Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the brain’s pineal gland in response to nightfall. As we age our levels drop. Melatonin supplements are often used as sleep aids.
Side note: I’ve never had success taking melatonin by itself for my adrenal-related sleep issues. Melatonin isn’t really a sleep aid or sedative. It helps the body regulate a disrupted circadian rhythm (involved in sleep). This is why it’s useful for jet leg. But two months ago I decided to test adding 6mg (rather than my usual 3mg) to my sleep supplement regime. The higher dose worked like a charm.
A couple weeks ago I was researching evidence-based natural treatments for viruses and I found this March 2020 analysis:
Previous research has documented the positive effects of melatonin in alleviating acute respiratory stress induced by virus, bacteria, radiation, etc. [1,2,3].COVID-19: Melatonin as a potential adjuvant treatment
Herein, we review the evidence indicating that melatonin will have supportive adjuvant (assisting in) utility in treating COVID-19 induced pneumonia, acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
That got my attention.
Also my holistic MD regularly recommends that her older patients take melatonin at night, not only to regulate sleep disruption but for its important health benefits.
Because in addition to regulating a disrupted sleep cycle (e.g. jet lag), melatonin has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immune assisting and indirect anti-viral properties. All of which may be useful for respiratory illnesses and viral infections such as COVID-19.
Benefits of melatonin
Melatonin reduces inflammation, which can contribute to the respiratory failure and other systemic effects of the illness.
Melatonin supports the body’s cells, by promoting the growth of cells under normal circumstances. Discretionary actions of melatonin allow it to benefit normal cells and tissues while supporting the body’s defenses against pathological cells and tissues.
In addition, research found evidence that melatonin appears to stop apoptosis — a process in which cells infected with a virus actually kill themselves in an attempt to stop the spread of a disease. Although this apoptosis response can be helpful in some diseases, it can cause even more misery in some illnesses such as coronavirus.
Melatonin is known to stimulate the immune system. Although it does not directly attack viruses, it helps our body’s own defenses to act more efficiently. This can lead to fewer symptoms and ultimately a better chance of surviving this feared disease.
It’s too soon to say whether melatonin might be a useful addition to COVID-19 treatments. But based on earlier research that found melatonin was beneficial for respiratory illnesses that have similar responses as COVID-19 (excessive inflammation, depressed immune system and a cytokine storm) it looks promising.
- Wu, H. Ji, Y. Wang, C. Gu, W. Gu, L. Hu, L. ZhuMelatonin alleviates radiation-induced lung injury via regulation of miR-30e/NLRP3 axis Oxidative Med. Cell. Longev., 2019 (2019), p. 4087298.
- H.-K. Yip, Y.-C. Chang, C.G. Wallace, L.-T. Chang, T.-H. Tsai, Y.-L. Chen, H.-W. Chang, S. Leu, Y.-Y. Zhen, C.-Y. Tsai, K.-H. Yeh, C.-K. Sun, C.-H. Yen. Melatonin treatment improves adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cell therapy for acute lung ischemia-reperfusion injury J. Pineal Res., 54 (2013), pp. 207-221.
- S.-H. Huang, X.-J. Cao, W. Liu, X.-Y. Shi, W. WeiInhibitory effect of melatonin on lung oxidative stress induced by respiratory syncytial virus infection in mice J. Pineal Res., 48 (2010), pp. 109-116.
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