Foods With Melatonin

Research has shown that list of foods with melatonin is quite abundant. This hormone plays several important roles in our bodies, such as a sleep regulator, antioxidant and Glutathione booster.

However, not all foods with melatonin are able to raise blood melatonin levels high enough to help with sleep disorders. The good news - even small amounts of melatonin are still able to act as a powerful antioxidant and aid in raising Glutathione levels.

This information is very important if you are looking for natural ways to improve quality of sleep and add a powerful antioxidant to your diet but are unwilling to experiment with synthetic forms of melatonin.

Studies that we reviewed used various measurement units for melatonin in foods: mcg, ng, pg per 1 gram or 100 grams. We standardized them all in nanograms (ng) per 100 grams.

According to the Society for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms, approximately 5-25 mcg of melatonin circulate in the blood stream of healthy young and middle-aged men at night time. If we take an average of 15 mcg which equals 15,000 ng this number can serve us as a comparison to foods with melatonin.

Foods With Melatonin Table (ng/100g*):

FoodsMelatonin, ng/100g
Tart (sour) cherry juice concentrate17,535
Tart (sour) cherries1,350
Mustard seed191.33
Ginger root142.30
Barley grains87.30
Rolled oats79.13
Fresh mint49.66
Black tea40.50
Underripe banana (pulp)31.40
St. John’s wort19.61
Ripe banana (pulp)18.50
Brussels sprouts16.88
Green tea9.20
Black olives8.94
Green olives8.36
Sunflower seeds4.26
Concord grapes (skin)3.24
Red grapes (pulp)2.27
Red grapes (whole)1.94
Concord grapes (pulp)1.92
Concord grapes (whole)1.71
Red grapes (skin)1.42
Red wine1

* dry tissue, except for tart cherries and tart cherry juice concentrate
** average number – reported amounts were 90.7-450 ng/100g
*** average number – reported amounts were 13-29 ng/100g

Tart (sour) cherries, especially the Montmorency variety, have been scientifically proven to have the largest concentration of melatonin - such a significant amount that it is actually enough to produce positive results in the body according to Dr. Reiter who conducted research on tart cherries.

As you can see, other foods with melatonin have much smaller amounts of it compared to tart cherries and, especially, tart cherry juice concentrate which can be used as a natural sleep aid and pain reliever.

tart cherries, sour cherries
Visit our Tart (Sour) Cherries page for more information and research.

Walnuts appear to have the highest amount of melatonin after tart cherries – great additional nutritional benefit of this nut which is on our List of Superfoods.

Foods with melatonin precursors, tryptophan and serotonin, were not included in our overview of foods with melatonin.

The following studies were reviewed to determine foods with melatonin and melatonin concentrations in them:

  1. Electrophoresis. 2010 July; 31(13):2242-8.
    Determination of melatonin in wine and plant extracts by capillary electrochromatography with immobilized carboxylic multi-walled carbon nanotubes as stationary phase.
    Stege PW, Sombra LL et al.
    INQUISAL, Department of Chemistry, National University of San Luis, CONICET, San Luis, Argentina.
    PMID: 20593400

  2. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2002 Fall;5(3):153-7.
    Melatonin, serotonin, and tryptamine in some Egyptian food and medicinal plants.
    Badria FA.
    Pharmacognosy Department, Faculty of Pharmacy, Mansoura University, Mansoura , Egypt.
    PMID: 12495587

  3. Nutrition. 2005 September; 21(9):920-4.
    Melatonin in walnuts: influence on levels of melatonin and total antioxidant capacity of blood.
    Reiter RJ, Manchester LC, Tan DX.Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, The University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas, USA.

  4. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2001 October; 49(10):4898-902.
    Detection and quantification of the antioxidant melatonin in Montmorency and Balaton tart cherries (Prunus cerasus).
    Burkhardt S, Tan DX, Manchester LC, Hardeland R, Reiter RJ.
    Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas, USA.
    PMID: 11600041

  5. Journal of Chromatography A. 2011 June 24;1218(25):3890-9. Epub 2011 Apr 27.
    Simultaneous analysis of serotonin, melatonin, piceid and resveratrol in fruits using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry.Huang X, Mazza G.
    Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Summerland, British Columbia, Canada.
    PMID: 21570690

  6. Journal of Pineal Research. 2011 October;51(3):331-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-079X.2011.00893.x. Epub 2011 May 26.
    The presence of melatonin in grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) berry tissues.
    Vitalini S, Gardana C, Zanzotto A et al.
    Dipartimento di Produzione Vegetale, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy.
    PMID: 21615489

  7. Carcinogenesis. 2004 June;25(6):951-60. Epub 2004 January 30.
    Melatonin uptake and growth prevention in rat hepatoma 7288CTC in response to dietary melatonin: melatonin receptor-mediated inhibition of tumor linoleic acid metabolism to the growth signaling molecule 13-hydroxyoctadecadienoic acid and the potential role of phytomelatonin.
    Blask DE, Dauchy RT, Sauer LA, Krause JA.
    Laboratory of Chrono-Neuroendocrine Oncology, Bassett Research Institute, Cooperstown, NY, USA.
    PMID: 14754876

  8. The amount of melatonin in tart cherry juice concentrate was obtained from the web-site of Michigan growers King Orchards (4910 ng/1 oz.).

Abstracts and full texts (where available) of these studies can be found on PubMed by their PMID number.

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