Melatonin is for sleep, right? Ah, yes it is. But researchers continue to discover additional benefits for the sleep hormone. Let’s delve into some of the latest findings on melatonin’s whole-body benefits.
Melatonin is a Potent Antioxidant
Melatonin is a powerful and versatile antioxidant produced within the body. It protects both lipids and proteins against damage, and it can scavenge some of the most dangerous free radicals in the body.
Unlike other antioxidants, melatonin easily diffuses into all cells and even crosses the blood-brain barrier to protect the delicate brain.1
Supplementing with melatonin may help older adults enhance their antioxidant protection against some of the most ravaging diseases of aging, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke.
Melatonin Fights Cancer
One of melatonin’s most important applications is in fighting a wide array of cancers, including breast and liver cancers, non-small-cell lung cancer, and brain metastases from solid tumors.2
Scientists reviewed 10 randomized, controlled trials examining melatonin’s effects (alone or as an adjuvant treatment) on patients with various types of cancer.
Supplementation with melatonin reduced the risk of death at one year by an impressive 34% —regardless of the type of cancer or the melatonin dosage. Importantly, no adverse effects were reported.3
In addition to its benefits for cancer survival, melatonin may also help counteract the toxicity of chemotherapy treatment.
Two-hundred-fifty individuals undergoing chemotherapy for advanced cancers of the lung, breast, gastrointestinal tract or head and neck received chemotherapy, either alone or in combination with melatonin.
After one year, the melatonin-supplemented individuals demonstrated a higher rate of survival and were significantly protected against many of the side effects associated with chemotherapy, including decreased platelet count, neurotoxicity, heart damage, mouth sores, and fatigue.4
Melatonin May Prevent Migraines
A promising study suggests that migraine sufferers may be able to reduce the frequency and severity of their headaches by using melatonin. Researchers gave 34 migraine sufferers a 3 mg dose of melatonin, 30 minutes before bedtime, for three months.
Of the 32 patients who finished the study, more than two thirds experienced at least a 50% reduction in the number of headaches per month. Additionally, the intensity and duration of headaches decreased. The scientists believe that melatonin’s anti-inflammatory effect as well as its anti-oxidant effects contribute to its headache-relieving benefits.5
Topical Melatonin Treats Baldness
Melatonin is recognized as a growth modulator and a promising candidate for treating androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldness.
A review of five clinical studies demonstrated that topical melatonin could in fact safely treat male pattern baldness. Here’s a summary of the results:6
- An observational study involving 30 men and women showed a significant reduction in the degree of severity of hair loss after 30 and 90 days.
- Using a digital software-supported technique, close to 60% of the subjects showed significant increases in hair density between 3 and 6 months.
- In 60 men and women, a significant reduction in hair loss was observed in women while hair loss in men remained constant but didn’t get worse.
- In a large, 3-month, multi-center study, the percentage of patients with positive hair-pull tests (the volume of hair that comes out when pulled) decreased from 62% to 8%.
- Topical application of melatonin did not increase blood levels — this means that what’s applied on the scalp absorbs into the scalp and stays there.
The authors of the review concluded, “Since safety and tolerability in all of the studies was good, the topical application of a cosmetic melatonin solution can be considered as a treatment option in androgenetic alopecia.”
Beyond Sleep with Melatonin
So, as you see, melatonin goes way beyond sleep — it’s a potent antioxidant, fights cancer, helps with migraines, and even prevents hair loss. Melatonin is a supplement that we all should consider for daily use.
- Comb Chem High Throughput Screen. 2006 Jul;9(6):409-19.
- Altern Med Rev. 2005 Dec;10(4):326-36.
- J Pineal Res. 2005 Nov;39(4):360-6.
- Eur J Cancer. 1999 Nov;35(12):1688-92.
- Neurology. 2004 Aug 24;63(4):757.
- Int J Trichology. 2012 Oct;4(4):236-45.