Melatonin may be a key component in the fight against COVID-19.
By Dr. Robin Rose & Thea Petta
Terrain Health is always up to date with the most recent peer-reviewed literature. We use the latest science to inform our practice to help patients heal. In March 2020, Terrain Health wrote a supplement primer that cited all the research outlining the structure and function of several naturally occurring hormones, vitamins, minerals, and herbs, which included the hormone melatonin. This primer highlighted melatonin’s powerful effects as an antimicrobial, specifically an antiviral, and its possible role in combating COVID-19. Evidence continues to support this notion as noted in a recent study by Cleveland Clinic, analyzing COVID-19 patients.
Melatonin is often known for its effect on sleep because our circadian rhythms are regulated by this hormone. It is synthesized by the pineal gland as well as in small amounts by the gastrointestinal tract, retina, bone marrow, thymus, and lymphocytes. Melatonin is an anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-excitatory, sleep-inducing hormone, and it regulates the immune system. Melatonin is a scavenger for free-radicals. Inflammation and oxidative stress are hallmarks of COVID-19. It is also an important player in the treatment of GERD by protecting the gastrointestinal mucosa from oxidative damage, perhaps as a potent stimulant of bicarbonate secretion. It also inhibits gastric secretion while increasing gastrin release. This stimulates the lower esophageal sphincter to contract, preventing the reflux of acid from the stomach into the esophagus.
Melatonin plays a role in fighting infection because of the NLRP3 inflammasome. This inflammasome has been recognized as a target for melatonin. The activation of this inflammasome is essential for the induction of the cytokine storm. This cytokine storm leads to subsequent Acute Lung Injury and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ALI/ARDS), and often death. Melatonin has been shown to inhibit the NLRP3 inflammasome protecting us from the cytokine storm. What a powerful hormone!
Unfortunately, melatonin secretion decreases with age. This could be related to the rise in fatality rate seen with COVID-19 with increasing age. It could also be correlated with children under the age of 9 rarely exhibiting severe symptoms when infected by COVID-19. Children have up to ten times the “normal” amount of melatonin production compared to adults.
Supplementation for adults during the pandemic should be a consideration. Not only does melatonin production diminish with age, but the environments we live in expose us to light pollution at night, particularly the blue light emitted from technology. This decreases melatonin production even more. So don’t forget to wear your blue blockers! Supplementation of a minimum physiological dose during the pandemic and flu season can provide protection against infections (see our primer).