OD'ing on Herbal Supplements

What would happen if someone were to swallow a copious amount of Melatonin?

I, for one, am seeing three possibilities, in descending order of likelihood:

  1. The person hurls violently for quite a while but comes out none the worse.
  2. The person goes to sleep and wakes up the next day, as if nothing had happened.
  3. The person dies.

Any doctors, pharmacists or chemists care to chime in?

I am not a doctor, pharmacist, or chemist, but I have studied quite a bit of pharmacology on my own. I don’t consider Melatonin to be herbal, though it is natural. From what I have read, there are really no terrible side effects from taking too much melatonin…

Once you go beyond the useful dose, (as little as 0.5mg for some people) you will be a little groggy in the morning, but that is about as bad as it gets. Once you go higher than that, the law of diminshing returns applies and your body excretes what it can’t use. I am sure that at extreme doses, there might be liver or kidney problems, but that applies to any excessive consumption.

Again, I am not a doctor, pharmacist, or chemist, so I might be wrong…

Melatonin is not herbal. It is a hormone manufactured by the pituary gland. OTC melatonin supplements are typically synthetic as natural hormones tend to deteriorate too rapidly to be useful as sups. Further, a natural hormone would have to be harvested and thus, they tend to be very expensive.

I worked as customer service manager and step-in product trainer for a major vitamin/herb manufacturer and retailer for a number of years, and according to the information and training I recieved (and on occasion, provided) there, high doses of melatonin can commonly result in sleeplessness and irritability, among other things…

There was a lot of “miracle drug” propaganda (magazine articles and books) that was circulated about melatonin that respectable “conservative” supplement companies had to combat. – Some of you will consider “conservative supplement companies” an oxymoron, but certainly some are FAR more responsible than others - and the one I was employed by is very conservative in their marketing, product claims, and product line. We never promoted or supported use of this product for anything other than sleep pattern adjustment (jet-lag for example). If a customer suggested to me that were going to take melatonin for say, it’s antioxidant properties, I was trained to and expected to steer them to a product that had less potential for side effects and was a more effacacious antioxidant, such as vitamin c or e. Unfortunately, Melatonin was touted in the media as a cureall and a “fountain of youth”.

Complicating everything of course, as is the situation with most supplements, what may be considered by me, for me, to be a high dose may not necessarily be a “high dose” for someone else. On the rare occasions I’ve taken melatonin I found 1 mg. doses to be totally adequate, however, many retailers sell doses from 5 to as much as 10 mg in strength. Almost no one would ever require a dose beyond 5mg. Our largest available dose was 3mg.

A young, healthy individual simply needing to adjust their body clock (or prepare for major time-zone changes) would usually not require more than 1mg/day for 2 - 3 days to accomplish this result. As with most things, more is not better. A frequent complaint from some of our customers was that they took a 3 mg dose, and couldn’t get to sleep, so they’d doubled it. It was difficult to get many customers to understand that they needed to seriously decrease the dosage of this particular supplement to achieve the desired result.

As far as taking “too much”, 3 mg. would leave me very fogy groggy - almost feeling hung over. Common side effects reported by customers that we considered related to “high” doses included “too” vivid dreams, even nightmares from which consumers were unable to awake. In “very high” doses, as I mentioned above, sleeplessness and irritability, sometimes nausea and anxiety. Your mileage may vary.

I agree with Meephead that it’s logical that extended, extreme doses could result in potential liver or kidney damage. Lastly, hormones are just something best not to f**k around with as they control so many of the bodies functions - if they get out of whack - it can take days to feel right again.

**also not a doctor, pharmacist or chemist