M.S. asks "What is the correct
use of Melatonin? Who should and shouldn't be using it? Are there addictive traits
to it I should be aware of? And is it illegal in Canada, why?" |
What is the correct use of Melatonin?
I'm going to start with three answers:
1/ Melatonin is a substance about
which very little is known except that it is derived from a major hormonal axis...
We used to say (way back before hippie) "Please Mr. Dulles, don't muck about with
2/ Melatonin "is a potent antioxidant" and "has been promoted as
an antiaging supplement". It is being promoted as a panacea.
3/ while we don't
know the bottom line on Melatonin, it is probably safer then pharmaceutical "sleeping
pills" and can be used cautiously to re-establish disturbed sleep patterns when
they have been disturbed (though you should take a look at the paper on
herbs for insomnia).
So if the answer is...
1/ the correct use is easy. Don't! (However: when I
looked up "melatonin" and "side effects" on "Medline" the first dozen papers cited
were all about the protective effects of melatonin!) The side effects are not
easy to find in the literature and are therefore probably relatively mild.
As a anti-aging panacea Earl
Mindell recommends "0.5 to 1 mg in sublingual tablet form before bedtime,"
3/ for insomnia
Mindell recommends 1 to 5 mg before bedtime. "Start with 1 mg., and if that
doesn't work, increase the dose 1 mg. For a maximum of 5 mg. For the best result
use the sublingual form which dissolves under the tongue."
Who should and shouldn't be using it?
Again, I can't find much in the literature.
There is a consensus that pregnant
and nursing mothers should be very circumspect with supplements and herbs. (See
beverages safe during pregnancy.)
So, melatonin is contraindicated in pregnancy and lactation. Some authors
caution its use with mental illness and with the use of psychoactive drugs, e.g.
tranquilizers; with allergies and autoimmune disorders (it is thought to enhance
immune function); with endocrine disorders, e.g. diabetes; with other medications
(and in particular steroids); and with cancers (and yet it is the centre of de
Bella's [unproven] cancer therapy and there are several reliable reports of melatonin
being of value in cancer treatment).
I would throw a word of caution around
these words of caution. Nobody knows for sure and melatonin seems to be safe (none
the less, in my practice I avoid prescribing it. I know too little about it to
"mess" with a major hormonal axis).
Are there addictive traits to it I should be aware of?
It does not seem to be addictive. However, you can develop a dependency on just
about anything, particularly something you are relying on to help you sleep. If
you use it, use it only to reestablish a healthy pattern of sleep. Then switch
to herbal nervine sedatives and relaxants. Then wean yourself of everything.
And is it illegal in Canada, why?
Health Canada's Health Protection Branch has been an ill informed and often malicious
autocratic institution. They banned Hawthorne not because it has any toxicity
but because people were using it to manage there heart conditions and they enforce
the ban in a capricious and malicious manner. They banned Taheebo because people
were using it to help manage their cancers. So the generous answer is that they
outlawed melatonin because not enough is known about it. (Remember that to research
a drug cost millions. Most alternative medicine remedies are unpatentable and
even if they were don't promise those pharmaceutical billions. However: correctly
prescribed drugs are the fifth leading cause of death! And supplements are incredibly
safe in comparison.) The cynical answer is that Health Canada banned melatonin
simply because they could.