During the last 20 years, numerous clinical trials have examined the therapeutic usefulness of melatonin in different fields of medicine. The objective of this article is to review, in depth, the science regarding clinical trials performed to date.
The efficacy of melatonin has been assessed as a treatment of ocular diseases, blood diseases, gastrointestinal tract diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, infectious diseases, neurological diseases, sleep disturbances, aging and depression. Melatonin has been also used as a complementary treatment in anaesthesia, hemodialysis, in vitro fertilization and neonatal care.
The conclusion of the current review is that the use of melatonin as an adjuvant therapy seems to be well funded for macular degeneration, glaucoma, protection of the gastric mucosa, irritable bowel syndrome, arterial hypertension, diabetes, side effects of chemotherapy and radiation in cancer patients or hemodialysis in patients with renal insufficiency and, especially, for sleep disorders of circadian etiology (jet lag, delayed sleep phase syndrome, sleep deterioration associated with aging, etc.) as well as in those related with neurological degenerative diseases (Alzheimer, etc.,) or Smith-Magenis syndrome.
The utility of melatonin in anesthetic procedures has been also confirmed. More clinical studies are required to clarify whether, as the preliminary data suggest, melatonin is useful for treatment of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, infectious diseases, neoplasias or neonatal care. Preliminary data regarding the utility of melatonin in the treatment of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis are either ambiguous or negative. Although in a few cases melatonin seems to aggravate some conditions, the vast majority of studies document the very low toxicity of melatonin over a wide range of doses.