Plant-based melatonin found to be a viable, contaminant-free alternative to synthetically made varieties

Spanish scientists are asking the medical industry to take a closer look at plant-based melatonin for improving sleep and cognitive function.

In a recently published botanical review, study authors state that phytomelatonin surpasses many animal-based or synthetic forms of the hormone and can be used as a nutraceutical compound. The 100 percent natural supplement, they argue, has huge potential in the nutraceutical industry, which has a prospective market value of $250 billion this year — a number that is only expected to increase as more people become more health conscious.  

Preparations that contain phytomelatonin are, as of now, few and far between. Its presence in Europe is likewise small. Only a few companies use phytomelatonin, and even then the compound is used in skin care creams to reduce wrinkles. Yet the study’s authors maintain that consumers in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Japan would be willing to pay premium prices for an alternative natural supplement that could improve their quality of sleep.

The use of phytomelatonin as a readily-available supplement has been heavily contested. Manufacturers of the compound have to wade in the choppy waters of assuring the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that their product is safe but not meant to treat a medical illness. Therapeutic uses of traditional herbal medicinal products have to be carefully worded so that there are no misleading claims.

The new study’s recommendations could open the doors, even just a little. The authors are hopeful that their research would help better inform health and government regulatory agencies on the efficacy and safety of phytomelatonin.

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Phytomelatonin’s potential

The exact mechanisms of melatonin and its plant-based derivative are not known. Scientists consider this to be a “wonder molecule” because of its ability to regulate a wide range of physiological and psychological activities. Its most common benefit is helping people fall asleep easier and at higher quality. Nevertheless, there is evidence to suggest that melatonin interacts at an endocrine, paracrine, autocrine, and intracrine level as well.

This suggests that melatonin is not only crucial as a circadian pacemaker but can provide immunomodulatory and antioxidative actions. (Related: Melatonin: A Hormone That Protects Against Breast Cancer and Aging.)

Phytomelatonin’s potential in healthcare is astounding. As stated by the new research, the plant-based hormone carries none of the adverse effects of its synthetic sibling. This doesn’t mean that it interacts well with all people — the study’s authors have stated that phytomelatonin may still cause some level of allergic reaction in people sensitive to it. Still, the natural supplement is deemed to be generally safe (FDA approval notwithstanding).

A previous review of the therapeutic uses of phytomelatonin highlighted its possible future as a treatment for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Analysis of the hormone showed that phytomelatonin fought free radical generation and had a powerful antioxidative effect. In addition, its ability to regulate the circadian rhythm played a powerful role in a woman’s menstrual cycle. Women with normal levels of melatonin in their body are more likely to be regular with their periods and less vulnerable to excessive bleeding.

It is unknown just how far the conclusions of this new study will reach. However, it does add to the growing pool of research that natural alternatives are significantly superior to synthetic medicines.  

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