There are many sleep aid, dietary-supplement products from the nutrition section of your local grocery or health food store. Some from big-name-brand, dietary-supplement companies. Can you take for granted that melatonin is therefore natural?
A dictionary definition of natural is “existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind.”
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin used by our bodies is a hormone produced by the pineal gland. In his television episode, “Melatonin: Not a Magic Bullet for Sleep,” Dr. Oz states,
“Melatonin is a hormone. It tells your body that it’s nighttime and it’s time to go to bed. It is not an herb, a vitamin, or a mineral. Hormones are naturally produced by your body as you need them. Which means it is very unlikely that someone has a melatonin deficiency. While a melatonin supplement could be considered natural, in most cases, it doesn’t come from the earth.”1
Using Melatonin is essentially undergoing hormone therapy. Any hormone therapy regiment should be carefully administered by a qualified practitioner so as to not create an imbalance or worse: unwanted side effects, thus potentially doing more harm than good. Melatonin is not a sleep hormone but is a stress hormone. Improper supplementation could trick the body to reduce the natural melatonin hormone it produces and excess amounts from supplementation can stress the body.
Where does Melatonin come from?
Bovine grade melatonin, also known as “natural”, or animal, contains the actual extracts of the pineal gland. Because it comes from animal tissue, this grade of melatonin may be accompanied by viruses or proteins that could cause an antibody response. It is highly recommend that people stay away from it.
The alternative substance used in dietary supplements is synthetic or pharmacy grade melatonin C13H16N2O2, or 5-methoxy-N-acetyltryptamine, which is a compound produced in a laboratory from pharmaceutical grade ingredients.2
To summarize so far, Melatonin:
According to the definition of natural, melatonin, which is “made or caused by humankind”, is not natural.
Is Melatonin Safe to Use?
“The word ‘safe’ is used very freely and loosely with this drug,” (David Kennaway, University of Adelaide)4.
“Any person in the sleep world will tell you the same thing: melatonin is not harmless, is vastly overused and should not be used as a sleep aid to treat insomnia,” (Michael Grandner, a sleep researcher at the University of Arizona)4.
Again referring to the television episode, “Melatonin: Not a Magic Bullet for Sleep,” Dr. Oz states that possible side effects from doses of melatonin (2-3 mg or higher) include1:
Valerian Root: The Natural, Safe & Effective Choice
The Valerian plant (Valeriana officinalis) is native to both Europe and Asia and is now also grown in North America, has long been used medicinally, particularly for sleep -- the ancient Greeks wrote about its power in treating sleeplessness. It is the plant’s root that is cultivated and processed for use in supplements.3
It has a sedative effect and useful in treating insomnia, particularly in helping to reduce the amount of time that it takes to fall asleep. Valerian is regarded as a mild tranquilizer and has been deemed safe by the German Commission E for treating sleep disorders brought on by nervous conditions. Unlike prescription or OTC sleep and anxiety medication, valerian is not habit-forming, nor does it produce a hang-over-like side effect.3
Valerian root has been used for centuries to regulate the nervous system and relieve insomnia, tension, irritability, stress, and anxiety. Valerian is also a natural pain reliever that reduces sensitivity of the nerves.3
Back to our definition of “natural”, valerian root is “existing in or caused by nature.” Valerian root is natural.
It is safe and effective in treating sleep disorders, nervous conditions as well as other important health benefits.
NutriRain’s Delta Sleep utilizes fresh valerian root extracted within hours of harvesting. Fresh extract is a superior form of valerian root compared to common dry powders. First, fresh Valerian root is naturally extracted using a proprietary cold percolation process for peak purity and potency (a 4:1 concentration). Second while dry valerian found in most sleep aid dietary supplements will calm nerves, fresh valerian extract provides a broader application of benefits which include effectively supporting improved sleep quality, duration, relaxation and relief from stress and anxiety. Dry valerian found in most dietary supplements will calm nerves. Lastly liquid extracts such as NutriRain’s Delta Sleep, are naturally broken down through the extraction process so as to be more easily, quickly, and fully absorbed and utilized by the body. It can be purchased at www.nutrirain.com .
Wouldn’t you love to drop your head on your pillow and wake up 7-8 uninterrupted hours later, refreshed? There are four stages of sleep, and if you’re not getting a full night’s sleep, chances are, you’re not reaching the fourth, and most restorative stage: Delta Sleep (named for the increase in delta brain waves—very important to your mental abilities).
A good night’s sleep also facilitates the organization of long-term memory. Someday, you’ll want to tell your grandchildren about your daring exploits while you were young. It’d be great if you could remember them. Sleep also integrates new information into your memory. So those Spanish Lessons for your cruise this fall? They’d go much better if you get enough sleep.
My favorite is that effective sleep provides physical regeneration—you know, repairing and renewing of tissues and nerve cells to keep us young and healthy. This is why you are told to “get plenty of rest” whenever healing from sickness (strengthens the immune system) or recovering from physical damage (sprains, wounds, etc.). Sleep also neutralizes neurotoxins (good-by brain fog) and restores normal levels of chemicals in our bodies (time to feel great again!).
Restoring a natural and healthy sleep pattern may take a little time (you didn’t get where you are overnight) and is usually accomplished by implementing a combination of solutions. Since most people reach for supplements first, I will talk about effective supplementation to help restore your natural sleep. Additional steps will be discussed in upcoming sleep posts.
Step 1: Supplements:
Sleeping Pills: Prescription or OTC? This WebMD article outlines the risks of using OTC or prescription drugs. These are not designed to restore natural sleep and can become addictive, impair memory and interfere with restorative sleep.
What about Melatonin? Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the pineal gland at the base of the brain. It is important in regulating sleep but production by the body decreases with age. C13H16N2O2, or “5-methoxy-N-acetyltryptamine widely known as Melatonin found in dietary supplements is a synthetic compound produced in a laboratory. Synthesized melatonin is recommended only for short-term use and may include minor side effects.
The Natural Alternative: Nature provides plant based solutions that are effective and safe. The main ingredient to use is Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) known for its sedative, soothing and calming properties. Valerian in fresh extract form soothes and relaxes nerves which help relieve stress, insomnia, and nervous tension. While Valerian is widely used in dry powder form found in most sleep aids, the dry powder form will only calm nerves and therefore does not aid sleep as effectively as fresh Valerian extract.