The 2019 coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, has claimed millions of lives across the globe, and left millions more disabled and traumatized. Even those who survive can suffer long-term effects. One study found that about a third of COVID survivors develop PTSD. Another found that a third of mild COVID survivors still developed long-term COVID symptoms. The lack of treatment and poor understanding of the disease has led many to look to alternative treatment and prevention options–sometimes with catastrophic results. But melatonin shows real promise in managing COVID symptoms, particularly when used in conjunction with proven medical treatments. Here’s what you need to know about melatonin for coronavirus.
Article at a Glance
- The same groups that have naturally higher levels of melatonin also tend to have less severe COVID-19 symptoms.
- Preliminary research suggests better outcomes in COVID patients treated with melatonin supplements.
- The anti-inflammatory benefits of melatonin might help prevent COVID, or reduce severe disease.
- Melatonin is not a substitute for standard treatments, and there is no evidence that it is more effective at preventing COVID than social distancing, masking, and other common sense measures.
What Did Researchers Find About Melatonin and COVID?
COVID-19 is a new virus, and scientific research moves slowly. This means that there is a gap between what we know now and what scientists are currently researching. It takes time for researchers to develop studies, submit them for peer review, then test the results. Thus there is not conclusive evidence that melatonin can cure, treat, or prevent COVID. That doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial, though–only that scientific research needs to catch up.
The early research on melatonin for COVID is very promising. We already know that children have higher levels of melatonin than adults, and that seniors have much lower levels of melatonin than younger adults. This sparked early interest in this important hormone. Research also shows that bats have high levels of melatonin. Though they’re a primary suspect in the initial outbreak, they don’t seem to get sick from it. This again points to a potential role for melatonin.
A small 2020 study of 58 COVID-19 hospital patients found that nine patients who took high-dose melatonin all stabilized and improved within a few days. This is in spite of the fact that each of these patients was at high risk for severe COVID illness.
An observational study of more than 25,000 patients found that melatonin users were less likely to get COVID. Specifically, melatonin users were 28% less likely to have a positive COVID test.
Can Melatonin Help to Prevent COVID-19?
Researchers know that melatonin has anti-inflammatory properties. Severe cases of COVID seem to stem at least in part from widespread inflammation in the body. This inflammation can quickly damage organs, causing serious health complications and even kill people. But emerging research suggests melatonin may be one tool in the arsenal against COVID-19.
This could be because melatonin reduces inflammation, thereby strengthening the immune system. It could also be that melatonin supplements reduce the risk of symptomatic infections. For now, scientists can’t be sure, but there is compelling research suggesting a role for melatonin in preventing COVID-19.
Benefits of Melatonin for COVID-19 Patients
While doctors have gotten better at treating COVID-19 patients, there is no cure, and no treatment that definitively improves symptoms in all patients. For this reason, any treatment that improves outcomes is worth considering. A 2020 study proposes that doctors use melatonin as a part of other treatments for COVID because it may amplify the effects of treatment.
For people with mild COVID, melatonin could offer a better night’s sleep that helps the body heal more quickly. Many COVID survivors report endlessly tossing and turning at night–a phenomenon that can weaken the body and make the disease last longer. This, coupled with melatonin’s anti-inflammatory benefits might mean faster healing and less misery as the body fights the disease.
Natural remedies like melatonin offer hope in the face of a pandemic that often feels hopeless. That doesn’t mean melatonin is a panacea, though. If you think you have COVID, you need medical treatment now. You must also avoid others to slow the spread of the virus. Melatonin won’t stop you from spreading COVID to others, and it won’t guarantee that people exposed to COVID are safe.
Most studies of melatonin have looked at very high doses of melatonin–much higher than you can get from a supplement, and high enough to potentially trigger other side effects. So don’t try to self-manage symptoms of COVID with melatonin alone. Instead, consider adding melatonin to your preventative care regimen. If you develop COVID, ask a doctor about participating in a melatonin clinical trial, or taking a higher dosage to improve your chances of surviving and recovering.