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Melatonin is critical for optimal regulation of sleep and circadian rhythm, but researchers are finding that it’s much more than just a sleep aid. It plays a complex role in the maintenance and regulation of the endocrine system, and thus offers a number of underappreciated benefits, including antioxidant activity, inflammation control, immune system support, and disease resistance.

For example, studies show that melatonin exhibits an extraordinary brain antioxidant capacity—one study even acknowledged how undervalued it is by stating that melatonin “under promises but over delivers” with regard to oxidative stress protection.[1]

Another study found that melatonin outperforms amitriptyline, the leading pharmaceutical drug for preventing the onset of migraine headaches—and that it does so without any side effects.[2]

Due to the wide-ranging therapeutic potential of melatonin, scientists are examining what aid it may offer for one of the leading health issues of our time: the prevention and treatment of cancer.

Melatonin, hormone health, and the development of cancer

Melatonin is an endogenous hormone predominantly produced by the pineal gland, which acts as a sort of “master control system” for the body’s endocrine processes. It influences nearly every cell in the human body, and has even been shown to safeguard mitochondrial function (mitonchrondria are the “powerhouses” of your cells that regulate energy metabolism and healthy cell growth).[3]

We’ve written before about the myriad health consequences of endocrine dysfunction, most notably in the context of chemical-induced endocrine disruption. Imbalances in melatonin levels can lead to similarly disastrous consequences (we’ll discuss some of the most common causes of melatonin deficiency later in this article).

The mechanisms behind endocrine function, cellular health, and cancer development are enormously complex, but we do know that insufficient levels of melatonin are linked with a higher incidence of cancer.[4]

And the anti-cancer benefits of melatonin aren’t just indirect; this miracle molecule is also classified as a directly cytotoxic hormone and anti-cancer agent. Studies have referred to melatonin as a “full-service anti-cancer agent” due to its ability to inhibit the initiation of cell mutation and cancer growth, and to halt the progression and metastasis of cancer cell colonies.[5]

Researchers attribute these incredible benefits to the fundamental mechanisms mentioned above: protection against oxidative stress, optimization of cell detoxification, regulation of mitochondrial function, and endocrine system maintenance.

How to optimize melatonin levels

Melatonin may have benefits that extend far beyond sleep, but its regulation of circadian rhythm is still central to its therapeutic potential.

It’s important to note that “disruption of normal circadian rhythm” and melatonin deficiency are inextricably tied to one another.[6] Researchers believe that sleep issues undermine health because they lead to melatonin deficiencies—and yet melatonin deficiencies can make it even more difficult to correct sleep patterns (thus maintaining a vicious cycle that increases the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases).

The obvious first step to optimizing melatonin levels, then, is to ensure that you’re getting proper sleep. You can check out our past article for more details on optimal sleep hygiene, but here’s the basics.

  • Any less than seven hours per night is technically considered sleep deprivation by leading sleep researchers.
  • While everyone’s circadian rhythm will vary slightly, it’s generally best to be in bed by 11:00pm. If you’re still awake much later, the endocrine system initiates a cascade of “alert” hormones, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • Consistency is key; the less radical variation in your day-to-day sleep schedule, the easier time your body will have falling into an optimized melatonin production schedule.

Another critically important (and often overlooked) element of sleep hygiene is proper interfacing with devices that produce blue light and electromagnetic fields (EMFs), both of which can disrupt the production and release of melatonin.

If at all possible, avoid contact with any such devices a minimum of an hour before bed. Try to ditch the electronics a maximum of two hours after the sun sets, and you’ll find yourself getting sleepy much earlier. Last but not least, remove all sources of blue light and EMFs from your bedroom, and sleep with an eye mask.

If you already struggle with insomnia (despite all attempts to integrate the above sleep hygiene practices into your everyday life), it’s often possible to break the cycle by supplementing with melatonin.

If you choose to take this route, though, remember that it’s very important not to take melatonin everyday for an extended period of time (doing so can cause a dependency on exogenous melatonin, which further decreases natural, endogenous melatonin production). Always take a break after a maximum five nights of taking melatonin supplements (taking a two-day break at least every three nights is ideal).

