that the melatonin produced by your pineal gland cannot enter the mitochondria, which is why it is so important to get regular sun exposure. But oral supplementation with high quality melatonin can enter your cells and mitochondria.
I discussed the importance of our mitochondria in this Blog. The effects of melatonin in the mitochondria can prevent mitochondrial dysfunction, which is a hallmark of chronic diseases. For this reason, melatonin plays an important role against chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. And heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death in the US today.
Melatonin has been shown to have antiviral activity. The combination of its antioxidant and antiviral features are thought to be why melatonin has been useful against COVID-19.
Russell Reiter, Ph.D
Dr. Reiter is a star when it comes to melatonin research. Here is an hour video of an interview of Dr. Russell Reiter from April 2022. There is much to be gleaned from this discussion.
Dr. Russell Reiter is a Professor of Cell Biology in the department of Cell Systems and Anatomy at UT Health, San Antonio. His research is centered around the impact of melatonin in biological systems. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Melatonin Research and on the Editorial Board of over 35 other journals. He is the recipient of numerous awards including three honorary Doctor of Medicine degrees and the Presidential Distinguished Scholar Award from UT Health San Antonio. He is also on the Clarivate Analytics list of Highly Cited Scientists. At the time of the recording of this video, Professor Reiter’s papers have been cited over 174,000 times.
Melatonin for Cancer,
My personal interest in melatonin supplementation has to do with its potential for the prevention and treatment of cancer since it helps prevent mitochondrial dysfunction. As I have stated in various writings, cancer is a disease of mitochondrial metabolic dysfunction.
One of the reasons why cancer is so prevalent is likely due to the fact that 93% of Americans are metabolically inflexible and cannot easily transition between burning carbs and burning fats for fuel.
As it turns out, being metabolically flexible promotes specific pathways in the production of energy in the mitochondria. These pathways also help promote the creation of melatonin, which combats the excessive oxidative stress in cancer.
There are many pathways where melatonin may be beneficial for cancer patients. Overall, melatonin exerts its anticancer functions during tumor initiation, promotion, and progression by targeting various signaling pathways. Melatonin’s anti-inflammatory effects and its support of the immune system also play important roles in melatonin-regulated cancer suppression. For patients undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, melatonin may enhance these therapy’s beneficial effects and mitigate their side effects.
Here is a PDF of a slide presentation given by Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD, HMD about melatonin and cancer. Another individual who is well known for his research on melatonin is Dr. Walter Pierpaoli, MD, PhD.
The half-life of melatonin in the blood is about 40 minutes. Within cells, the half-life varies according to the level of oxidative stress present.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between excessive free radicals and the level of antioxidants in your body. Excessive amounts of free radicals resulting in oxidative stress can cause damage to organs and tissues and result in various diseases. If oxidative stress is high, the melatonin is destroyed much faster than if oxidative stress is low.
Melatonin has no known toxic threshold. Additionally, the timing of the dose should follow circadian biology. So, you could consider taking oral or sublingual melatonin first thing in the morning, then at 10 AM, again at 4 PM, and finally 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime. You should avoid taking supplemental melatonin a few hours before and after solar noon because during that time the pineal gland might be impaired from secreting melatonin.
My Newest Protocol
If you have been following my cancer journey and the updates of my Unconventional Cancer Protocols, you know that I have tried various “out of the box” regimens to see if they work for me. Here is my newest protocol involving high-dose melatonin. I will continue to follow it while checking my monthly blood levels with my oncologist.
I’ll be using the recommendations from Dr. Shallenberger, whose slide presentation I linked to earlier in this Blog. I’ll also be taking the quality melatonin supplement he recommended Melatonin Max 60mg from Scientific Health Solutions. Here is his slide about Dosing:
I will begin taking 300 mg of pure melatonin capsules daily. I will take a 60 mg capsule in the morning at 10 AM, 60 mg again at 4 PM, and 180 mg (3 capsules) just before bedtime.
The research is encouraging. It may be possible that my regimen may not only improve my bloodwork but also improve the quality of my life.
Melatonin supplementation may be appropriate for you. Read the scientific papers I have cited in this Blog, do you own research, and make you own decision.
My next available opening for coaching is in mid-May. If you’re interested, you can learn more about my coaching program here, and book a free consultation. I look forward to helping you reach your health goals!
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Thanks for this overview. In Australia and Canada, melatonin is considered a medicine requiring a doctor’s prescription, unlike in the USA where it is considered a food supplement.
Yes! Great article Dr. Al! I started giving my husband with 4th stage cancer 180mg of melatonin every night. He’s been taking it for years now. I think i read about it in Alternative Medicine magazine.
I take 60 mg. before bed.
I didn’t know about the dosing so thank you for this and will adjust my husband’s dose accordingly.
I forgot to mention in my above comment that we purchase our 60mg. Melatonin from Pure Bulk. All the supplements are tested for heavy metals and their supplements are very economical for those on a fixed income like my husband and I.
Melatonin is a hormone, which is why it’s regulated in some countries. Dr. Andrew Huberman—a neuroscientist—has some rational cautions about using melatonin, especially with children due to its affect on their hormones:
Here he talks with Dr David Berson about some of the holistic actions of melatonin:
These more focused on the brain, but I think it shows that supplementation of melatonin shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Taking high-dose melatonin as a cancer patient might save the person’s life.
Fascinating, but what about interactions with regards to serotonin and dopamine? IIRC, exogenous melatonin disrupts dopamine / serotonin balance. Do you have any thoughts or data on that facet?