Melatonin for Your Sins
God knows, I like to take a handful of pills as much as the next man, especially when they can do really fabulous things. What exactly do I mean by fabulous? Try reversing the aging process, boosting sex drive and inducing sleep. That's right, I'm talking about what everybody else is talking about these days: melatonin. Allegedly, it's like Oil of Olay, Spanish fly and the Arizona Republic, all rolled into one
There are a number of fast-selling books on melatonin. It was the cover story in a recent issue of Newsweek, and the stuff is flying off the shelves of health-food stores as quickly as they can stock it.
But what is it? A hormone, to be exact. Newsweek will tell you that it's secreted naturally by your pineal gland, a "pea-sized structure at the center of the brain." Well. According to my research (Ilooked it up in the dictionary, same page as "pia colada" and "pinhead"), the pineal gland is a little more than a pea-sized structure, thank you. More like "a vestigial third eye ... or the seat of the soul."
That's what we're dealing with here: Pharmaceutical companies that are making secretions from the center of your soul available, and you don't even need a prescription. And melatonin is being marketed as a "dietary supplement," not a drug. What would Buddha have to say about this?
I decided to do a little more research, so I delved into an absorbing work titled Melatonin and the Pineal Gland: Proceedings From the International Symposium on Melatonin and the Pineal Gland. And what an eye opener it was. Check out what was revealed in my fave chapter, "A Comparison of Blinding and Afternoon Melatonin Injections on the Histology of the Reproductive Organs, Pineal Ultrastructure and the Gonadotrophin Hormone Levels in Female Syrian Hamsters":
"Blinding or short daily photoperiodic conditions induce a dramatic involution of the reproductive organs and signals the beginning of a sexual quiescent period in young adult Syrian hamsters."
But wait: "Light deprivation in the golden hamster leads to marked changes in the ultrastructure of the pineal indicative of activation of the gland."
Yeah, yeah, and two plus two equal four. What of the results? You might be interested to know that "ovarian, uterine and body weights were significantly different in blinded and melatonin-treated hamsters compared to those of sighted untreated control animals." At least they didn't let those hamsters operate heavy machinery.
I read many other fascinating chapters--"The Influence of Some Pteridines on the Circadian and Seasonal Rhythmicity of Hydroxyindole-O-Methyltransferase (HIOMT) in the Pineal Gland of 42-day-old Male Wistar Rats," and the breezy "Effect of Light Intensity on Regulation of Melatonin Secretion and Drinking Behavior in the Albino Rat"--but, ultimately, there is only so much one can learn from albinos, wistars and Syrian hamsters.
I went down to the health-food store to score some melatonin for myself and let the magic flow.
There was a sign out front that said, "We Have Melatonin," so I just walked right up to the counter and said to the lady, "You have melatonin." And there it was, right next to the cash register.
She told me this was a new shipment; they'd sold out again just the other day when a guy came in and bought 40 bottles. He wanted to ship the stuff to his apparently aging, nonhorny, sleepless friends in Canada. But why couldn't they get it in Canada? Because it's illegal there.
I got my small, purple plastic bottle filled with $12.99 worth of the dietary supplement home and read the label: "If you are under medical supervision, or using any tranquilizers or sedatives [that's pretty much everybody, isn't it?], seek the advice of your health practitioner prior to using. Consult your physician [not to be confused with your health practitioner] before using if you have an autoimmune condition, depressive disorder or are a pregnant/lactating women. [Apregnant/lactating women?] Do not take when operating machinery or driving a vehicle."
One powerful dietary supplement.
Still, I didn't fit into the warning group. So, come nightfall, I popped a couple of the little babies and hit the sack. Holy mother of God! What a drug! I became a sexual dynamo of staggering prowess, then fell into an instant, delicious slumber and awoke looking like my senior high school yearbook photo, minus the acne.
I did fall asleep fairly quickly, and then I had a dream involving an aging Kitten Natividad as some kind of Mother Teresa-like saint. I swear. (If you are not familiar with Ms. Natividad, I suggest viewing Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens.)
Long story short, I'm not totally sold on melatonin. There's something about taking hormone pills that has an odd ring to it, and the lab boys know little about the long-term effects the dietary supplement might have.
Of course, there are worse things than dreaming about Kitten Natividad; according to the Newsweek story, there have been complaints of nightmares, headaches, mild depression and low sex drive. I can easily achieve all those without the aid of a drug.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.