If it were possible to develop a ‘love drug’, oxytocin would without doubt be the main ingredient. Oxytocin is a small peptide (a chain of amino acids) produced mainly by the hypothalamus, an area of the brain linking the nervous and endocrine systems via the hypophysis (the pituitary gland), which distributes it to other parts of the brain and the spinal cord.
Bond between mother and child
Oxytocin is responsible for maternal instinct and for the deep, immediate bond felt between a mother and her new-born. In the 1990s, researchers discovered that women who breastfed their babies were calmer and more able to cope with psychosocial stress than those who bottle-fed. This has been attributed to the effects of the oxytocin produced during breastfeeding.
However, the benefits of oxytocin do not stop there. Because of its role in the processes of giving birth and lactation, it was previously – and erroneously – believed to be a ‘female peptide’. We now know that not only is it present in men, but that it is important for them too. Indeed, later research revealed that it affected many aspects of life in women and men, particularly in relationships and emotional involvement. It plays a role in forging deep bonds, not only with our children, but also with our partners, friends, colleagues and even our pets.
Oxytocin can also ‘transform’ potentially stressful situations into loving, joyful experiences, for example, replacing the pain of labour with a profound sense of contentment.
For enhanced sexual fulfilment
Research has also shown that oxytocin plays a major role in sexuality. Men and women release oxytocin during sexual intercourse and orgasm; in fact, it is responsible for orgasms.
Normal oxytocin levels play a role in the “attachment” between two people, especially in promoting desire; but body-to-body contact and stimulation of the cervix during sexual intercourse produces an increase in oxytocin production and release, followed by a cascade of reactions including the release of endorphins and testosterone, leading to a biological and psychological state of excitement. The nerves of the erogenous zones become highly sensitive, further increasing sexual receptivity and the desire to be touched.
During orgasm, oxytocin levels in men increase five-fold while much higher levels can be reached in women. In a sense, the female brain becomes flooded with oxytocin, making multiple orgasms possible.
In men, supplementing with oxytocin appreciably improves the quality of erections and increases the intensity of ejaculations.
More general health benefits
Many people become deficient in oxytocin as they get older. A number of risk factors and physical signs can suggest such an oxytocin deficit :
• anxiety and poor sleep ;
• low oestrogen levels ;
• addictions (alcohol, drugs…) ;
• food cravings ;
Supplementation can thus restore healthy levels of oxytocin which increases pleasure, closeness, sociability, kindness, tenderness, faithfulness and the desire to be together, between friends and lovers. It also enhances sexuality and can even facilitate weight loss. It helps regulate sleep and contributes to a general feeling of well-being.
While we may not understand all oxytocin’s mechanisms of action, researchers believe its health benefits derive from its ability to counter anxiety, stress and the effects of cortisol, the stress hormone which aggravates almost all health problems (surplus weight or obesity, pain, cancer …).
This is one of the reasons why people with pets tend to recover more quickly from illness, why married couples tend to live longer and why support groups are so beneficial for cancer patients.
Health professionals have noted improvements in certain symptoms following oxytocin supplementation: in autistic children, schizophrenic adults, those with fibromyalgia and in particular, in those whose oxytocin levels have fallen dramatically.
The delivery method is key to optimum efficacy
Given its ability to strengthen emotional bonds, enhance feelings of sexual intimacy and improve the quality of orgasms, oxytocin is without doubt the closest natural alternative to a ‘love potion’.
The nasal spray delivery method allows a direct, immediate, stable and long-lasting effect, compared with sublingual and oral forms. There is, however, no point in increasing the dose as its effect is not cumulative.
For more information on oxytocin: "Passion, sex and long life – The incredible Oxytocin Adventure"
, Dr Thierry Hertoghe ; International Medical Books.