Use plant-derived (rather than synthetic) melatonin, which is more easily implemented by the body, less likely to cause dependency, and highly effective.

Remember that the goal should be to boost internal melatonin production, so that you can maintain an ideal sleep schedule without supplemental melatonin. Optimizing your body’s own melatonin production not only promotes deep, restorative sleep, but also protects the body against cancer and other serious chronic diseases.

 


References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27500468

[2] https://jnnp.bmj.com/content/early/2016/05/10/jnnp-2016-313458.long

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3100547/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4233441/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5412427/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4233441/

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If you’ve heard of valerian root (Valeriana officinalis), you probably know it as a natural remedy for insomnia and anxiety. It’s been used medicinally for these ailments at least since the time of ancient Greece and Rome—renowned early physicians such as Hippocrates and Galen prescribed it specifically for insomnia.

Safe, effective remedies for insomnia and anxiety are sorely needed. More than 60% of the population has suffered from some degree of insomnia (with 10% living under the burden of chronic insomnia),[1] and nearly 20% of the population has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (this number doesn’t even include undiagnosed cases).[2]

Thus, if valerian did nothing more than offer an alternative to toxic pharmaceutical sleep aids and anxiolytics, it would be worth keeping in your herbal first aid kit. But modern research has revealed that valerian root has many other benefits too—it isn’t nicknamed “all-heal” for nothing.

Let’s take a tour of valerian’s many health benefits and applications, starting with those for which it’s so well-known.

How valerian benefits the brain, body, and psyche

Sleep improvement. Unlike conventional sleep aids, which essentially force your body to go to sleep, valerian works in a sustainable way to create the conditions necessary for restful sleep.

Studies have shown that the valerenic acid in valerian increases brain levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter linked to sleep, stress response, and mood modulation.[3] Other studies have demonstrated that valerian decreases the time needed to fall asleep and increases depth and overall quality of sleep,[4] even in those diagnosed with insomnia.[5]

Relief from anxiety. Valerian can be so effective at easing anxiety that it has been called “nature’s valium” (it even targets the same areas of the brain). Studies have demonstrated that valerenic acid has “potent anxiolytic effects” and dramatically decreases “anxious behaviors,”[6] and that high doses of valerian (1000 mg/day) taken over the course of 6 weeks can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression by up to 66%.[7]

Anti-inflammatory benefits. Researcher have shown that valerian reduces the activity of NF-kappaB,[8] a pathway strongly implicated in pro-inflammatory signaling throughout the body.[9] As we’ve pointed out in past articles, chronic inflammation is a leading factor behind nearly every ailment and health problem—so this potent anti-inflammatory mechanism helps explain why valerian can be beneficial for so many different issues.

Anti-inflammatory activity can make valerian acutely helpful for arthritis, menstrual cramps (also because of its ability to quell uterine muscle spasms),[10] and similar maladies.

Improvement of ADHD and OCD. Valerian’s ability to increase GABA levels in the brain has very interesting implications for the treatment of mood and behavior disorders such as attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Studies have demonstrated that valerian improved symptoms of ADHD (such as inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity) when administered to children three times a day,[11] and similarly that valerian extract improved symptoms of OCD in adults.[12]

Improvement of memory and cognitive function. Valerian is exemplary for minimizing both inflammation and oxidative stress, two of the primary risk factors of cognitive decline. Thus, researchers have shown that valerenic acid can significantly improve memory by reducing oxidative stress in the hippocampus,[13] and even that taking valerian can decrease the risk of cognitive decline as a complication of heart surgery and other serious health problems.[14]

Support for fibromyalgia. Given that valerian can ease both physiological inflammation and the psychological experience of anxiety (two major nodes in the complex web of factors that influence fibromyalgia), it stands to reason that valerian would offer some relief to those suffering from this condition. One study demonstrated that bathing in a valerian bath three times per week significantly improved many symptoms of fibromyalgia, including sleep quality, pain, and overall well-being.[15]

Cardiovascular support. Valerian may even be a heart-healthy herb to integrate into your life. Studies have revealed that consistent use of valerian (even short-term) can strengthen, relax, widen, and increase the elasticity of blood vessels (most coronary events are at least partially caused by vascular dysfunction).[16] Other studies suggest that these mechanisms can help lower blood pressure (another positive marker of heart health).[17]

How to get started

Because valerian is such a well-known and widely available herb, it’s easy to integrate it into your natural health regimen. Any well-stocked grocery store or health food store will offer a wide variety of teas, capsules, and formulas—try out different forms of valerian from reputable brands, and see which work best for you.

