To use melatonin, or not to use melatonin…that seems to be the question on a lot of minds these days, especially in light of the fact that more and more people are steering away from prescription and chemically-enhanced medication and opting to implement more natural products into their lives. Today, most people would opt to spend the extra money for organic produce, unadulterated dairy, and steroid-free meat because we know these things are better choices for our overall health and well-being. This line of thinking has also found its way into our medicine cabinets in the form of sleep aids. Most people will experience some degree of insomnia at some point in their lives while others will suffer with the condition on a chronic basis. Most homeopathic practitioners agree that melatonin is a wise choice when it comes to addressing sleep issues. But just how safe is the herbal supplement, and what are the pros and cons related to melatonin?

Melatonin functions dually as an antioxidant and a hormone. The supplement has been most popularly recommended by healthcare practitioners—both mainstream and homeopathic—to address bouts of insomnia related to such issues as jet lag. But for those of us who experience broken or irregular sleeping patterns, melatonin is more widely recommended than Ambien or over-the-counter sleep aids. Although maximum dosages have not been established, extensive research reveals that melatonin, even taken in high doses, is not toxic. However, like all other supplements available on the market today, there are certain dosage parameters that should be adhered to in order to receive its maximum benefits.

When used to address issues of insomnia, melatonin should be taken at the starting dose of 1 to 3 milligrams at least 30 minutes to one hour before bedtime. Most over-the-counter-grade melatonin is available in increments of 1, 3 and 5 milligrams. In the event you find that 1 to 3 milligrams is not suitably addressing your issues of insomnia, increase your dosage to 6 milligrams and take up to one hour before bedtime. When using melatonin to address insomnia, it is recommended to begin taking the supplement at the lowest recommended dosage and then adjusting as needed. If dealing with jet lag, it is recommended that you take between 1 and 5 milligrams upon arrival at your final destination. You may find that you need to play with the dosage in order to determine the maximum effectiveness of the supplement for your particular condition.

The University of Michigan Health Systems researched the effectiveness of melatonin in relation to other issues besides insomnia, and the following results were revealed: In clinical studies it was learned that 10 milligrams effectively treated cluster headaches, 20 milligrams addressed issues of depression, .25 to 10 milligrams had a positive effect on hypertension, 5 to 10 milligrams were used for patients with fibromyalgia.

It should be noted that while some clinical studies reveal positive effects for people with depression, melatonin may actually worsen some symptoms of depression. Talk to your doctor or other healthcare practitioner if you would like to know if melatonin is recommended for your needs. The University of Pittsburgh has suggested that melatonin may also have contraindicative effects for those with certain autoimmune issues as well as schizophrenia.

Like any medication or supplement, melatonin does come with certain warnings to be aware of while you are using this product. Since melatonin is used primarily to treat insomnia, it should be noted that melatonin will cause drowsiness; therefore, it is recommended that you refrain from driving or operating heavy machinery while taking the supplement. While melatonin has many positive effects there have been certain negative factors that should be taken into consideration upon use, such as decreased fertility, decreased sex drive and severe headaches. It should be noted that these negative findings are associated with smaller clinical studies and may simply be the result of the restfulness achieved by melatonin. Let’s face it, if you take melatonin because you have been staring at the ceiling for a week, chances are your interest in sex will be very small.

As with any other medications or herbal supplements, be sure to take according to directions. If you currently take other medications on a regular basis, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before taking melatonin in order to avoid any possible contraindications.
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