Once thought to be exclusively a molecule of the animal kingdom, melatonin has now been found to exist in plants as well. Among a number of actions, melatonin is a direct free radical scavenger and an indirect antioxidant. Melatonin directly detoxifies the hydroxyl radical (*OH), hydrogen peroxide, nitric oxide, peroxynitrite anion, peroxynitrous acid, and hypochlorous acid. The products from each of these reactions have been identified in pure chemical systems and in at least one case in vivo; the interaction product of melatonin with the OH, i.e., cyclic 3-hydroxymelatonin, is found in the urine of humans and rats. Some of the products that are produced when melatonin detoxifies reactive species are also highly efficient scavengers. As a result, a cascade of scavenging reactions may enhance the antioxidant capacity of melatonin. Additionally, melatonin increases the activity of several antioxidative enzymes, thereby improving its ability to protect macromolecules from oxidative stress. Melatonin is endogenously produced and is also consumed in edible plants. In animal experiments, feeding melatonin-containing foods raised blood levels of the indole. Because physiologic concentrations of melatonin in the blood are known to correlate with the total antioxidant capacity of the serum, consuming foodstuffs containing melatonin may be helpful in lowering oxidative stress.

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