We find that encapsulated valerian has a stronger, more directly sedative effect, while valerian teas tend to be more calming (without necessarily causing drowsiness)—but each individual’s experience will be slightly different.

Always remember that valerian is a powerful medicine (we tend to forget that simple herbs can be as powerful as pharmaceutical drugs). Don’t mix it with alcohol or other sedatives, and talk to your doctor before taking valerian if you’re currently taking any prescription medications.

 


References

[1] http://www.sleepeducation.org/news/2014/03/10/insomnia-awareness-day-facts-and-stats

[2] https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18095218/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17145239

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10761819

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20042323

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12807339

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16909443

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2882124/

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19178774

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22214252

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22718671

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24055511

[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25173770

[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10352370

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4695638/

[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14736362

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Most people don’t get enough sleep.

Missing out on the recommended 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye nightly does more than just make you feel groggy and grumpy. The long term effects of sleep deprivation are real. It drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at real risk.

In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality.

Research has demonstrated that sleep deprivation carries dire consequences—and conversely that prioritizing sleep can dramatically improve your health.

Let’s unpack some of the risks that come with not getting enough proper sleep.

Why America is terrible at sleeping
(and the consequences we suffer)

The CDC reports that 1 out of every 3 Americans is sleep-deprived.[1]

And by the way, leading experts in the neuroscience of sleep define “sleep deprivation” as sleeping less than seven hours per night. So if you think you perform perfectly fine with five, four, or even fewer hours of nightly sleep…you might want to think again.

Matthew Walker, Ph.D., the founder and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, warns ominously that “no aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation.”[2]

Despite such warnings, sleep deprivation remains troublingly prevalent in America. After all, busy-ness, alertness, and productivity are continually cast in a positive light. Sleeplessness is often touted as a badge of honor, especially in the fast-paced worlds of business and entrepreneurship—oftentimes, healthy sleep habits are even seen as a sign of weakness and sub-par performance.

Luckily, a growing number of prominent business figures are doing their part to change this ingrained cultural behavior, mostly because they’ve all experienced firsthand just how detrimental long-term sleep deprivation can be.

Make no mistake: performance will always wane in the long-run if you get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. It’s just not worth it (or possible) to cheat your body out of its fundamental biological needs.

And decreased performance is just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s some of the risks of sleep deprivation that researchers have discovered.

Cognitive decline. Many researchers believe that poor sleep can significantly increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. One study showed that even a week of sleep deprivation causes an increase in amyloid-beta plaque deposits (one of the core risk factors for Alzheimer’s).[3]

Depression. The brain imbalances caused by sleep deprivation can also lead to depression and other mood disorders. A study in the Journal of Neuroscience examined the connection between insomnia, depression, and the brain’s reward centers. The researchers reported a conclusive link between sleep disturbance and depression—and while they found that reward center activation can help attenuate sleep-deprivation-induced depression, avoiding sleep deprivation in the first place is still a wiser choice.[4]

Chronic pain. A study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews suggests that sleep deprivation makes you two to three times more likely to develop a chronic pain condition, and also that it can exacerbate previously existing conditions.[5]

Increased disease risk. Studies indicate that poor sleep is linked with an increased risk for a wide range of chronic and degenerative diseases, including diabetes and other metabolic issues, cancer, heart disease, and reproductive issues.[6]

Proper sleep hygiene

Getting enough high-quality sleep is very simple in principle—but if you’ve accustomed yourself to believing that “there’s not enough time for sleep” or that you “just don’t need that much sleep,” you may need to do some work to change your mindset.

