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Frequently Asked Questions HOL-emblem1-web.GIF (3556 bytes)

5. What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland, a tiny pine-cone shaped endocrine (hormone-secreting) organ located at the back of the brain just above the brain stem. Melatonin is also produced by the retina, the light sensitive membrane that lines the eye, and the large intestine, apparently in response to the amount and type of food we eat.

Melatonin appears to have important and positive effects upon almost every system of the human body. Virtually every living organism, from one celled amoeba to man, produces melatonin. However, our natural supply of hormone is limited. After reaching a peak just before adolescence, melatonin levels drop with each passing year.

Melatonin had long been recognized as a sleep promoting agent. Researchers now suggest that melatonin may help to reduce the effects of jet, it is a strong anti-oxidant, a stimulator of the immune system, and a natural pain killer. At present, research is being conducted to determine the role of melatonin in cancer therapy, as a birth control agent, as well as its youth enhancing properties. (The pineal gland and melatonin are believed to be the body's primary time keepers, its clock and calendar, imparting information about the time of day, season of the year, and phase of life to the brain and throughout the body.)

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