Melatonin vs. Chinese Herbs?  It’s a Matter of Herbs over Hormones

by DAO Labs |

Melatonin vs. Chinese Herbs?  It’s a Matter of Herbs over Hormones

According to a study published recently by the American Medical Association, “more and more adults are taking over-the-counter melatonin to get to sleep, and some of them may be using it at dangerously high levels.”  Curiously, the bulk of the research dates to 2018, before the pandemic and the disruptions to sleep that have accompanied the last two years.  As a hormone, melatonin’s primary benefit helps one’s body transition to sleep - but not stay asleep. 

And that’s precisely where Traditional Chinese Medicine differs - in a way that’s more natural and gentle to your system.  

“The differences between melatonin and Traditional Chinese Medicine options could not be more stark,” said DAO Labs Co-Founder Dr. Eric Karchmer, Phd, MD (China), LAc.  “Rather than taking an exogenous form of a hormone related to your sleep cycle, Chinese medicine works holistically to regulate your entire body - this helps you fall asleep naturally, and more importantly, sleep more soundly”, he added. 

Though a reported one third of people reported poor sleep pre-pandemic, that number has increased since March 2020, resulting in what's now being called "Coronosomnia". And melatonin must be a better alternative to prescription sleep aids, right? Not so fast.


Considerations for Melatonin

There’s a common misconception that melatonin is a natural herb, but in reality, it’s a hormone that is produced inside your brain.  The use of melatonin can lead to what some call a next-day “fog” or hangover, complete with nausea, dizziness, and other side effects.  In other cases, its use has been linked to irritability, mild anxiety, depression, as well as potentially low blood pressure.  

“The beauty of Chinese medicine in the approach to sleep is that the solutions, from herbs to acupressure, help foster the physiological processes to sleep, regulating your melatonin levels in a natural way as opposed to superficially adding more to your body,” said Dr. Karchmer.  

As the study indicates, since 2006 “a small but growing subset of adults are taking amounts of melatonin that exceed the 5 milligram a day dosage that is typically used as a short term treatment.”  These findings were again reviewed prior to the start of the pandemic, which according to the University of Maryland Medical System, has led to an increase in insomnia due to stress, lost routines and lack of light.  

sleep remedy

Two Herbal Solutions to Replace Melatonin - And to Stay Asleep

The use of Traditional Chinese herbal solutions for helping both facilitate the body’s natural transition to sleep, and to provide internal balance to remain asleep, has been used for centuries.  Moreover, unlike a “one-size-fits-all” approach with melatonin, there are several herbal options available. 

Two of the most popular, and recommended by Dr. Karchmer, have been used for hundreds of years and remain equally popular today - especially as stress levels continue to disrupt sleep across the board.  

  • Mental Tranquility: Ideal for those whose sleep is disrupted by stress and anxiousness in the night. 
  • Physical Tranquility: Well suited for people who sleep hot and are physically agitated in the night.  

In addition to herbal options, here are 3 Sleep Chinese Medicine Inspired Sleep Tips, from acupressure to Qi Gong breathing techniques, assembled by Dr. Karchmer to help you get the rest you need without jeopardizing your delicate hormonal balance for a more restful night of sleep without the side effects.

If you're not sure which sleep formula is right for you, or if you struggle with something other than stress or overheating at night, we encourage you to learn more about the life-changing practices Chinese Medicine has to offer. You can schedule a Virtual Consultation with one of our qualified practitioners, or reach out to us and let us know your zip code so that we can refer you to an acupuncturist near you.

Care Consideration: Just a reminder that the above information is not a substitute for medical care and is not a substitute for medical advice or recommendations  from a healthcare provider.  This information is not intended to treat, mitigate or cure any disease.  That said, we encourage you to connect with an Acupuncturist in your community to learn more about this and other Traditional Chinese Medicine options.  If you’ve got questions about Chinese herbal medicine or getting started with an Acupuncturist, feel free to connect with us on

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