Once you’re a believer in the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation, all you need to do is commit to at least seven hours of sleep on a nightly basis (eight hours is ideal). If possible, try to figure out the length of your sleep cycle, which will determine what sleep duration is best for you.

Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle will leave you feeling much groggier, even if you slept for a longer period. Timing sleep according to your natural sleep cycles is one way to “hack” the amount of sleep you need—but don’t get carried away; remember that anything under seven hours is still considered sleep deprivation.

If you have trouble falling asleep, try avoiding computer and phone screens (as well as any other sources of blue light) for at least an hour or two before bedtime. Try to be in bed before 11:00pm, because our bodies tend to release a natural cascade of adrenal hormones around this time if we’re not already asleep.

 


References

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html

[2] https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20170926/sleep-deprivation-a-serious-threat-expert

[3] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170710161442.htm

[4] http://www.jneurosci.org/content/37/40/9724

[5] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-pain-sleep/poor-sleep-associated-with-higher-risk-of-chronic-pain-idUSKCN1BU2UI?feedType=RSS&feedName=healthNews

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3773191/

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melatonin-migraine

The mainstream aversion to natural medicine runs deep. The successes of modern medical science are certainly not to be underestimated, but there are many shortcomings and failures as well…

Our medical system is overrun with corruption, and profits are prioritized more highly than real innovation. For this reason (among many others), countless individuals bear the burden of drugs and interventions that often create more problems than they solve—all so that the status quo can be preserved for those who profit richly from it.

And there’s a deeper problem with conventional medicine too: it creates more problems than is solves. Antibiotics, the poster child of allopathic medicine, are breeding antibiotic-resistant super-bacteria, chemotherapy kills more healthy cells than cancer cells, antidepressants completely miss the point of what actually causes depression…and so on.

All of this amounts to a simple and unfortunate truth: many pharmaceuticals just aren’t particularly effective, and even when they are, their usage causes a dizzying array of side effects.

Natural substances are simply more sophisticated healing tools, and they carry out their healing without damaging side effects.

Recent research on migraine prevention highlights this concept perfectly.

Melatonin vs. migraine drugs

Despite the desperate and debilitating nature of migraine (its ranked as the eighth most disabling illness in the world), conventional medicine has yet to develop an effective solution for this neurological condition, which is the third most prevalent illness in the world.[1]

The leading migraine pharmaceutical, amitriptyline, is far from perfect—it’s notoriously inconsistent in its ability to prevent the onset of migraine headaches, and it carries a huge list of side effects.

These side effects—some of which can be as debilitating as migraines—include confusion and disorientation, hallucinations, dizziness and lightheadedness, erratic thoughts and behaviors, seizures, racing heartbeat, nausea, chest pain radiating down the arms and into the head, painful urination, severe constipation, sudden weakness or feelings of illness (complete with fever, chills, sore throat, mouth sores, swollen gums, and even trouble swallowing), blackened mouth and tongue, itchiness and rashes, changes in weight or appetite, breast swelling in both genders, decreased libido or impotence, and even more worrying symptoms.[2]

Doesn’t this sound much more like the effects of a poison than those of a medicine?

Luckily, researchers have discovered that melatonin, a natural chemical produced within the brain, is more effective than amitriptyline for preventing migraines—and it does so with zero side effects.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (the gold standard of rigorous medical research), researchers pitted 25 mg of amitriptyline against 3 mg of melatonin. Despite the drastically smaller dosage of melatonin, it outperformed amitriptyline, particularly “in the percentage of patients with a greater than 50% reduction in migraine frequency.”[3]

The researchers also reported that melatonin was “more tolerable” than amitriptyline—a diplomatic way of noting that patients given melatonin weren’t made to endure the litany of side effects brought on by Big Pharma’s solution to migraines.

Why you need more melatonin in your life

This study is a huge win for natural medicine.

Advocates of conventional medicine would like us to continue believing that “natural remedies just don’t work—the side effects that sometimes accompany the usage of pharmaceuticals are a small price to pay for their effectiveness.” But data like this demonstrates that all the doubting and demeaning of natural medicine just isn’t based in fact.

