Food & Nutrition

What Is Melatonin and Why It Is Banned in the UK?

In my younger years, I did a lot of travelling. I worked for an international company that required me to be all over the place. I skipped timezone like I skipped the gym. My lifestyle was a little all over the place.

I left the high life and settled down, but I still kept friends who travelled. Why am I telling you this? Well, this is my connection to where I learned about Melatonin. The people that I kept in touch with put me on this miraculous cure for sleep deprivation and jet lag. The catch was – it wasn’t legal in the UK and I had to ask friends who had smuggled it from trips to the states. Very naughty.

Today I thought I would do a deep dive for all of you lovely readers: so, what is Melatonin, what is it used for and why is it banned in the UK?

What is Melatonin?

As soon as you say something is illegal, there is a little bit of held breath. But Melatonin isn’t randomly produced in a bush lab hidden in jungle highlands. Melatonin is a hormone found to naturally occur in the brain and is the chemical that regulates the body’s internal clock. In very simple terms, it is the signal that tells your brain it is time to sleep.

According to resources online, Melatonin is a neurotransmitter that modulates mood and balances other chemicals in the brain. The part of the brain responsible for the production of Melatonin is the pineal gland; this is the part that looks after your day and night cycles and ensures the brain is well rested. It is also a part of your brain that produces the chemical which balances your mood.

The pineal gland uses sensors around the body to understand whether the skin is being exposed to sunlight, or darkness and therefore produces the correct chemical. Our modern existence finds us inside a lot of the time, or deficient enough of sleep to make the pineal glad go funky. It causes all sorts of problems in your life.

The hormone has been synthesised and packed into tablets, drinks and liquids to act as a treatment (or at least to alleviate the symptoms of) sleep deprivation or insomnia. Regular travellers use melatonin to combat sleep deprivation.

So this hormone is something our brain produces naturally but it is banned? Why is that?


Why Is Melatonin Banned in the UK?

From a little bit of deeper research into this topic, I learned that melatonin isn’t banned in the UK, but is put under the umbrella of being a medicine. This gives melatonin a medical status and cannot be handed out willy-nilly. Which makes sense. When it is prescribed as medicine the UK has set the limit per dose at 2mgs. To give context, I was taking 2 5mg pills and was out of it. The US regularly hands out doses of 10mgs as a ‘dietary supplement’.


Can you Buy Melatonin Online?

That is a great question and the answer is yes, you can. At least it seems that way. There are many websites that sell melatonin supplements but I am not even a tiny bit tempted. I have no trust in the companies that do sell it and honestly wouldn’t know what I am looking at if I did buy some.

Regardless, it is certainly possible to but melatonin online if you so wish to. Just do some searching.

One Comment

  • Will

    I recently bought melatonin in the UK from an online pharmacy. It is sold as an aid to combat jet-lag and only sold to adults. You are also limited to 5 private prescriptions per year which amounts to 5 months usage if you where to take 3mg per day.
    As a long term sufferer of chronic insomnia, melatonin was a game changer for me. For whatever reason gp’s in the UK are loathe to prescribe this drug.
    The UK isn’t perfect. Haggis can’t be sold in the USA as it falls foul of regs, similarly the US drug Tylenol isn’t available in the UK but paracetamol is. Ordinary folks don’t make the rules but we do have to live by them.

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