Week 33 | Getting to Know the Higher Functions of the Small Pinecone in Your Brain: The Pineal Gland
The nervous system - which includes the brain, spinal cord, and sensory organs such as the eyes, ears, tongue, skin and nose - is run by electrical impulses. Our nose is told to smell, we think, touch, walk, flex our muscles, feel and everything in between via electrical signals that run between our body and our brain.
In contrast, our endocrine system - which includes your sexual organs, the ovaries and the testes, thyroid, adrenal glands found atop each kidney and more, ”use hormones to effect changes in our body, emotions, cognition, and energy” (Conscious Lifestyle Magazine).
What is the Pineal: The Science and Higher Understandings
The Science: What We Can Measure About the Pineal Gland
From as early as the Ancient Greeks, philosophers have thought the pineal gland to be important, but science was slow to catch up in explaining and discovering its purpose - "evidence of its true functions has been accumulating slowly for many years". In fact, the pineal gland was long considered puzzling; "Because the pineal gland was the last of the endocrine structures to be discovered, scientists considered it a mysterious organ" (Mental Floss). Science has worked to confirm some key facts about this structure in your brain, but congruent to these understandings are learnings that it has higher functions too. Let's start with the scientific facts:
1) It Is The Body’s Dominant Source of Melatonin
The pineal gland is a part of the endocrine system and as a result it will have something to do with hormones. In western medicine it is understood that the pineal gland’s function is linked to melatonin; "The pineal body is believed to be the human body's only source of melatonin" (The New York Times).
Melatonin, the hormone responsible for letting you know when it is time for bed and when it is time to wake up, is the ”only hormone that the pineal gland is known to produce and release”. Melatonin is regulated by light, where production and secretion of melatonin is, “activated by darkness and inhibited by light” (Conscious Lifestyle Magazine) . At night levels of the hormone increase in the body allowing you to get sleepy and by morning light, levels of the hormone decrease in the body signaling you to wake up. That is why it is encouraged to abstain from looking at the light of screens like your cell phone or laptop before bedtime, it suppresses the secretion of melatonin which helps you fall asleep (Your Hormones).
2) The Pineal Gland is Linked to Anti-Aging and Fights Stress
The pineal gland is responsible for the production of melatonin; Along with helping to regulate our sleep, “melatonin is known as an anti-aging and anti-stress agent because it both suppresses cortisol and is a powerful antioxidant” (Conscious Lifestyle Magazine).
3) It Is The Size Of a Pea
Shaped like a pine cone - hence the name - the pineal gland is about the size of a pea.
4) It Has “More Blood Flow Per Cubic Volume Than Any Other Organ”
Location, location! The pineal gland is in the brain and it lays right in the middle of the right and left hemispheres (Conscious Lifestyle Magazine). It is thought to connect, " the endocrine and nervous systems. The gland translates nerve signals from the sympathetic nervous system into hormone signals" (Mental Floss)
5) It is in the Brain But it is Not Protected By the Blood Brain Barrier
A physical barrier that requires transport systems for substances to permeate, the blood-brain barrier functions to “limit the passage of substances between the bloodstream and the brain” (Quizlet). “The blood-brain barrier prevents toxic substances, large molecules, and neurotransmitters released in the blood from entering the brain” (Quizlet). Although a majority of the brain is protected by the blood-brain barrier, the pineal gland is one of four areas in the brain that is not; as a result, melatonin is secreted right into the bloodstream (Quizlet).
Higher Functions of the Pineal Gland
Several traditions, “have long known the pineal in the middle of the brain to be the connecting link between the physical and spiritual worlds. Considered the most powerful and highest source of ethereal energy available to humans, the pineal gland has always been important in initiating” powerful, almost transcendent experiences. When your pineal gland awakens, “one feels a pressure at the base of the brain”, descriptions of seeing beyond physical realities have been described thereafter - think out of body, spiritual experiences, deep meditative states and so on (Crystal Links).
1) From Orgasm to Sleep, Elevated Human Experiences Begin in the Pineal
“Almost any psychoactive experience occurs due to the activation of the dormant pineal gland in the brain. It works very closely with the hypothalamus and other endocrine organs to produce almost every ‘elevated’ experience we have as humans – from sexual pleasure to a good night’s sleep” (Healers Light).
Look at the process of sleep - even that shift toward an altered state of consciousness, via melatonin, is mitigated through the pineal. The problem is the pineal can experience calcification; “This gland tends to get calcified because of a host of environmental factors that affect modern humans. Decalcifying the pineal gland is imperative for all high-achievers interested in accessing a state of mastery and those seeking to become more evolved humans” (Scott Jeffrey).
On an easier to understand level, when your pineal is calcified, “less melatonin is produced and regulation of your wake-sleep cycle gets disturbed” (Global Healing Center).
2) Known to Have Psychedelic Effects, The Pineal Produces DMT
The pineal gland is responsible for other neurochemicals besides melatonin, especially those that, “coordinate physical and emotional processes on a cellular level. These neurochemicals, including DMT, are said to connect the mind and body. The pineal plays a key role in the production of these neurochemicals because it has one of the highest concentrations of serotonin in the body, and serotonin is a critical precursor to them” (Conscious Lifestyle Magazine).
DMT specifically “is a compound that is found throughout the plant and mammal kingdom, and acts as a psychedelic drug when ingested. It is produced naturally in the human brain; specifically, by our pineal gland” (Jason Korbus). DMT is, “an infamous naturally-occurring psychedelic substance that produces an unusually intense, short-lived version of what has come to be considered an ‘awakening of the spirit’ (Healers of Light).
“If you have lots of DMT in your brain, then a lot of the doors to expanded consciousness can be unlocked” - you can access the DMT held naturally in your own brain through exercises such as meditation and sound mediation (Healers of Light). “DMT is produced in the pineal gland during deep meditation and extraordinary conditions of birth, sexual ecstasy, extreme physical stress, and near-death experiences. It also alters our dream consciousness when it is released into the bloodstream during the Rapid Eye Movement phase of sleep. DMT links the body and spirit because of its relationship to visionary experiences and nonordinary states of transcendent consciousness. Dr. Rick Strassman calls DMT the Spirit Molecule” (Conscious Lifestyle Magazine).
3) The Pineal Gland is Your Third Eye
The pineal gland is often referred to as the third eye; In week 27, I explained what each chakra is and how to get energy centers and thus your life in balance. Your third eye or 6th chakra is responsible for strong intuition, insight, clarity, manifesting your dreams, inner vision and wisdom. “Spiritual traditions associate an activate pineal gland with the opening of the third eye” (Conscious Lifestyle Magazine).
On a scientific level, the pineal gland, “sits alone in the middle of the brain and at the same level as the eyes” (Global Healing Center) . In fact “research is beginning to validate the relationship, “between the pineal gland and vision”; So far findings, “suggest that the two organs share evolutionary and developmental paths (Conscious Lifestyle Magazine).