Sure, the natural health world is full of snake oil salesmen and products that don’t deliver what they claim—but the fact remains that Nature has provided us with an abundance of natural medicines that perform on par with pharmaceuticals without any deleterious side effects.

And melatonin in particular is good for more than just migraines (though, if you suffer from migraines, this single benefit is surely enough to make it feel like a godsend). As we discussed in another article, melatonin also balances circadian rhythms and helps you to go to sleep and stay asleep, calms chronic inflammation, boosts the immune system, and is one of the most powerful brain antioxidants known to man.

How to Optimize Your Melatonin Levels

  1. Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. These devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. Normally your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 and 10 pm, and these devices emit light that may stifle that process.
  2. Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can’t appreciate he difference and will not optimize your melatonin production.
  3. Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your biological clock and your pineal gland’s melatonin production. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your radio up at night or get rid of it altogether. Move all electrical devices at least three feet away from your bed. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades.
  4. Install a low-wattage yellow, orange or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light inthese bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose.
  5. Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms).
  6. Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.
  7. Get some sun in the morning, if possible. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night. More sunlight exposure is required as you age.
  8. Be mindful of electromagnetic fields in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well.

Should You Supplement with Melatonin?

Supplementation may be beneficial but it is BETTER to optimize your body’s own melatonin production!  This way you will get the “perfect” melatonin dosage for you, because your body will produce just the right dose!

If you do need to supplement,  keep in mind that only a very small dose is required — typically 0.25mg or 0.5mg to start with, and you can adjust it up from there. Taking higher doses, such as 3 mg, can sometimes make you more wakeful instead of sleepier, so adjust your dose carefully.

Do THIS 1-hr before bed to get PERFECT sleep & balance your hormones (Cuts your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc)


References

[1] https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/

[2] http://www.drugs.com/amitriptyline.html

[3] http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/early/2016/05/10/jnnp-2016-313458.long

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melatonin-benefits

If you’ve ever suffered from insomnia, chances are someone recommended melatonin as a remedy. This makes good sense, as melatonin works wonders when you need a little help resetting a jet-lagged schedule or turning off your overactive brain at bedtime.

In fact, melatonin plays a central and indispensable role in your body’s entire “sleep system.” It’s produced and secreted by the pineal gland, which acts as a sort of “master control system” for the body’s regulation and detoxification processes. Melatonin, through its own action and by regulating the levels of other hormones, helps maintain the body’s circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock that dictates when you sleep and when you wake up).

It’s a pretty ingenious setup: as the sun begins to set and your body is exposed to a lesser degree of light, your pineal gland is “turned on” by an area of the brain called the superchiasmatic nucleus (SCN) and begins to produce more and more melatonin. Increased levels of melatonin create a complex hormone cascade that tells your whole body that it’s time to start preparing for sleep. As long as everything is working properly, your melatonin levels remain elevated throughout the night until about 9am, by which time your hormonal state has shifted into “wakefulness” mode.

Much more than just a sleep aid

So, it should be apparent from this brief description that melatonin is much more than a sedative. Rather than having a simple and direct relaxation effect (like central nervous system depressants, some GABA agonists, or other substances that cause sedation), melatonin regulates a complicated system of hormonal processes throughout the body that end up promoting restfulness in a holistic, systems-oriented way.

For this reason, it should come as no surprise that melatonin has lots of other powerful health benefits besides being sleep-supporting. Because it’s been pigeon-holed as a sleep aid for so long, it remains an incredibly underrated substance.

Let’s take a look at some of melatonin’s other talents…

It’s one of the most powerful known brain antioxidants. The human body is almost incomprehensibly intelligent. Not only does melatonin coax the body into its sleep state; it also actively detoxes and rejuvenates the brain and body while you sleep.

Through its nightly antioxidant action, melatonin slows down brain aging, prevents cognitive decline, and even helps prevent Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders (cognitive degeneration has been strongly linked with chronically low levels of melatonin).

