Biomedical Tidbits

Melatonin Works

By Will Block

A fter largely ignoring melatonin — several years after the Harvard Health Newsletter gave it thumbs up — The New England Journal of Medicine has finally come around and conceded that melatonin works! It should come as no surprise, however, that NEJM still cautions that the time has not yet arrived to advocate the use of melatonin — not until the long-term big studies are done, i.e., not until well into the 21st century when many of us who might have profited from it will be dead.

More than 5,400 scientific articles appear in the electronic literature, as well as hundreds of articles in the popular press. Moreover, there have been more than 20 million Americans who have tried melatonin, which has been available since the mid-1980s, yet NEJM, widely held as the most “prestigious” medical journal in this country, still cautions that we should wait. Here are the highlights of the study:

  • Melatonin possesses significant antioxidant abilities, and it may be possible to achieve these advantages at physiologic doses rather than pharmacologic amounts.

  • Strong animal study evidence exists showing that melatonin can significantly strengthen the immune system.

  • Melatonin has the ability to inhibit certain tumors.

  • Melatonin has a sleep-inducing effect in humans.


  1. Brzezinski A. Melatonin in humans. N Engl J Med. 1997;336:186–195.

Will Block is the publisher and editorial director of Life Enhancement magazine.

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