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Meditation is an activity that can help reduce stress and anxiety from daily life as well as help cultivate overall feelings of peacefulness, relaxation, and contentment. This review describes several studies that have been used to assess how meditation can influence the body at the molecular level. The presented results focus on small-molecule metabolites, which are broadly defined as naturally-produced molecules that weigh less than approximately 1000 Da. The results show that meditation can significantly affect hormones and neurotransmitters such as cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone, serotonin, melatonin, and epinephrine. Some common and modern experimental techniques that are relevant to these studies are also discussed, as well as some challenges of accurately interpreting the results. Overall, understanding the molecular-level effects of meditation can provide a more detailed understanding of its physiological effects because many of the affected molecules are known to be linked to changes in stress responses and mood.
By William C. Daube and Charles Jakobsche