It’s strongly anti-inflammatory. Melatonin delivers a powerful 1-2 punch by quelling acute and systemic inflammation in the body while scavenging free radicals. And because inflammation is rightfully referred to as the root of all disease, melatonin protects against many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.[1]

It boosts the immune system and prevents disease. All the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action generated by melatonin leads to a natural and dramatic boost in immune function. Perhaps this is why healthy levels of melatonin are correlated with decreased incidence of general infection and illness, as well as a 30-60% decreased risk of developing certain types of cancer.[2]

The takeaway (and how to optimize your melatonin levels)

Inflammation, oxidative stress, and hormonal imbalance are arguably three of the greatest contributors to disease and lack of well-being—and as discussed above, melatonin powerfully combats all three of them. So whether or not you routinely have trouble sleeping, working to keep your melatonin levels healthy and happy is always a good idea.

If you do suffer from insomnia or otherwise feel that your melatonin levels may be sub-optimal, there’s plenty of helpful measures you can take.

First off, it’s always better to support your body’s natural production of melatonin, rather than supplementing with it (taking melatonin supplements for too long can actually make your body dependent on it).

Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and normal circadian rhythm (sleep at night, wakefulness during the day), and avoid bright, blue light after sunset, which tricks your body into thinking that it’s still daytime (and thus suppresses melatonin production). This means that you should minimize your use of electronic devices after dark, or use applications like f.lux, which automatically adjusts the light frequencies of your devices to the red end of the spectrum as the sun goes down (I use it on every one of my devices, and it really is a game changer).

Ensuring that you’re not vitamin and mineral deficient (especially in B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium) will also help your body keep its melatonin production up to snuff—you can get these nutrients either through supplementation or by eating foods like bananas, oats, turkey, chicken, coconut oil, leafy greens, tomatoes, cherries, and walnuts.

Lastly, research has shown that daily moderate exercise helps maintain healthy melatonin production. And healthy melatonin levels improve physical performance,[3] so it’s a virtuous cycle!

If you do feel that supplementing with melatonin is necessary for you, try to use plant-based melatonin products, which are easier for your body to process and don’t cause dependency as quickly (still, you should never take melatonin for more than three consecutive nights, especially if you’re taking 3 milligrams or more per night).

By following these simple guidelines, you can reap all of melatonin’s many underrated health benefits.

Speaking of getting both MORE sleep, and better QUALITY sleep (we’re
talking blissful sleep where you wake up refreshed and feeling amazing every day), you have to read this:

Do THIS 1-hr before bed to get PERFECT sleep & balance your hormones (Cuts your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc)



[1]
http://www.thealternativedaily.com/how-to-increase-melatonin-production/References

[2] Ibid.

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12959621

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LavendarEssentialOilssmall

If you have any experience with aromatherapy or other medicinal methods for using essential oils, you’ve probably come across lavender essential oil.

Lavender is the paragon of relaxation—and for good reason. Its rich, soothing scent cuts right through anxiety, sleepnessness, headaches, and many other symptoms of everyday stress.

But don’t let its gentle persona fool you: lavender essential oil is a powerful panacea. Praise for it never usually extends beyond its calming aroma, but in fact, it’s a whole first aid kit wrapped into one potent oil. Many essential oil specialists claim that, if you only use one essential oil, you should make it this one!

Essential oils have been used medicinally for thousands of years, and those who have carried these traditions into the modern age have long extolled lavender oil for its incredible variety of health benefits. And much more recently, medical science began to back up these claims with hard evidence.

Here’s a handful of research-supported reasons why you should always keep some lavender essential oil handy.

All things calming

Lavender lives up to its reputation as a relaxation agent, even under the scrutiny of scientific research. Study after study confirms that the compounds in lavender essential oil function as an effective nerve relaxant.

This property translates to all sorts of benefits, including decreased anxiety, better sleep, increased cerebral blood flow (and thus improved cognitive function), and overall improved mood.[1] Studies have also revealed that using lavender oil relieved depression in college women and ameliorated the agitation often associated with geriatric dementia.[2]

Many people have even reported experiencing pain relief from lavender essential oil. While the mechanism by which this benefit is conferred isn’t fully understood, researchers suspect that quelled inflammation is a byproduct of lavender’s nerve-relaxing effects. Rubbing the oil directly into affected areas, or mixing it with lotion beforehand, offers a quick and lasting reprieve from aches and pains.

