Synthetic hormones have gotten a bad rap in recent years, and synthetic melatonin is also beginning to raise a few eyebrows. Woman receiving synthetic hormones during menopause experience an increased risk of breast cancer, as well as other symptoms. As a result, a wave of “natural-only” products has swept the medical world when it comes to hormone supplements. Melatonin is a hormone as well, with a very close connection to both the male and female reproductive systems. So it’s not surprising that even with something regarded primarily as a sleep aid, the search for natural supplements would also apply.
However, this is one supplement where things aren’t so cut and dried. Even when problems with synthetic hormones are acknowledged, man-made melatonin produced in a lab is still much safer than that derived from some “natural sources.” For example, one of the sources of melatonin that’s not created in a laboratory is the ground-up pineal glands of cows. There are already worries about the side effects of melatonin supplements, but using those derived from cows can add the extra worry of spreading disease. This was highlighted during the scare about mad cow disease, and people have been reluctant to use that type of supplement ever since.
The medical establishment tends to recommend synthetic melatonin as safer and more reliable alternative, considering the extra worries about the disease potential of supplements derived from the glands of cows. Yet even if you eliminate that problem with a synthetic product, you immediately run into another one, which is that dietary and herbal supplements are not regulated. This means you still have no real guarantee of a good product, or even one with consistent dosages and effects from package to package. You can gather all the health information available, but in the end, all you’ve really got is a hope that a particular product will be reliable, and delivers what manufacturers claim it will.
People can be glad that synthetic melatonin has never yet produced overdoses or toxicity, or had adverse effects similar to other synthetic hormones. Relief about this may hold melatonin fans long enough for a more natural treatment to be developed, from plants with their own high melatonin content. It’s possible that if those supplements become the standard, then this might solve everyone’s problems.
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