By Sam Gandy |
Many unsubstantiated claims are made about the pineal gland. It is an area of the brain that generates much interest among different religious, spiritual, esoteric and occultist groups. Despite this, there is no scientific evidence to support any of the esoteric claims made about the pineal gland, bar its well-known role in dictating circadian rhythms, via the secretion of the beneficial neurohormone melatonin. This includes its potential link to DMT, as speculated by Dr Rick Strassman from his research on the substance; however evidence for such a link in humans is currently lacking. Given its location at the base of the brain, it makes its study in live humans obviously very difficult and problematic indeed.
Melatonin is important for health. Many of us are melatonin depleted, due to the effects of artificial lighting and using phones, computers of tablets too close to bed time (the white LED light from these is particularly bad for melatonin production). Melatonin doesn’t just regulate our wake-sleep cycles…it has been found to act as a powerful antioxidant and cellular DNA protector, and in this fashion may act as an endogenous anti-cancer compound. It has also been linked to neurogenesis in the hippocampus of the brain, and both melatonin levels (perhaps due to pineal calcification) and rates of neurogenesis tend to decline as we age.
People don’t really consider lighting as a potentially damaging pollutant, but it certainly has the potential to be at certain times. People should cease using all computers, phones and other technology a few hours before retiring. Candle light is a very soothing light which does not impact melatonin production, so well suited for the evening.
This is an area where there are a lot of smoky claims made, so I thought it would be interesting to have a look at what the science done to date is suggesting, and I thought this may be interest to others too as this does have potential health implications.
It seems that pineal glands are calcified in a large proportion of the population, and that this increases with age.
“Out of the 500 patients evaluated, 176 had evidence of intracranial physiological calcification (35.2% prevalence)… The majority of calcifications appeared in the pineal/habenular region (80%), with some also appearing in the choroid plexus region bilaterally (12%)…”
It appears that the degree of pineal gland calcification (DOC) is linked to a decreased capacity of the pineal gland to produce melatonin and may lead to an associated decrease in functioning pinealocytes.
“These results suggest that DOC might be useful as an indicator of an intra-individual, decreased capability of the pineal gland to produce melatonin.”
Degree of pineal calcification is also linked to sleep disturbance, particularly of REM sleep.
“DOC was negatively associated with REM sleep percentage, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency. … DOC appears to be a superior indicator of melatonin deficit compared to the absolute amount of melatonin in the circulation.”
Disruption of melatonin production has been linked with aging and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Reactivation of the circadian system (retina-SCN-pineal pathway) by means of light therapy and melatonin supplementation, to restore the circadian rhythm and to relieve the clinical circadian disturbances, has shown promising positive results.”
As well as its role in regulating circadian rhythms and acting as a cellular DNA protector and antioxidant, melatonin also plays a key role in promoting and maintaining neurogenesis in the brain.
Pineal calcification (PC) may also play a role in the fatigue suffered by multiple sclerosis sufferers via the negative impact on melatonin production.
“Furthermore, since the process of PC has been linked to past secretory activity of the gland, our findings add further support implicating the pineal gland and melatonin secretion in the pathogenesis of MS and provide an indirect evidence that the fatigue of MS is associated with alterations in pineal melatonin functions.”
Fluoride has also been implicated in accumulating in pineal gland tissue.,
“The pineal gland is a mineralizing tissue. Its calcified concretions range from a few micrometres to several millimetres in diameter. … It is generally agreed that the blood-brain barrier restricts the passage of fluoride into the central nervous system. The human pineal gland is outside the blood-brain barrier. It is one of a few unique regions in the brain (all midline structures bordering the third and fourth ventricles) where the blood-brain barrier is weak. Cells in these regions require direct and unimpeded contact with blood.
Therefore, pinealocytes have free access to fluoride in the bloodstream. This fact, coupled with the presence of HA [hydroxyapatite], suggest that the pineal gland may sequester fluoride from the bloodstream. … In conclusion, this study presented evidence that fluoride readily accumulates in the aged pineal.”
Fluoride’s actions on the pineal may also lead to an accelerated sexual maturation in females, with animal studies indicative of this, with some evidence to suggest that this may also apply to humans, in areas of fluoridated water. This is important as it may come with health consequences, such as a greater risk of breast cancer.[9,10]
It is worth noting that other compounds such as pinoline may be made in the pineal (although the science isn’t clear on this), and it is unknown what effect pineal calcification may have on secretion of other pineal metabolites. It is worth remembering that the pineal gland is more sensitive than other parts of the brain to mineralisation as it lies outside of the blood-brain barrier unlike the rest of the brain.
Both meditation and yoga have been implicated with increases in melatonin production, but as far as I know there is no science yet to back up these pineal gland detox diets to decalcify the gland. I’m not saying these aren’t worth thinking about by any means, in fact the science so far is suggestive that this may be something looking into…but important to distinguish between what is known and what is speculation.
By Sam Gandy
1. Sedghizadeh, P.P., Nguyen, M. & Enciso, R. (2012) Intracranial physiological calcifications evaluated with cone beam CT. Dentomaxillofacial Radiology, 41, (, 675–678.
2. Kunz, D., Schmitz, S., Mahlberg, R., Mohr, A., Stöter, C., Wolf, K.J. & Herrmann, W.M. (1999) A new concept for melatonin deficit: on pineal calcification and melatonin excretion. Neuropsychopharmacology, 21,(6), 765-772.
3. Mahlberg, R., Kienast, T., Hädel, S., Heidenreich, J.O., Schmitz, S. & Kunz, D. (2009) Degree of pineal calcification (DOC) is associated with polysomnographic sleep measures in primary insomnia patients. Sleep Medicine, 10, (4), 439-445.
4. Wu Y.H. & Swaab, D.F. (2005) The human pineal gland and melatonin in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Pineal Research, 38, (3), 145-52.
5. Sarlak, G., Jenwitheesuk, A., Chetsawang, B. & Govitrapong, P.(2013) Effects of melatonin on nervous system aging: neurogenesis and neurodegeneration. Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, 123, (1), 9-24.
6. Sandyk, R. & Awerbuch, G.I. (1994) Pineal Calcification and its Relationship to the Fatigue of Multiple Sclerosis. International Journal of Neuroscience, 74, 1-4, 95-103.
7. Luke, J.A. (1997) The effect of fluoride on the physiology of the pineal gland. PhD Thesis, University of Surrey.
8. Luke, J.A. (2001) Fluoride deposition in the aged human pineal gland. Caries Research, 35, (2), 125-128.
9. Schlesinger, E.R., Overton, D.E., Chase, H.C. & Cantwell, K.T. (1956) Newburgh-Kingston caries fluorine study. XIII. Pediatric findings after ten years. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 52, (3), 296-306.
- Farkas, G., Fazekas, A. & Szekeres, E. (1983). The fluoride content of drinking water and menarcheal age. Acta Univ Szeged Acta Biol., 29, (1-4), 159-168.
- Solberg, E.E., Holen, A., Ekeberg, Ø., Østerud, B., Halvorsen, R. & Sandvik, L. (2004) The effects of long meditation on plasma melatonin and blood serotonin. Medical science monitor: international medical journal of experimental and clinical research, 10, (3, CR96-101.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1497645712. Harinath, K., Malhotra, A.S., Pal, K., Prasad, R., Kumar, R., Kain, T.C., Rai, L. & Sawhney, R.C. (2004) Effects of Hatha yoga and Omkar meditation on cardiorespiratory performance, psychologic profile, and melatonin secretion. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10, (2), 261-268.