A worthy weapon against illness and infection

What is less well-known about lavender essential oil is its incredible ability to prevent and fight disease. For starters, it offers excellent immune support, especially when taken internally using an inhaler or vaporizer. Putting four drops of essential oil in 20 milliliters of hot water does the trick too (hold your face over the hot water and inhale the steam).

This remedy also shines after you’ve already contracted an illness. Studies have shown that lavender is a surprisingly powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent. It successfully treats even MRSA and staph infections (against which most conventional antibiotics are powerless) [3]

MRSA, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, is becoming commonplace. It originated in hospitals as a result of overuse and misuse of antibiotics and has become symbolic of out-of-control mainstream medicine. The disease created by antibiotics used for treatment of staph infections is often far worse than the original.

Most exciting, though, is that lavender oil has been found 100% effective in lab testing to treat some infections, including MRSA. That means it could be used to treat staph infections that drugs can’t touch. This fact alone should make it clear how dramatically underestimated lavender essential is as a legitimate medicine.

You can even apply it topically to clear athlete’s foot and other fungal skin conditions, or use a douche made with lavender flower tea to treat vaginal yeast infections (drinking lavender tea during times of greater susceptibility will also help prevent yeast infections in the first place).

Lastly, by balancing the immune system, lavender oil can even reverse hair loss caused by alopecia areata (an autoimmune condition that causes the body’s immune system to attack hair follicles as though they were foreign agents). Simply apply essential oil to balding spots every day for at least a couple weeks, and you’re bound to see positive results.

All systems go: support for the whole body

The more studies are conducted on lavender, the more benefits are uncovered. Researchers have already linked its use to benefits across many bodily systems.

Respiratory system. When inhaled through steam, lavender essential oil relaxes breathing passages, calms asthma attacks, clears the sinuses, and improves overall respiratory health.

Digestive system. Lavender works as a perfect digestion aid, and improves nearly every aspect of digestive health—studies have shown that it increases nutrient absorption, alleviates nausea, vomiting, and flatulence, and even inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria without hurting your microbiome’s beneficial bacteria.

Circulatory system. Part of lavender’s calming effect is attributed to its ability to improve your blood circulation. This improvement leads to lots of other secondary benefits, including deeper sleep and greatly enhanced cardiovascular health.

Easy to find and use

Because of its popularity and long tradition of use, lavender is incredibly easy to find. Just make sure to buy it fresh if you choose to work with lavender blossoms (growing your own lavender is also very easy, and it can be found growing in the wild in most temperate zones across the United States).

If you work with lavender essential oil, always use brands that are therapeutic-grade (they’re a bit more expensive, but are safer, more effective, and well worth the cost). Before using the essential oil, always apply just a bit to a small area of skin, in order to test for an allergic reaction (they do occur in a very small percentage of people).

Luckily, this incredible natural medicine is widely available to anyone in the United States with the wherewithal to seek it out—unlike in the EU, where lavender is now unavailable without a prescription. Healing herbs and remedies like lavender afford us a special opportunity to take health into our own hands—don’t let it pass you by!

Special Report: Apple Cider Vinegar — 81 unique uses including Gout, belly fat, fleas, warts, etc


 

References 

[1] http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/lavender-effective-against-drug-resistant-staph-infection?page=2

[2] https://www.mendeley.com/catalog/lavender-oil-treatment-agitated-behaviour-severe-dementia-placebo-controlled-study/

[3] http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/lavender-effective-against-drug-resistant-staph-infection

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tart-cherries

A table adorned by a bowl of shining red, perfectly ripe cherries is a sure sign that summer has arrived.

Cherries have a very short growing season (May to July), so even with our modern world’s privileged supply chains, they most often make an appearance on hot and sunny days.

