Vitamin D isn’t a vitamin.

It’s a hormone. Without it, we can fall victim to just about every disease and illness we can think of.

We can store it up in summer, but in Maine, the gathering time is short. By October, the sun is too low in the sky for us to get the healthy rays, the UVBs. As winter drags on, our levels of Vitamin D get lower until, by February, we fall victim to "spring fever."

Vitamin D is one of the most potent hormones in your body, and is essential for health. Vitamin D is produced as a pro-hormone in your skin after sunlight exposure [that's how Vitamin D gets into milk — through cows in the pasture — if they are allowed pastures.

Melanoma risk increases as sunlight exposure decreases, according to recent studies. In 1900, about 75 percent of the U.S. population worked outdoors. Today, only 10 percent of the population does. Studies show that even as sunlight exposure has dramatically decreased, melanoma has exponentially increased—by 2,500 percent! Also, multiple sclerosis is more prevalent in northern climates – where the sun’s Vitamin D is absent for months each year.

Astonishingly, melanoma rates increased only in indoor workers – not outdoor workers.

Diseases related to Vitamin D deficiency makes a very long and inclusive list. You name it, it’s probably on the list.

We run on sunlight – the life-giver.

Problem is, from now to spring, Maine does not get Vitamin D UVB rays – the good rays, due to the sun's low trajectory. Fortunately, Vitamin D can be stored up during the summer and go for some time, but, as it gradually gets used up we tend to become antsy for spring.

This causes the famous "spring fever' that gets us by February. It's the cause of SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder — which, in some people, creates deep depression, requiring treatment.

The treatment often used is UVB sunlamps and/or Vitamin D3 supplements.

By late April in Maine, once the sun reaches the 53 percent line in the sky, we start getting Vitamin D again from roughly 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — (9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in mid-summer) , the very hours we’ve been warned, for the past couple decades, to “stay out of the sun" — and then it's gone by mid-September.

So gather ye rays for winter, in summer. (I take 10,000 international units of Vitamin D3 — it's important to take D3, not just D — starting in October.)

The sun has, for tens of thousands of years, been known to be absolutely necessary for good health, (Take a plant out of the sun, try to grow a garden without sufficient sunlight.) It's only been the last three or four decades that we've been told that the sun is bad for us. Good for selling sunscreens … which only adds to the problem. Do the research regarding the negative reactions in regard to sunscreens and sunlight. (I pay attention only to reliable sources/studies, but I also have had personal experience with the adverse reactions.)

Spring isn’t that far off. I can see it from here – almost. But for now, I’ll pop my D3s.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Maine native and a graduate of Belfast, now living in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.