The pineal gland is one of the most important organs in the body, playing a large role together with the pituitary gland, in regulating the aging processes of the body. It grows rapidly from birth, and is at its largest in children, but shrinks after adulthood is reached. By the age of 60, it would have shrunk considerably.
This alone, suggests a strong link between the pineal gland and aging. But this is not pure conjecture alone; the pineal gland produces melatonin, a hormone vital for proper, healthy sleep. It plays a major role in seasonal based cycles, and therefore, controls sexual and physical development, metabolism, health, sleep, and hibernation in animals.
Because of its small pea size, it was not determined (or identified as a separate fully functioning endocrine gland) until the 1960s. Prior to that, the pineal was just considered to be a vestige-like organ with no real purpose, like the appendix. But far from being a “useless” organ, it is now established to be one of the most important organs of the human body – although it has remained as cryptic as ever.
The ancient Hindus of India referred to the pineal gland as the “third eye,” or an eye that sees beyond the physical world. It is believed to be the location of the sixth chakra, which supposedly controls psychic powers and intuition. In alternative healing, the pineal gland is likened to the seat of the soul, a belief encouraged by its location deep within the center of the skull, as well as having characteristics that roughly resemble the external human eyes, such as photosensitivity and a lens-like physical structure.
The chief medical function of the pineal gland is the secretion of the sleep hormone, melatonin. The pineal gland releases melatonin in response to bioelectrical messages from visual signals coming in through the eyes, and relayed to it by countless optical nerve fibers. Melatonin can only be produced in darkness, and therefore, the pineal gland is very sensitive to light. Light relays to it not to secrete melatonin; and darkness conveys to it, a different signal altogether.
The pineal gland also produces and releases numerous neurohormonal substances, all with complex downstream interactions that belie its small size. This is the real enigma behind the pineal gland, and scientists believe they have yet to discover many other little known functions that the pineal gland executes quietly in the background.
One of these substances is pinoline (6-methoxytetrahydro-beta-carboline), which is believed to rouse/prevent us from sleeping – the opposite of melatonin, and this happens when it receives signals from the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus. Pinoline is made in the pineal gland from 5HT and is believed to be a chemical trigger for dreaming. The interaction of pinoline and serotonin is said to result in dreams, and if you believe it – a role in psychic abilities as well.
The fact that as we get older (our bodies producing less melatonin), and the close interaction of the pineal gland with the rest of the human body and being (it receives all external stimuli from our 5 senses) indicates the vital importance of the pineal gland in health and anti aging as a whole. It is obvious, you need to keep it working well. Tumors developing on the pineal gland are but one of the problems that can affect this vital organ.
The pineal gland is probably one of the last frontiers of the human body remaining to be explored in greater detail, so watch out for some highly interesting findings to appear out of pineal gland research. It certainly looks like this small “kingpin” organ that will retain its enigma for some time to come.