Melatonin is a natural neurohormone found in the human body. It is produced in the pineal gland, primarily. It can be produced in the gut, retina, skin and white blood cells. One function of melatonin is to help maintain sleep-wake cycles.
Melatonin is found in all living organisms, such as green algae, bacteria, fungi, plants, certain prawns and crayfish, fish, animals and humans. Plants containing melatonin include feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium,) St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum,) and skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis.) High levels of melatonin are found in seeds and fruits, such as tart cherries, bananas, tomatoes, oats, rice bran, sweet corn, wheatgrass juice and ginger. Blood levels of melatonin are increased by eating food containing melatonin or by smoking marijuana.
Melatonin is used to treat jet lag, rotating shift work and depression. Evidence is being found for the use of marijuana in treating cancer. Studies show positive results for the treatment of epilepsy, tinnitus, migraine and various neurodegenerative diseases. Melatonin increases the speed of falling asleep, the length of sleep and the quality of sleep. Melatonin benefits headaches, Alzheimer’s disease and cerebral stroke.
In one study melatonin was given to a group of cancer patients who didn’t respond to usual therapies for cancers of lung, brain, skin, kidney and breast. The patients took 10-40 mg/day of melatonin. The result was a 34% reduced risk of death in melatonin treated patients. Studies have shown that melatonin reduces the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Melatonin reduces the cachexia of chronic cancer.
Many mechanisms of action have been found for melatonin against cancer, including antioxidant, inhibition of apoptosis and anti-inflammatory. The cell membrane-calming effects of melatonin may play a part in the benefits in cancer therapy. (Other anti-excitability agents are agmatine, glycine, essential fatty acids, magnesium, artemisinin, kava kava, matrine/oxymatrine and dilantin.)
CONCLUSION: Many studies show the benefit of melatonin in cancer treatment. This could be the result of the neurohormonal activity of reducing cell membrane excitability.
NOTE: Read more about the relationship between melatonin, sleep disturbance and cancer risk.
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