They’re usually considered a tasty delicacy, as well as a great ingredient for pies and other desserts. As it turns out, though, they’re also great for your health.

All types of cherries fall into one of two categories: sweet and tart (for obvious reasons). While all cherries boast some impressive health benefits, this article will focus on tart cherries, which contain a fraction of the sugar content of sweet cherries (as the name suggests).

Minimizing refined sugar intake is one of the most important measures you can take to optimize your diet and overall health—sugar is detrimental to the body, even when you consume it in the form of fruits that are otherwise healthy for you.

So let’s look at some of the reasons why tart cherries are one summer staple that you needn’t feel guilt about.

Powerful antioxidants (the body’s best friend)

Tart cherries are packed with potent antioxidants, the essential compounds that scavenge free radicals, lower oxidative stress, and balance the body’s immune and detoxification systems.

And while cherries may not have the highest ORAC rating (oxygen radical absorbance capacity), the specific antioxidants that they contain seem to be uniquely talented at carrying out their job.

In fact, one study even showed that the anthocyanins and cyanidin in tart cherries are superior to isolated vitamin E, and as effective as many commercial antioxidants.[1]

That’s right: enjoying a delicious handful of fresh cherries can be just as beneficial for your body (or more so) than swallowing a bunch of expensive pills. While supplementation is certainly important these days, food really is the best medicine.

Proven effective against Gout and Arthritis

The same antioxidant compounds mentioned above also make tart cherries an excellent natural anti-inflammatory. A half cup of cherries can even relieve pain just as effectively as NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen), without any of the negative side effects.

Their inflammation-fighting ability has proven particularly effective for those suffering from gout and arthritis. According to recent studies, gout patients who consumed just 10-12 cherries per day (or a single serving of cherry extract) reduced their risk of an attack by 35%,[2] and arthritis patients experienced a 20% reduction in pain from the same regimen.[3]

And even if you don’t have gout or arthritis, the anti-inflammatory action of cherries can still be a godsend. Athletes who consume tart cherries or tart cherry extract after exercising experience significantly less pain,[4] and those who combine cherry consumption with a high-fat diet can reduce their body’s fat storage—which means less belly flab, easier weight loss, and more balanced metabolism.

This is because tart cherries reduce the buildup of uric acid, which collects around joints and muscles, causing pain and stiffness. They also directly combat inflammation and oxidative stress, and activate PPAR (peroxisome proliferator activating receptors), which help balance and regulate genes involved in fat and glucose metabolism. This mechanism not only helps with weight management, but also lowers triglycerides and reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease (tart cherries even mimic the effects of heart medications called PPAR agonists).[5]

They’ll even help you sleep better

And the list goes on.

Another antioxidant that tart cherries contain is melatonin, which is not only one of the most potent brain-supporting substances known to man, but also an invaluable compound for healthy sleep.

Your brain’s pineal gland acts like a sort of photosensitive receptor. When it senses that the sun is going down, it naturally increases its production and release of melatonin, thus allowing for proper maintenance of circadian rhythms and deep, restorative sleep.

Many people who suffer from disturbed sleep end up having a melatonin deficiency. So, by improving melatonin levels, tart cherries have been shown to increase the duration, quality, and efficiency of sleep.[6]

Drink this 2 hours before bed to sleep better (plus 5 tips for insomnia)

How to enjoy tart cherries all year long

There’s nothing like a fresh cherry on a summer day—but how can you reap all of the benefits discussed above throughout the rest of the year?

One way is to freeze your summer cherry stash (they’ll be fine to eat for the next year, at which point the next summer harvest should be available).

It’s also worth trying tart cherry concentrates or extracts, of which you’ll find an abundance in most health food stores (it’s nice living during a natural health revival). Some studies have found them to be even more strongly beneficial than fresh cherries, since they can contain higher levels of therapeutic compounds.

Whichever route you choose, your body will thank you. While you’re enjoying those little medicinal morsels, let them remind you how great it is that good health and healing can be delicious too.

 


References

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10075763

[2] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/art.34677/abstract

[3] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/246114.php

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20459662

[5] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423102129.htm

[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22038497

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