Melatonin is a hormone produced by the Pineal Gland which is located in the center of the brain. Today, Melatonin has gained great popularity throughout the world as a molecule which helps induce sleep.
In the U.S. and several other countries, it is available without a prescription, and is sold as a “supplement” like a vitamin. In many European countries and Australia, a doctor’s prescription is required for its purchase.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Melatonin produces many different effects on the human body, both through the nervous system, and through the blood stream as a strong anti-oxidant.
As mentioned, its most common effect is the production of sleep, generally associated with strong and vivid dreams.
The Pharmaceutical Industry has taken note of this and by changing the molecule slightly has produced patentable drugs, which they sell at very high prices, to people who suffer from insomnia.
Big Pharma in the U.S. advertises directly to consumers, and in their advertisements, they stress the fact that their products will produce vivid dreams, which they tout as a plus for their product. In reality, vivid dreams are not necessarily a pleasant experience, and many patients reject these drugs because of dreams and tastes and smells that they find repugnant.
WHY DOES MELATONIN AFFECT THE NERVOUS SYSTEM SO STRONGLY?
If we look at the molecular structure of Melatonin, we can see that it resembles a molecule found in the brain which is a neurotransmitter (a neurological switch) that produces feelings of well being.
This neurotransmitter is called: SEROTONIN.
Serotonin is so powerful that an entire class of drugs has been produced to increase the quantity of Serotonin in the brain for people who are depressed. This group of drugs are called SSRI’s which is the acronym for “SELECTIVE SEROTONIN RE-UPTAKE INHIBITOR.”
By inhibiting “re-uptake” of serotonin, blood levels of serotonin are elevated, and most depressed people feel better. PROZAC is probably the most famous SSRI.
Thus, we see that Melatonin is related to Serotonin and people who use melatonin, in general, feel better.
The chemical structure of Melatonin is also related to a molecule called “Tryptophan.” Tryptophan is an ESSENTIAL AMINO ACID. All essential amino acids are required to be in the human diet or illness will result.
Since Tryptophan is changed into Serotonin humans who do not eat this amino acid eventually become sad. They also cannot produce all the varied proteins needed for the cells of our bodies and a variety of other illnesses may result.
Because Tryptophan is so prevalent in meat and most vegetables, an insufficient supply in the diet is extremely rare. However, since depression may result from a poor or bizarre diet is a fact that everyone should know.
THE “THIRD EYE”
Philosophers and scientists throughout recorded history have always had a problem describing how our mind, in the form of “conscious experience,” interacts with the physical world.
Our mind, as we know directly from our conscious experience, is a continuous flood of sensations. Our nerves bring in the sensations from the receptors in our body. We can easily block the sensations, whether of sight or smell or touch or taste, by cutting the nerves that carry those sensations to our brain.
But once in our brain, how are the sensations integrated into a timeless moving picture that has absolutely no compartments, and unless we look at a mechanical clock, has no reference to time. We have to conjure the concept of time by our reason since it absolutely does not exist in our conscious experience.
And, Time is only one part of the problem. Space is also a logical construct. We presume that Space exists, but we can only prove it
as a matter of Probability.
This entire problem has been known as “The Mind/Body Problem.” The “Mind” is our conscious experience, and the “Body” is the external world. The connection between the two is still unknown.
However, the Pineal Gland where Melatonin is produced, is thought by some as the answer. We know from the study of evolution and the present existence of two animals that at one time living beings had a “Third Eye.”
The histology (cellular structure) of the Pineal Gland is directly analogous to the histology of the eye. There are remnants of the retina in the Pineal Gland. At one time in history it is hypothesized, the Pineal Gland was located in the top of the skull looking out at the world.
This “Third Eye” received the sensations of lightness and darkness. When it was dark, melatonin was produced, and the animal slept. When it was light, the animal awoke, and conscious experience became the reality. When it slept, however, we must remember that the animal had dreams.
We then are forced to decide which dreams are the “real” dreams; the ones that reflect reality? The “sleeping dreams” or the “waking dreams”?
Rene Descartes was a brilliant French philosopher of the 17th. Century.
Descartes, like many highly intelligent men throughout history studied the anatomy of the human body in intense detail. Descartes became fascinated with the Pineal Gland, a pea sized organ located in the dead center of the brain. His compulsive reasoning compelled him to conclude that the Pineal Gland was the “Seat of the Soul.”
Here is his argument as presented in Wikipedia and taken from his publications:
“Rene Descartes, who dedicated much time to the study of the pineal gland, called it the “seat of the soul.” He believed that it was the point of connection between the intellect and the body. The relevant quotation as to Descartes’ reason for believing this, is:
‘My view is that this gland is the principal seat of the soul, and the place in which all our thoughts are formed. The reason I believe his is that I cannot find any part of the brain, except this, which is not double. ‘
‘Since we see only one thing with two eyes, and hear only one voice with two ears, and in short have never more than one thought at a time, it must necessarily be the case that the impressions which enter by the two eyes or by the two ears, and so on, unite with each other in some part of the body before being considered by the soul.’
‘Now it is impossible to find any such place in the whole head except this gland; moreover it is situated in the most suitable possible place for this purpose, in the middle of all the concavities; and it is supported and surrounded by the little branches of the carotid arteries which bring the spirits into the brain.’”
We can see that Melatonin, the product of the Pineal Gland, must have amazing properties. It affects our sleep, our dreams and our emotions.
Many scientists are convinced that Melatonin is involved in the retardation of aging.
Scientists of the 21st Century are still wondering what is the function of the Pineal Gland and what ultimately happens to humans who take melatonin often.